Alhaarth works hard for Champagne

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The Independent Online
GREG WOOD

reports from Town Moor

The Rules of Racing prohibit contests of less than five furlongs, but the Champagne Stakes here yesterday sailed perilously close to the spirit if not the letter of the law. Alhaarth, favourite for the 1996 Derby, duly beat his two rivals at odds of 2-5, but the contest was little more than a two- furlong sprint and demonstrated little other than the winner's ability to act on an easy surface.

Indeed, Alhaarth had to work fairly hard for victory, as Rio Duvida, the outsider of three, stuck grimly to his quarters throughout the dash for the line. The bookmakers saw no reason to adjust their prices for next season's Classics, and the best prices about Alhaarth are still 12- 1 (Coral) for the 2,000 Guineas and 8-1 with the same firm for the Derby.

"It was the shortest race he's run in and he's always had a lead before," Willie Carson, the winner's jockey, said. "I just let him go his own pace and obviously it wasn't quick enough. It was a bit of a performance really."

A more demanding test of Alhaarth's quality may come in the Group One Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket next month. "It's up to the boss [Dick Hern]," Carson said, "but he's good enough to run in any race he picks."

The day's second three- runner event, the Troy Stakes, followed a similar pattern. Singspiel was sent off even shorter than Alhaarth, at 30-100, but asserted his superiority only below the distance, which left Riyadian, in the 12-furlong conditions race, by far the afternoon's most impressive winner.

Riyadian was running for the first time since finishing six lengths behind Lammtarra in the Derby, but won in a canter as soon as Carson, who looked as if he might be boxed in two out, found room and asked him to quicken. The jockey was heard to comment on dismounting that he would be delighted to ride Riyadian in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in three weeks' time. Paul Cole's colt would first need to be supplemented to the field, but after yesterday's performance - on good to soft ground, too - it will be a difficult temptation to resist.

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