Aljabr calls the tune over Stravinsky

ALJABR, REPRESENTING the all-conquering Godolphin team, staked his claim to be regarded as the season's leading two-year-old by beating another pretender to the title, Stravinsky, fair and square by half a length in the Prix de la Salamandre at Longchamp yesterday. And the pulsating showdown between the two crack colts had a dramatic aftermath when the runner-up lost not only his unbeaten status, but also second place in the Group One contest, after being disqualified and placed last by the local stewards for impeding an unplaced rival.

Victory in the seven-furlong race that has signposted two recent winners of the 2,000 Guineas (Zafonic and Pennekamp) took Aljabr's career record to three wins from as many runs. The elegant grey son of Storm Cat has yet to see another horse's backside on the racecourse and yesterday his front-running style brought out the best in Frankie Dettori as a judge of pace.

Stravinsky, reputedly number one in the pecking order among Aidan O'Brien's juveniles, swooped to conquer from off the pace and drew just about level inside the final furlong but Dettori had kept ample power in reserve and Aljabr stuck his head out and forged ahead gamely.

The Irish colt had showed a dazzling change of gear as Michael Kinane launched his challenge but the bay drifted right-handed across the line of his compatriot Rolo Tomasi, who in turn hampered Zirconi. Kingsalsa, four lengths behind the principals at the line, was promoted to second and Zirconi to third. Kinane was suspended for four days and will miss the first two day's of next week's important Newmarket meeting.

The next sighting of Aljabr is likely to be in the 2,000 Guineas, for which his price was cut to around 7-1, though most of the big firms left Stravinsky as their favourite. Simon Crisford, racing manager of Sheikh Mohammed's Dubai-based outfit, said: "We rate this horse highly and don't want to over-race him this year".

For the second Saturday in succession the Godolphin team, the McLarens of the world of real horsepower, notched a Group One double. An hour after Aljabr crossed the line in Paris, Kayf Tara beat Silver Patriarch in the Irish St Leger at the Curragh to record the 27th top-level victory in Europe by one the blue-clad elite squad since Balanchine set the ball rolling in the Oaks four years ago.

And there was drama in Ireland as well as in France, for the market leader Ebadiyla, due to present her Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe credentials, was withdrawn at the start after suffering a nose-bleed.

Kayf Tara quickened past Delilah early in the straight and then stayed on dourly to repel Silver Patriarch by two lengths and redeem a reputation dented slightly by two defeats since Ascot. He will join Aljabr on the plane to winter quarters in the desert before returning for another cup campaign next year. It was John Reid's second St Leger in Godolphin colours in eight days, after Nedawi's Doncaster triumph the previous Saturday, and will no doubt help the veteran Ulsterman put his recent rejection by Robert Sangster behind him.

For all the class and classic potential exhibited by Aljabr at Longchamp, for sheer heart and determination look straight to Golden Silca at Newbury. The Mick Channon-trained filly's performance to take the Group Two Mill Reef Stakes was positively cockle-warming.

Seb Sanders held the little white-faced chestnut, running for the third time in four weeks, just off the pace as the favourite Belasco took the field along with Haafiz in close attendance. Approaching the furlong marker a gap, there for Golden Silca's taking, opened between the two colts as Haafiz began to cry enough and Indiana Legend, travelling powerfully, joined issue on the outside.

Momentarily, it seemed that Golden Silca could find no extra resources and Indiana Legend started to assert his authority. But 15 strides from the post the filly found her balance and began to run in earnest and, answering Sanders demands with great generosity, put her pretty pink nose in front on the line.

The daughter of Inchinor may be supplemented for the Cheveley Park Stakes, which her star stablemate Bint Allayl is in danger of missing after suffering a slight training setback.

The Ayr Gold Cup failed to produce a punting millionaire, but resulted in a resounding triumph for Karl Burke, who completed a remarkable one- two in one of the season's most competitive handicaps as the 16-1 shot Always Alight, ridden by John Egan, beat his 33-1 stablemate Daring Destiny, the winner four years ago, a head. The Tote's offer of pounds 1m to any punter who was the sole forecaster of the first three home was not claimed, but there were 11.67 winning tickets in the richest Trifecta so far. The pounds 233,000 pool paid pounds 14,210 to a pounds 1 stake.

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When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
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