Fleet leads Harwood's final push

Chris Corrigan talks to the top trainer aiming for one last big Ascot success
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The Independent Online
Guy Harwood, whose West Sussex stable has plundered Ascot's top prizes over the last 25 years, makes one of his final raids on the track this weekend.

Harwood retires from training soon and his daughter Amanda will be taking charge of Coombelands Stables, Pulborough. ''We're not exactly sure when I'll be handing over to Amanda, but probably towards the end of October,'' Harwood said yesterday.

The trainer recalled: ''Our horses invariably run well at Ascot. We've always had a feeling about the place - one reason being that the course replicates our home gallops.''

Asked what Ascot memories were particularly vivid, he replied: ''Winning the King George twice, of course, with Kalaglow and Dancing Brave; the blinding speed shown by Rousillon when winning the Queen Anne stands out; and, of course, To-Agori-Mou getting revenge on Kings Lake in the 1981 St James's Palace Stakes. That was a very happy moment.''

Harwood didn't go into detail about that last victory, which was famous - or notorious - for Greville Starkey proffering a V-sign in the direction of rival Pat Eddery, on runner-up Kings Lake, as they passed the post. The previous month, in controversial circumstances, Eddery and Kings Lake had taken the Irish 2,000 Guineas after bumping To-Agori-Mou, who had finished second.

Eddery, coincidentally, rides one of Harwood's four-strong team running at Ascot this weekend. Eddery is on a three-year-old colt, Northern Fleet, in the Gordon Carter Handicap (5.35) today. ''Of the four, I'd say Northern Fleet has the best prospects,'' Harwood said. ''He's very well and we expect him to run well.''

Kayvee (Tony Clark) and Consort (Chris Rutter) contest the Tote Festival Handicap (3.55) today. Kayvee, a seven-year-old grey, has a fine record on this course while Consort is a lightly raced three-year-old.

Harwood commented: ''Each is capable of running a really good race. I wouldn't know which has the better chance. A lot depends on the draw. In these big-field, seven-furlong races at Ascot the draw is so important.'' Low numbers may have an advantage this time.

Better Offer, in the Tote Sunday Special Handicap (4.25) tomorrow, has a difficult task, Harwood concedes. ''He's gone up in the weights and, of the four horses, he's got the toughest test.''