Cautious Cole has Strategic plan

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"It's not going to be easy," Paul Cole said yesterday. "The English always overrate their chances in the Arc. We are up against a lot of soft- ground specialists, especially Carnegie." Optimism is all but obligatory for racehorse trainers, so when one of their number veers towards realism, punters are wise to listen.

Not that many did. When 18 names emerged from the latest declaration stage for Sunday's race at Longchamp, Lammtarra, the Derby winner, who is unproven on the soft ground he will inevitably encounter, shortened half a point with Ladbrokes to 7-2 favourite. There was a little smart money, though, to bring Carnegie in from 8-1 to 7-1.

Cole will add to the British challenge -Lammtarra, who in theory hails from Dubai, has long since become an honorary Brit -with Strategic Choice, currently a 16-1 chance. The recent Irish St Leger winner was third to Lammtarra in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot, before, rather ominously, disappointing badly on soft ground at Baden-Baden.

In a gallop yesterday though, Strategic Choice impressed Cole sufficiently to book his passage to Paris. "He worked very well this morning," the trainer said. "I didn't ask him to do very much but he appeared to be in good form. I've always thought soft ground would suit him."

Pat Eddery, who has ridden four Arc winners, may be without a mount in Sunday's race following the withdrawal of Valley Of Gold. The former champion is now pencilled in against Winged Love, Andre Fabre's Irish Derby winner, but in view of the prevailing conditions, yesterday's comment by Anthony Stroud, Sheikh Mohammed's racing manager, is hardly encouraging. "Winged Love does not want it really heavy and there is every chance that Eddery could be watching the race from the stands," Stroud said.

Corey Nakatani, the leading American rider, also lost his Arc mount yesterday when Muncie was withdrawn as she is running a high temperature, while Lando, Germany's leading hope and due to be ridden by Michael Roberts, is also doubtful because of the ground.

Another disappointed jockey yesterday was John Carroll, who returned from injury at Newcastle but found that he has lost the ride on Mind Games, Jack Berry's top sprinter, in Sunday's Prix de l'Abbaye. Willie Carson takes over at the owners' request.

Jural, trained by Mark Johnston, was left in the Arc yesterday but will miss the race in favour of the Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday. David Loder's Bonne Etoile, entered for both the Sun Chariot and the Cambridgeshire on the same card, is under par and will not run in either.

Racing returns to Headquarters today after a 24-hour break for the Houghton yearling sale, with a small but unusually good field for the Group One Middle Park Stakes. The winners of the Mill Reef Stakes (Kahir Almaydan), Coventry and Gimcrack Stakes (Royal Applause) and the Norfolk Stakes (Lucky Lionel) will line up against Peter Chapple-Hyam's very useful Woodborough, and the winner will have every claim to be the year's best juvenile colt.

Royal Applause is better than his narrow win in the Gimcrack might suggest, but Kahir Almaydan (3.40) is the one to back. Lunar Mist (next best 2.35) should continue his winning run in the nursery, while LOCH PATRICK (nap 3.05) stands out in the Rous Stakes. With valid excuses for his last two failures, and now racing on a track that suits him ideally, he can pick up the threads of what had promised to be an excellent season.


NAP: Crowded Avenue

(Newmarket 3.05)

NB: Holtye

(Newmarket 4.15)