During the last 16 months, Double Trigger's talent and dogged refusal to admit defeat have brought a new vigour to our staying events, which had become dangerously dull. Yet last year, Europe's handicappers decided that Strategic Choice was 1lb his superior, and after his defeat by Classic Cliche in the Gold Cup at Ascot, Mark Johnston's brave chestnut could be heading for the unwanted label of the best stayer never to be named the official champion of the division.
Nor is Classic Cliche his only rival for the title. Celeric, Double Trigger's principal opponent as he attempts to repeat last year's victory in the Doncaster Cup, has improved with every race this season and is now, according to the British Horseracing Board's handicapper, just 8lb inferior. Since Double Trigger must concede 7lb to Celeric today, victory for the latter would imply that his progress has continued, and could carry him to the head of the ratings.
Double Trigger has not raced since losing both a shoe and his aura of invincibility in the Gold Cup. "It took us two months to get a steel shoe back on his foot after Ascot," Deirdre Johnston, his trainer's wife, said yesterday. "We will never know whether or not losing his shoe was to blame for Trigger not setting a strong enough gallop, but he is very well in himself now."
The only certainty today is that Lanfranco Dettori, who takes over from the suspended Jason Weaver, will set a much better pace that the one which allowed Classic Cliche to conserve his speed for the finish at Ascot. A distinguished but arduous career may now be taking its toll, however, and CELERIC (nap 3.40) should have his measure.
Celeric rates as the day's best bet simply because the remainder of the televised card - though it does not include a single handicap - is desperately difficult to solve. High Summer, for instance, should follow up her imperious victory at Salisbury last week in the Sceptre Stakes, but Roger Charlton, warned punters after that race that her breathing is far from perfect, and she is thus difficult to oppose or support.
The May Hill Stakes is another event to treat with caution, since the step up to a mile could bring dramatic improvement from fillies who are still at the learning stage. Gretel (3.10) should at least start at a fair price, while Bishop Of Cashel (next best 2.35) is the one for the Park Stakes.Reuse content