Bahri heads Maktoum monopoly

Royal Ascot: Balanchine fails to sparkle after a winter recuperating in the sun but Dubai's ruling family still mop up the top prizes
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The Independent Online
There may be serious repercussions in the Maktoum camp this morning. Racing's foremost family will want to know why Nicolotte, the only horse to deprive them of a Group-race clean sweep at the Royal meeting yesterday, escaped the net.

Anyone who has yet to be convinced that Dubai's ruling family is virtually running racing at the top level would be best served by scrutinising yesterday's results. That will show that Team Maktoum won three of the four Group races and supplied five of the placed horses. The name of a property board game comes to mind.

It was ironic, therefore, that the horse that has been perhaps the Emirates' greatest standard bearer should run so disappointingly. Balanchine, who first advertised the benefits of the Middle East's winter sun by collecting last year's Oaks and Irish Derby, ran with the effervescence of a leftover party beer in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes.

Many wondered if the filly had recovered from the colic which almost claimed her life last year but were encouraged by the chestnut's spanking appearance. This, however, proved deceptive as Balanchine seemed dedicated to pursuing the road to Windsor.

"She was hanging to the left throughout the race," Lanfranco Dettori, her jockey, reported. "I was never happy with her and she was beaten three furlongs out."

Those in charge of the filly promised to issue a condition bulletin within the next few days, but the dark inference was that Balanchine will never be the same performer again. Her race did not escape the Maktoum caravan though as Muhtarram held on desperately from Eltish to record his second victory in the race.

Muhtarram has much of the old fox about him these days and needs events to unfold dramatically to contain his interest. He may have been fortuntate therefore that Willie Carson had to push him through an improbably tight channel. "It was rather like Willie was squeezing through a toothpaste tube," John Gosden, the winning trainer, observed.

Carson did not have to be as daring in the following race when Bahri ran away from his field in the St James's Palace Stakes. Those behind the colt have long thought that he may lack the stamina for a strongly- run mile. They were wrong.

Carson admitted as much when apologising for his ride in the Irish 2,000 Guineas. "I got it right today and we know now Bahri is a galloper," he said. "In Ireland I rode a bad race and all of us were at fault.

"We came into the race thinking he might not stay a stiff mile but we came out of the race thinking differently. It looks as though he might be one of the best milers this year." John Dunlop, Bahri's trainer, went on to complete a treble with the monstrously well-backed Medaille Militaire and Harlestone Brook.

Bahri's race saw a return to a British racecourse of a horse bearing the colours of the Aga Khan. His Adjareli finished seventh of nine, but the Aga did not seem to be on the verge of a drive to Beachy Head. "I am very happy to be back and no one who likes racing can ignore Britain," he said. This conveniently ignored that the owner had spurned this island for close on five years as a protest against drug-testing procedures. Nevertheless, he is now back and he will have horses trained in this country from next year.

Bahri will now contest Goodwood's Sussex Stakes, which is also the focal point for Nicolotte. Geoff Wragg's colt's success in the Queen Anne Stakes proved that he had recovered from a fractured hock sustained in his final work before the 1994 2,000 Guineas. Since then Nicolotte has been box- rested.

A message for the future arrived with Royal Applause's victory in the Coventry Stakes, which prompted quotes of 25-1 from William Hill and Ladbrokes for next year's 2,000 Guineas. Those who heard the words of his jockey, Walter Swinburn, could have been forgiven for breaking into a trot towards the nearest ante-post outlet. "When I gave him the office [inside the two-furlong marker] he could not have been more impressive," the rider said. "He's a natural and if he matures like I think he will then God help the rest."

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