Dearth and girth at Doncaster

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The Independent Online
It has not been one of racing's better weeks. On Tuesday, a deeply flawed and misleading television documentary threw a bucketload of mud at the sport, some of which will inevitably stick. On Wednesday we lost Red Rum. Yesterday, Tom Foley confirmed that Danoli, Ireland's favourite horse, will miss the entire National Hunt campaign, and today there are two fresh embarrassments.

It is bad enough that only four horses will contest the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster, the season's last Group One race, but the appearance on the same card of the Bernard Manning On The Job Claiming Stakes is something which the Turf may never live down. The only relief is that it is off too early for live broadcast on Channel 4, a station which some may feel already has one fat comedian too many.

As for the turnout in the Racing Post Trophy, although three of the four runners are at least very useful, it still seems almost ungrateful that so few remain from an entry of almost 100. The Champagne Stakes at Doncaster and the Dewhurst at Newmarket were similarly afflicted, a disturbing trend which reflects little credit on many leading trainers and owners.

No one could accuse John Dunlop of lacking ambition. Having overhauled Saeed bin Suroor and the Godolphin operation a week ago to claim his first trainers' championship, Dunlop might have been tempted to ease down. Instead, he shrewdly supplemented Beauchamp King into today's big race and, assuming he can beat the maiden Iamus, the exercise will have been worthwhile.

Indeed, Beauchamp King may do rather better than that. His victory on heavy ground at Ascot two weeks ago proved him to be a tough and improving juvenile, who fully deserves his place in today's field. With Mons (3.40) also lining up, though, second place may be a more realistic target, since Luca Cumani's colt, five-length winner of the Royal Lodge Stakes, has the strongest chance on bare form and will not be inconvenienced by a quick surface.

Dunlop also mounts a serious challenge in the St Simon Stakes at Newbury, and here he may enjoy more success since Labibeh (next best 2.30) appears to be the only runner on the way up. Her most interesting rival is Salmon Ladder, long held in high regard by Paul Cole, his trainer, but yet to show much on the track and unraced since down the field in the Derby.

Cole, who has had a disappointing season, deserves a change of fortune after yesterday admitting defeat in his battle to get Sri Pekan, one of last year's best juveniles, back to a racecourse after a serious of injuries. Oleana (2.00) may ease his burden slightly, while Smart Generation (1.30) is another who should go well at Newbury.

Back on the other side, Thrilling Day (4.15) is the best option in the Doncaster Stakes, and Dato Star an interesting runner in the Ladbroke Handicap, since he is joint-favourite for the November Handicap over course and distance in a fortnight. The winner of the Festival Bumper at Cheltenham, Dato Star is better than his bare form indicates, but a mark of 84 is hardly a giveaway for his first attempt at a handicap. Invest instead in NAME THE TUNE (nap 2.40), who has had a busy season but should have one more victory left to come.

They race tomorrow at Wetherby and Wincanton, although the Tote is so despondent about the likely public interest that it will not bother to run a Jackpot at either.

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