Racing: Men stands out by a mile

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THE LOCKINGE Stakes has hardly been a parade of champions in recent years. Recent winners in Swing Low, Emperor Jones and Soviet Line have not been the worst horses in the world, but then they have not galloped through the clouds to join the equine gods later in the season either.

First Island, the winner 12 months ago, looked one of the better victors and he did indeed end up in the clouds, but not in the manner he would have wished. Geoff Wragg's colt broke a cannon bone on the Newmarket gallops the month after his success and had to be destroyed.

This afternoon's Group One contest at Newbury also promises to throw up a winner of some heavenly meaning, while there are two pleasingly parochial horses who join the bunch of most promising sorts.

John Jenkins was a big noise in the jumping sphere a few years back but these days we get barely a peep out of him. Nevertheless he now has the stewardship of a beast called Hornbeam, who might even have taken a hand today had the ground been a little softer.

Two years ago, Beauchamp King looked as if he was going to be a world beater before he started producing form that suggested he would, instead, soon be a beefburger. After beating the 2,000 Guineas favourite, Alhaarth, in the Craven Stakes at Newmarket, he went five races without a sniff. He did manage to win once last year, from another batch of five efforts, even if that was a tiddler at Doncaster.

The grey has since been discharged from John Dunlop's army at Arundel and now reposes in the less crowded setting of Gerard Butler's Faringdon yard. The fledgling Gerard is not yet a feared force in racing and it is fair to say Beauchamp King would be a shorter price today if he was trained by Henry Cecil. Come to think of it, he probably would be shorter if he was sent out by Henry Cooper. Butler has, at least, managed to wring a victory out of the old horse (his first win from his third runner) at Haydock earlier this month.

Beauchamp King will, however, need things to go his way if he is to succeed in this loftier company. That means he will have to be crowded in as if on a Tokyo tube train and then be produced on the line (not the underground line).

The leading protagonists here are more likely to be Air Express and Among Men. The former won the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot last season, but had already finished behind Among Men in Goodwood's Sussex Stakes.

In addition, Michael Stoute, the trainer of AMONG MEN (nap 3.00), has always considered that his colt would be particularly effective as a four- year-old as he did not run as a juvenile. The horse's chance is hardly compromised either by the identity of his owners, a pairing who have already been represented by King Of Kings and Saratoga Springs this year. (Michael) Tabor and (Sue) Magnier are rapidly becoming the Torvill and Dean of racehorse ownership.

The previous race contains Godolphin's Happy Valentine, who, by reputation, was going to come over last season and winning everything including the Eurovision Song Contest, a competition the Middle East did finally manage to win even if it was a year on.

Happy Valentine is now stepped up in trip following his reappearance failure, though it might be best to rely on an animal who knows what he is doing at this journey in I'm Supposin (next best 2.30).

At Newmarket, Bold Fact (3.45) is a confident selection as he has reportedly been cured of his tendency to peel off from the main body of a field like a Red Arrow leaving the formation cluster.

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