FORGET the Sir Michael Stoutes and Martin Pipes of this world if you want to make a buck and instead try investing on all of David Barker's horses blind.

The shrewd Scorton, near Catterick Bridge, handler boasts a money-spinning £85.26 profit to a £1 level stake on his 192 runners in 2005, a vast improvement on anything achieved by the champion Flat and National Hunt trainers.

It's a mind-boggling statistic but more importantly a credit to David, who has only around 30 inmates in his small, highly efficient operation.

This afternoon Barker bids to top up his impressive strike-rate even further by despatching Prince Tum Tum (2.15) to Wolverhampton in the Littlewoods Bet Direct Handicap.

Claimed out of Gerard Butler's stable for £20,000 after scoring at Musselburgh in August, Prince Tum Tum's rating has now plummeted to such an extent that he has become an attractive punting proposition.

There was also plenty of encouragement to be gleaned from the selection's most recent course and distance effort, finishing like an express train after being outpaced earlier.

Another trainer from our region hoping to swell the Christmas coffers is Brian Ellison with Daaweitza (2.50).

The Malton-trained two-year-old colt made an excellent all-weather debut, staying on strongly to snatch fourth spot after an unpromisingly slow stalls exit

The sheer fact Daaweitza started at 25-1 tells us he wasn't fancied in the least, but it'll be a whole different ball game now and if the cash is down then the advice is to join in the gamble.

With the winners continuing to flow from the Venetia Williams camp, all eyes will be on her Windsor raiders, Jolly Boy (1.30) and Jarro (3.10).

Jolly Boy's quick-fire four-timer has been the perfect illustration of how the Official Handicapper has no hope of keeping tabs on such a rapidly progressive horse.

The hard-as-nails six-year-old bolted in at Plumpton on Monday, for which a mandatory 7lb penalty has been imposed. It might make a difference, although on balance provided he's in the same fettle, it will be nothing like sufficient to stop him taking the Sporting Index Novices Chase.

Jarro's case is not so clear-cut, but he hasn't been allotted top-weight without reason and represents the class act for the Mitie Christmas Handicap Chase.

* Evergreen 11-year-old Robbo notched win number 13 of an already long and distinguished career at Catterick yesterday.

"He's been an amazing horse for us, successful every single season since his three-year-old days. Robbo goes best for Fergus (King), who has been off injured, but now Fergus is back, so is Robbo," said jubilant winning trainer, Keith Reveley.

"He'll probably come back here for the North Yorkshire National in January, en-route to another crack at Newcastle's Eider Chase," added the Lingdale handler.

River Mist surprised some better-backed rivals by taking the Christmas Time Handicap Hurdle at odds of 14-1.

The Hilary Scotto-owned mare completed a 32-1 double for rider Richard McGrath, when galloping on dourly to secure the three-mile-and-one-furlong contest.

"River Mist ideally needs a stiffer track, but today's decent ground was perfect. She'll now go novice chasing and has schooled beautifully," revealed Hilary.

McGrath took the Beginners Chase aboard King Barry, who seemed cooked behind Lord Payne until the in-form jockey conjured a magical late surge.

Turnstile took no prisoners in the opening Novices Hurdle, the 5-4 favourite clearing right away from a 15-strong field in the closing stages.

"Graham (Lee) said Turnstile hated the ground when beaten at Kelso and would be a different horse under faster conditions," reported Ray Hawkey, representing Howard Johnson.

As anticipated by the column, Mexican scored for Middleham's Micky Hammond when landing the two-mile Club Handicap Chase.

The card ended on a high note for Brancepeth's Richard Guest, landing a monster 669-1 double.

The 9-1 shot North Landing was far from unfancied in the Amateur Riders Hurdle, but Topwell, successful in the Bumper at 66-1, had shown zilch in three previous runs.

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