Forest stroll on path to Woodbine

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The Independent Online
Charnwood Forest completed his preparation for the Breeders' Cup Mile yesterday when he pulled away from his galloping partners on Newmarket's grasslands. This piece of work was referred to as the Group Two Challenge Stakes.

The imposing, near black colt won, officially, by two lengths from Bishop Of Cashel, but this statistic was unrepresentative of his superiority as Frankie Dettori had taken the keys out of the ignition inside the final furlong.

"Frankie just kept enough in the tank to get him to the finish, bearing in mind he might be running again next Saturday," Simon Crisford, the racing manager to the winner's owners, Godolphin, reported. "Seven furlongs is probably his game because in mile races he travels very well but doesn't quite seem to get home. Woodbine should suit him well."

By the time Charnwood Forest arrives in Canada to join his more celebrated stablemate Mark Of Esteem for the Mile, it will almost certainly be known if his contributions this year have helped Godolphin's nominal overseer, Saeed Bin Suroor, to the trainers' championship.

Following yesterday's fluctuations he stands about pounds 23,000 in front of Henry Cecil, but the season-long tussle will in effect be decided in the two minutes it takes to run tomorrow's Champion Stakes. In the blue corner will be Halling, while Bosra Sham carries the Warren Place standard.

There were worrying rumblings from the latter's camp yesterday, when it was announced that the filly, who has suffered from brittle hooves since the spring, had to be reshod. Her participation is not affected, though the same may not be said about her performance.

Another familiar theme was visited yesterday when the early betting for tomorrow week's Breeders' Cup Mile suggested Mark Of Esteem just has to clear customs to collect the prize. A similar sentiment was offered before Dancing Brave, Zilzal and Halling sullied their reputations in America. Those who consider this sorry pattern is about to be interrupted should take the 2-1 available with Coral. They could also take comfort from the warm words of Crisford. "Mark Of Esteem is pinging," he said. "He is very, very well indeed. In fact, he seems to be even better now than he was before Ascot [when he won the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes]." Charnwood Forest is 20-1 with William Hill, but half that price with the other big firms.

Coral also offer a bloated 20-1 about Yanks Music in the Breeders' Cup's richest race, the Classic (Ladbrokes go 4-1). Cigar is the odds-on favourite for that event, but the main dynamo in the turf's public- relations machine has shown his personal engine is beginning to splutter in recent starts. The word from North America yesterday was that the big horse was visibly drained by defeat in Del Mar and has only recently regained full condition. Among the eclectic bunch Cigar has to beat is the first Japanese horse to compete in a Breeders' Cup, Taiki Blizzard, who is already ensconced at the track.

The weather was bright and warm in Toronto yesterday, a situation that forecasters believe will remain until next Saturday. The track is expected to ride on the fast side of good, despite the fact that the surface is the constituency of chewed tobacco as it is kept permanently damp.

The threat of strike action in Canada next week remains, though disruption is expected to be limited to both Friday and downtown Toronto away from the race-track. This has rather relieved the Breeders' Cup President, Ted Bassett III, who yesterday described his emotions with the sort of phrase you do not often hear on this side of the Atlantic. "Our comfort level has increased in the last few days," he said.

Long-range punters will be seeking a comfort level this afternoon when several Classic aspirants exhibit their abilities before going into winter quarters. Bahamian Bounty, Kahal and The West are all 20-1 for the 1997 2,000 Guineas with William Hill, but there will be serious revision of those prices after the Dewhurst Stakes. KAHAL (nap 3.40) won with such authority on his last start that he has to be the selection.

The defection of Sleepytime (who runs in Newbury's Radley Stakes next week) appears to have left the Rockfel Stakes at the mercy of Dazzle. Michael Stoute will walk the course this morning to determine whether the ground has dried out too much for his filly, but will also have in the back of his mind worries about her lacklustre display in the Cheveley Park Stakes. He does not believe that was her true form. "We thought it would be nice to have another look," the trainer said yesterday.

It may pay punters to look elsewhere on this occasion, and a more solid prospect is Moonlight Paradise (next best 3.05).