Bay ready to keep Hannon's spirit high

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The Independent Online

"They are not running well at the moment," Taffy Williams, Richard Hannon's travelling head lad, told us at Newmarket on Tuesday, "but it'll soon change." As optimism is Taffy's oxygen this seemed just another piece of verbal rubble, yet the little man, for once, has been proved immediately correct.

Cape Town collected the Free Handicap for East Everleigh the following day and then Umistim won the Craven Stakes. This certainly was a change. Apologies Taffy.

The Wiltshire yard's recently uncovered prowess will face another testing this afternoon at Kempton, provided the Sunbury course survives an early morning inspection. The track is already heavy in places and more rain was forecast overnight.

Hannon takes part in an Easter Stakes which has been a favourable encounter for him down the years. He runs Mana-Mou Bay (3.45), who was cut to 20-1 from 40-1 for the 2,000 Guineas by William Hill this week in the wake of the victories for his stablemates.

Hannon paid 42,000gns for Mana-Mou Bay as a yearling, which looked a lot at the time. That is of no concern now, particularly as Hannon retains a quarter share, as the colt won the prestigious Washington Singer Stakes at Newbury last August, the race Lammtarra - the 1995 Derby, King George and Arc winner - won as a two-year-old.

Mana-Mou Bay has been supplemented for the Derby and is considered one of the stable stars, but, as he has been showing more speed than expected this spring, shorter distances are now being examined. He should oblige.

The danger is Kingsclere, Ian Balding's Derby entry. He was third in the Royal Lodge Stakes at Ascot last September and is another high on his domestic pecking order.

In the Masaka Stakes this afternoon, there is no place for the much-vaunted High Walden, for whom the ground is considered too soft by Henry Cecil. If the Masaka Stakes does indeed go ahead then the best option looks to be Blusienka (3.15), who won a Doncaster maiden last year and was not hurt on her reappearance at the same course last month.

Lost In Hook (2.40) is an interesting booking for Frankie Dettori, a remark that also applies to the Italian's appointment with SEREN HILL (nap, 4.15), for whom today's mud will present few problems.

Channel 4 also take in Carlisle in glorious Cumbria. It is a venue rarely visited by the television cameras. While there are majestic Lakeland surroundings, this is not a course for sightseeing for the competitors as it features severe undulations and a palpitating uphill finish. We will rely here on the course-and-distance winner Committed Schedule (3.30) and Girondin (4.00), whose consistency deserves some sort of reward.

There is a track record to follow too on the BBC at Haydock, where Inigo Jones (4.05) was a winner earlier this month. Seraphina (next best 2.30) will find her contest less exacting than Newbury's Fred Darling, while the failed hurdler Largesse (2.00) should continue to show he knows which side his bread is buttered on in the John Porter Stakes, transferred from last Saturday's abandoned Newbury fixture.

Aristotle, Aidan O'Brien's Racing Post Trophy winner who is 20-1 for the Derby, makes his seasonal reappearance in the Prix Greffulhe over one mile, two furlongs and 110 yards at Longchamp tomorrow. André Fabre's Sobieski and Miraculous take him on.

O'Brien also saddles Royal Kingdom, winner of Ascot's Royal Lodge Stakes last season, in the Prix de Fontainebleau, a trial for the Poule D'Essai des Poulains (the French 2,000 Guineas) over a mile. Again Fabre looks the bête noire as he saddles the highly-regarded Slipstream King and Berine's Son. Royal Kingdom also has to contend with Blu Air Force, a Milan winner last month, and Criquette Head's Premier Pas.

Lady Of Chad, the winner of the Prix Marcel Boussac over the same course and distance on Arc day, runs in the Prix de la Grotte, a trial for the Poule D'Essai des Pouliches (the French 1,000 Guineas) over a mile.