Cheltenham whispers

March is still a long way off, but two contenders for the highlight of the National Hunt season have already emerged. Martin Pipe’s Our Vic has shown that he has overcome his jumping problems by taking the feature race at Cheltenham’s recent Open meeting, and looks a good bet to upset the favourites in the Gold Cup. Mossbank looks like a future Champion Hurdle winner in the making. The Michael Hourigan-trained five-year-old slaughtered 11 winners on his Limerick debut, and followed up in impressive style at Fairyhowe last week. Ladbroke’s 14-1 quote for the Sun Alliance Novices’ Hurdle at this season’s festival looks like an early Christmas present.

American leaders

The Detroit Pistons, Washington, the LA Clippers and defending champions San Antonio are dominating the start of the NBA basketball season in the United States. On the ice, Montreal and Ottawa have impressive records in the northeast division of the Eastern Conference, while the central division of the Western Conference boasts the two currently most successful teams in Nashville and Detroit. The season’s outstanding gridiron club so far has been Indianapolis – Carolina, Seattle, Denver and Cincinnati are also going well.

Chinese hello

Peking has unveiled its 2008 Olympic mascots. They are five animals including a giant panda and an antelope representing the five Olympic rings. A syllable in each of their given names also spells out “Beijing Huanying Ni” – “Peking welcomes you”.