Applause dodges traffic problems

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The Independent Online
"Why all the scrimmaging? Why were they so keen to get to the rails?" was the question posed by the trainer Brian Meehan after his colt Tomba and seven of the other runners in yesterday's Haydock Park Sprint Cup involved themselves in a Rollerball contest. The other runner, Royal Applause, decided racing was more his sport and sticking hard to the much-coveted rails, missed all the fighting by making all the running for a clear-cut success.

Meehan's question was a reasonable one, particularly as three races later Classy Cleo managed to win the 16-runner claimer over the same six-furlong trip from stall number one on the other side of the track from Royal Applause's berth.

The stewards, unsurprisingly, were also in interrogatory mood and the two-word answer to their questions was Michael Kinane. Danetime's rider was deemed to be guilty of careless riding as he criss-crossed the field trying to get to the stands rails and then, when that was clearly impossible, switching back to find a path through the fading front-runners.

Kinane was banned for two days - 15 and 16 September - and although his mount was found to have interfered with third-placed Tomba after a furlong, the stewards decided it did not affect the result and Danetime was allowed to keep second.

In truth, Kinane's worst punishment was that he did not win the race. Danetime flew after Royal Applause once he had been extricated from the scramble and narrowed the winning gap to a length and a quarter.

In a season during which the only consistent thing about the leading sprinters is the regularity with which they have been beating each other, this Group One success puts Royal Applause near the top of the pile.

Hills, 60, for whom this was the 1,900th winner in a 28-year career, is in no doubt that Royal Applause heads the sprinting crop. "He's the best sprinter I've trained and I think this proves he's the best around at the moment," he said.

"He got a clean break which was a big help," Hills added with a degree of understatement, "and he had all his rivals in trouble at half way. Royal Applause has been a great horse from his two-year-old days. He didn't show his best at three but horses are like apple trees - you don't get apples all the time."

Royal Applause's next appearance may be in the Prix de l'Abbaye at Longchamp, but his main target is the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Hollywood Park.

Coastal Bluff, who had shared the spoils with a heroic performance despite a broken bit in the Nunthorpe Stakes last time, raced prominently until half way but then backtracked as quickly as he had finished in the Nunthorpe and faded into eighth.

At Epsom, Maylane made the pre-race complaints of his trainer, Alec Stewart, about harsh handicapping look rather weak when successfully graduating to Group company in the September Stakes. It was probably his revenge on Stewart for having him gelded and the operation seems not to have rendered Maylane as co-operative as the trainer had desired. He reluctantly started to race only after conceding 10 lengths to the others, but still beat Dushyantor by a length and threequarters.