Dunlop voices his faith in Nwaamis

RACING: Celtic Swing kicks his stable lad aside but concern over the terrain under his hooves on Saturday is eased by track officials
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With three days to go before the 2,000 Guineas there was an injury scare in the Celtic Swing camp yesterday. There will now be a race against time to get to Newmarket following damage to a knee.

The bruised joint belongs to Celtic Swing's 62-year-old lad, Bob Mason, who was kicked by the Classic favourite after work yesterday morning. "Celtic Swing was being washed down after a canter and a wander through the woods and he cow kicked and caught Bob on the knee," Lady Herries, the colt's trainer, said at Ascot. "He's done it before, but he's never caught Bob unawares before."

Mason, who usually calls his charge Larry but may have called him something else yesterday, was taken to hospital, where an X-ray examination revealed there was no breakage.

Lady Herries was keen to hear of another condition check yesterday following reports that Celtic Swing would not even run in the Guineas if the ground was firm. This threat came from the colt's owner, Peter Savill, and may have been a pre-emptive strike to ensure the faucets were turned on full at Newmarket. If so, the ploy has worked. Nick Lees, the clerk of the course at Headquarters, has had the sprinklers on for the last two days and promises good ground for the start of the meeting tomorrow and going no worse than the fast side of good for Saturday.

Whatever the state of the terrain, Lady Anne will not be displeased. "The horse won on fast ground here last year," she said. "I don't see a problem apart from going down into the dip, where I wouldn't want it to be too firm. But they come home uphill so that should be all right."

Further Guineas speculation surrounded which horses Willie Carson will ride. He has the choice of Nwaamis and Bahri in the 2,000 and Aqaarid and Harayir in the 1,000.

The only chance to collect the Scot's thoughts came before his only ride, in the Victoria Cup, and led to an interesting tableau. Carson's fast, staccato stride took him past the waiting press posse on his way to the parade ring and he was followed by a crocodile of inquisitors, walking as fast as propriety will allow at the royal course. It was rather like the closing scene from a Benny Hill show.

When the panting hacks finally cornered the jockey he had a statement prepared. "Lord (not his exact word) knows," Carson said. "I haven't got a clue. Put that in your paper."

Neverthless, it seems likely that Carson will select the Craven Stakes third, Nwaamis, for the 2,000. "I think he'll have more improvement in him than Bahri," John Dunlop, who trains both the jockey's possible mounts, said. "He'd run only once before the Craven and he ran green and changed his legs coming up the hill. I see no reason why he can't improve seven or eight pounds on his Newmarket run.

"I think that Craven form has been devalued. I know the three horses finished close together and no one likes that, but they all came home very well. I'm not taking anything away from other horses, but Nwaamis worked as well as he ever has yesterday."

For the following day's 1,000, Dunlop believes Carson will desert his Aqaarid in favour of Dick Hern's Harayir. "I think that sentimentally Willie would like to ride our filly, but he might now be leaning the other way because the Timeforms, Raceforms and official handicapper say Harayir is in front of us," he said. "But we have never been beaten and we don't know how good this filly is."

On the racecourse yesterday there was solid evidence that Mark Johnston has peeled away the knuckles of the virus that has held his yard for much of the early season. The Middleham trainer registered with Double Trigger, who has the Gold Cup, Irish St Leger and Melbourne Cup on his agenda, and Unconditional Love, now an aspirant for the Queen Mary Stakes at the Royal meeting.

"The problems may have been down to the new structure of the yard," Johnston said. "We've got over 70 two-year-olds this year, and they bring all sorts of infections with them, like young kids at school. There has been virtually no two-year-old that has not been coughing.''

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