Adjareli to warm Aga's return

Royal Ascot: The opening day will be graced by the comebacks of two major figures but the old soldiers have been relieved of duties
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The Independent Online
RICHARD EDMONSON

Racing Correspondent

It will be appropriate if the hog roast stall at Royal Ascot this afternoon has fatted calf as the revolving foodstuff. Day one of Britain's most celebrated racing pageant marks the return of two much-missed figures in the sport.

Inside the rails, Balanchine will attempt to display again the stunning energy which took her to victory in the Oaks and Irish Derby last season, while, on the viewing side, the Aga Khan will watch his first runner in Britain since 1990, the Irish-based Adjareli.

The Aga has not taken his green and red colours out of the trunk in this country since his Aliysa was disqualified from the 1989 Oaks. The owner considered his filly had been found guilty of a transgression of the doping rules by methods barely more sophisticated than a child's chemistry set. His mood was little improved when the views of an expert panel, who flew in to London like saviours from Tracey Island, were ignored.

By a quaint coincidence, the Aga will pull on his morning suit today 10 days after the Derby victory of Lammtarra, whose mother, Snow Bride, was promoted to first after Aliysa's disqualification.

Adjareli (next best 3.45), who was runner-up to Spectrum in the Irish 2,000 Guineas, is no forlorn prospect in the St James's Palace Stakes as there is much to question about his principal rivals. Charnwood Forest is returning from the sidelines, Vettori is trying to overcome the curse on Derby runners who quickly pack their bags for Berkshire, and Bahri, the favourite, has already fallen victim to John Oxx's colt, at the Curragh.

It was at that Irish course almost 12 months ago that Balanchine last ran, and beat the top colts. She seemed to have the world at her feet, but then suffered a bad bout of colic, and survival rather than competition became the concern.

On her first run since the obits were being prepared it may prove a prosperous move to oppose Balanchine with Eltish (3.05), who was sixth, beaten four lengths, by Thunder Gulch on his latest run, in the Kentucky Derby.

The meeting opens, as usual, with the Queen Anne Stakes, which commemorates the racegoer who introduced Royal Ascot into the social and racing season in 1711. The favourite here will be Soviet Line, who ran as freely as a member of a chain gang until last September, when he appears to have had a visitation.

An uninspiring sixth in this race 12 months ago, the improvement in Michael Stoute's gelding is such that his trainer believes he has made the journey between Listed and Group One standard in less than a year.

Nevertheless, Soviet Line has his work cut out today to cope with SAYYEDATI (nap 2.30). Five-year-old Classic winners are located almost exclusively on stud farms, but Sayyedati remains in the care of Clive Brittain, who has won this race twice in the last four years. The promise of her seasonal debut in France, plus the race conditions, suggest she should reward connections' perseverance this afternoon.

But while Sayyedati endures, there are cataclysmic changes elsewhere at the Royal meeting this week. For the first time since 1964 there will be no Nicky Beaumont, the clerk of the course who proudly defended the traditions of the meeting for so many years. And that means that his wife, Ginny, will also not be there to conduct Land Of Hope and Glory from the bandstand for the hopelessly oiled congregation.

Most alarming of all, however, will be the absence of the bowler-hatted gatemen who did so much to make spectating at this meeting into a contact sport. No longer will entrances to the enclosures be combat zones as 200 of the abrasive best have given way to others, much younger, who will be decorated in Hi-De-Hi uniforms of yellow and blue.

To the chagrin of Messrs Lock, the hat makers of St James's Street who specialise in bowlers, and those who believe nightclub bouncers do not die, but grow old and grey and turn into Ascot gatemen, 200 of the soldiers have been told they have too many miles on the clock for the job.

This argument will not satisfy those who saw them keep on stoutly to the end. In terms of vigour, aggression and lack of compromise, the figures in hats were men whom you would have wanted at your shoulder in the trenches. They were the country's finest.

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