Darling should fall to Magic

At times it can feel as if every horse in the land is hopelessly unreliable, unable to hold its form for a couple of weeks, far less several months. When this despondency next descends, however, it might be worth recalling the field for the Fred Darling Stakes, the 1,000 Guineas trial at Newbury this afternoon.

Gay Gallanta and Hoh Magic, two of the leading fancies, finished first and third in the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot almost a year ago. The horse who split them was Myself, winner of the Nell Gwyn Stakes at Newmarket on Tuesday, while Signs, another of today's runners, was not far away in seventh. These horses are not just good, they are consistently good, an attribute for which all deserve credit.

It does not get any easier, though, what with the likes of the twice- raced, unbeaten, Aqaarid attempting to jostle them aside. John Dunlop's filly already has a Group One success to her name, in last year's Fillies' Mile at Ascot, and today's race may well bring further confusion to the ante-post market on the Guineas. It would take a performance of unusual authority to displace Harayir from the head of the market, but after a week of impressive trials, it would be no surprise if one of today's runners managed to do just that.

The question of which one is more problematic, particularly since Gay Gallanta, the form horse and probable favourite, has shown a distinct preference for a big field and a fast pace. Neither is guaranteed today, but conditions in the Guineas should be ideal and it would be foolish to dismiss her Classic chance even if she is beaten here.

Aqaarid's form is also hard to fault, but it may be significant that she is 10-1 for the Guineas with William Hill, and only six points longer for the Oaks. Today's seven-furlong trip could be at least a quarter of a mile too short. That could give Hoh Magic (3.10), who was a rare British winner of the Prix Morny last year, a crucial advantage. Speed rather than stamina is her strong suit, and today's conditions can bring it into play.

The supporting card is hardly glittering, but careful scrutiny of the opening event should prove rewarding in time. Polish Legion is a rare juvenile runner for John Gosden at this stage of the season, but the gossip claims that Woodborough is one of Peter Chapple-Hyam's best two-year-olds. There is no need to bet to find out whether or not it is true, but a small interest in Allthruthenight (3.40) in the sprint handicap should prove worthwhile.

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