Esteem on the Mark

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The Independent Online
Mark of Esteem, the forgotten Classic winner, bounced back into public consciousness in the Celebration Mile here yesterday in no uncertain fashion. The 2,000 Guineas hero produced a devastating turn of foot to take the Group Two race by three and a half lengths from Bishop of Cashel, with Alhaarth three-quarters of a length third.

But the winning Godolphin connection had to endure an anxious 15 minutes after the race as the stewards looked into the tactics employed by their jockey Frankie Dettori. Two furlongs out it was apparent that Mark Of Esteem, tucked in on the rails behind Alhaarth and Gothenberg with Bishop Of Cashel on his outside, was travelling best.

Dettori had a half-look at any gap between Alhaarth and Bishop Of Cashel, whose rider Walter Swinburn emphatically said: "No". The Italian then had to sit and wait for an opening between the two leaders, and the moment Gothenberg started to weaken he shot Mark Of Esteem through. The little white-faced bay responded like a champagne cork leaving its bottle.

But there was a suggestion that Dettori had rather played Moses in the parting of the ways, and an inquiry into interference - which was acknowledged but not deemed to have made any difference - was inevitable.

With his reputation as a leading miler re-established after a disappointing run in the St James's Palace Stakes, Mark Of Esteem will now return to Ascot for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes next month, followed by a tilt at the Breeders' Cup Mile at Woodbine in Ontario.

The Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford said: "This race was very important for us. No-one likes to see a Classic winner going downhill - it's bad for the sport - and we're delighted that he has been able to show just what a classy colt he is. We don't really know what went wrong at Ascot, but he's been giving us all the right signs at home before today, and, despite having to give away his 6lb Group one penalty, we were pretty confident."

The victory, and that of Sharaf Kabeer in the opening March Stakes, leapfrogged Godolphin's Saeed Bin Suroor past Henry Cecil to lead the trainers' table.

Sharaf Kabeer booked his place in the St Leger field with a convincing performance. Always in the first two, Dettori sent the big chestnut, son of Machiavellian, to the front three furlongs out and he ran on strongly to beat early leader Masehaab by two and a half lengths.

The colt, who runs in the yellow colours of Sheikh Ahmed, last appeared in the Irish Derby, where he was well out of his depth behind Zagreb. Crisford said: "That was too much for him at that stage when he was still very much a big baby. It was an experience he could have done without and we gave him plenty of time to recover.

"He is still a backward sort, and whatever he does this year, he should be a serious four-year-old. But whether or not he improves enough to win a Classic we won't know until he tries."

The Godolphin team won last year's St Leger with Classic Cliche, and Crisford added that the all-conquering blue colours could be carried at Doncaster next month by the Oaks runner-up Pricket.

The sport of Goodwood continues this afternoon, with, the feature race apart, some typically ordinary Sunday fare. But the Sussex Downs may provide the setting for George Duffield's wish to ride his long-time Guv'nor Sir Mark Prescott's first Classic winner to come a step closer.

The seasoned pair, fresh from Pivotal's Nunthorpe Stakes triumph last week, team up again when Red Camellia takes on four rivals in the Prestige Stakes. The highly-regarded filly is, like Pivotal, owned and bred by Cheveley Park Stud, and a decisive victory would, the credentials of her fellow colour-bearer Dazzle notwithstanding, see her take high rank in the betting for next year's 1,000 Guineas.

Sky Dome makes considerable appeal in the Mail On Sunday Handicap. The Mark Tompkins-trained colt returned from a spell in the Doldrums to win in tremendous style over a mile at Newmarket earlier this month with two subsequent winners behind him.

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