Atavus can advertise Margarson's ability

Success should breed success on the turf as anywhere else, but George Margarson has 34 empty boxes which beg to differ. He has several illustrious near-neighbours in Newmarket with many more horses at their disposal who cannot match his total of £220,000 in prize-money so far this season, thanks mainly to the extraordinary efforts of Atavus in a string of valuable races. Yet still his yard is half-empty, and his order book is blank.

Success should breed success on the turf as anywhere else, but George Margarson has 34 empty boxes which beg to differ. He has several illustrious near-neighbours in Newmarket with many more horses at their disposal who cannot match his total of £220,000 in prize-money so far this season, thanks mainly to the extraordinary efforts of Atavus in a string of valuable races. Yet still his yard is half-empty, and his order book is blank.

Perhaps it will require one final effort, on the main day of Ascot's Festival meeting this weekend, for a few more owners to wake up to the opportunity which is passing them by. Margarson runs Atavus in the Group Two Diadem Stakes, and two more with a live chance, A Touch Of Frost and Millenium Moonbeam, in the Tote Trifecta Stakes, and is quietly confident of a prominent showing from all three.

"I've probably gained only one horse, Millenium Moonbeam, as a result of the success we've had this year," Margarson said yesterday, "and I've got no orders for yearlings at all, so I'm just hoping that a few people send me one or two by the end of the year. We've done well since we started training, but we've got a 54-box yard with only 20 horses in it, and we need them all full."

Atavus is the horse that the trainer can usually rely on to pull through when required, and while a Group Two sprint is a long way removed from his first race of the season, a handicap at Kempton in May in which he finished 13th of 20 off a mark of 78, he has since carved a trail of success across the summer. Fourth in the Hunt Cup, first in the Bunbury Cup and International Handicap, fourth in the Golden Mile and then first, at 33-1, in the Hungerford Stakes, it has been a remarkable story of improvement and resolution.

Jamie Mackay dictated the pace on Atavus in the seven-furlong Hungerford, leading many observers to conclude that he had stolen an undeserved victory from opponents including Tamburlaine, the 2,000 Guineas runner-up, and Tillerman. Margarson, they will not be surprised to hear, begs to differ.

"There was no fluke about it, and he's still improving," the trainer says. "He was a second outside the course record so even though he set the pace, he must have quickened up somewhere, and that's why I've dropped him back to six. He must have shown a lot of speed there, and if he improves again for dropping back to six, great, because I don't think the sprinters are that hot and you're better off going back to six than stepping up to a mile where there's real heavyweights."

Atavus, as so often in a season when he has started favourite only once (and finished second), must have a better chance in Saturday's race than many punters and bookies will give him credit for. Whether a good run will bring him any new neighbours next season is open to question at a time when many investors prefer to keep their money in something more reliable than horseflesh.

The one horse who has arrived at Margarson's yard this summer, Millenium Moonbeam, was a promising fifth on his debut for the yard at the Leger meeting, and found plenty of support for Saturday's race with the Tote yesterday. They cut him to 20-1 from 33-1 (Ile Michel, trained by Lady Herries, made the same jump up the lists), while in their Arc betting, Sakhee is 3-1 from 7-2, and Aquarelliste in to 4-1 from 9-2.

Morshdi, however, is a non-runner in the Arc, and may have run his last race after injuring his near-fore tendon at the yard of his trainer, Michael Jarvis. The winner of the Derby Italiano and Grosser Preis von Baden will be out until next season at least. "When your best horse is injured it is naturally disappointing," Jarvis said. "But we won't know how bad it is for a couple of weeks."

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