Carnegie steeled for victory

Sue Montgomery believes the French can claim Saturday's showpiece at Ascot
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The Independent Online
IN AN increasingly competitive leisure market, going racing can offer anything from the opportunity to exercise the grey cells to falling about on a bouncy castle. For a jolly day out with the kids, Yarmouth and Ayr today are the places to be, but those who lean towards a cerebral challenge or revel in the sight of top-class thoroughbreds should head for Ascot on Saturday.

The clash between the cream of Europe's middle-distance horses in the pounds 460,000 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at the Berkshire course will show the sport at its best. The race, inaugurated in 1951, is the summer's premier all-age 12-furlong contest, featuring the first meeting over the trip of the top three-year-olds and their elders.

In 44 runnings, the Classic generation has the edge with 24 victories, including eight of the last ten. This time, all eyes will be on the Derby winner, Lammtarra, appearing for the first time since his spectacular Epsom triumph for Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin organisation. He missed the Irish Derby but is now back in top form and bids to become the 12th Derby winner to take the King George as a three-year-old.

A list of those previously successful, from Tulyar in 1952 to Generous four years ago, indicates that an above-average Derby winner is needed to take a King George, and with this year's Epsom form looking shaky (six runners, including the third, fourth and fifth, have since run and been beaten) Lammtarra has it all to prove again.

Although he will surely get better, for the Derby was only the second run of his life, the standard he set will be tested fully by the Geoff Wragg-trained Pentire, a horse judged not good enough to be entered at Epsom earlier in his career. But this year he is unbeaten in four runs, most recently in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot, his first attempt at a mile and a half.

The challenge from the older horses will be led by last year's Arc de Triomphe winner, Carnegie, who will carry Sheikh Mohammed's maroon-and- white silks unless the ground (at present good to firm, and being watered) is riding firm, in which case Winged Love, the winner of the Irish Derby and also trained by Andre Fabre, will run.

Unravelling the form-lines of the principals is a puzzle worthy of the attentions of Inspector Morse. At Sandown Pentire had last week's Eclipse runner-up, Singspiel, and two subsequent Group One winners, Luso and Torrential, behind him. At Goodwood he was half a length in front of Fahal, who ran out of his skin to finish three lengths adrift of Lammtarra in fourth at Epsom but then disappointed behind Don Corleone, previously fourth to Pentire at Ascot, last weekend. Istidaad, a short-head second at Goodwood, beat the Derby third, Presenting, when runner-up at Newmarket last week.

The greatly improved and consistent Luso, who had Singspiel nearly five lengths behind at Chester and then beat the subsequent Derby fifth Court of Honour in the Italian version, ran Carnegie to a head at Saint-Cloud two weeks ago. Winged Love, Carnegie's inferior at home, had Classic Cliche (Lammtarra's stablemate) further behind in Ireland than did Pentire at Goodwood.

The heart is with the Derby winner, but the head says Carnegie can add to Fabre's seasonal Group One haul (which may become seven through Valley of Gold in today's Irish Oaks) and become the first French-trained King George winner since Pawneese in 1976.

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