Distant looks no obstacle to Valentino

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The Independent Online

You cannot feel sad for a racehorse, but there will certainly be a sense of bathos when Distant Music trots out on to Town Moor this afternoon for the Park Stakes.

You cannot feel sad for a racehorse, but there will certainly be a sense of bathos when Distant Music trots out on to Town Moor this afternoon for the Park Stakes.

It was at this meeting 12 months ago that Barry Hills's colt suggested he was going to be one of the great gladiators of the turf. Distant Music beat Rossini two and a half lengths in the Champagne Stakes, quickening twice himself and having the same effect on the pulses of all who watched him.

The Dewhurst Stakes was collected on his next outing, and Distant Music went into hibernation as the 2,000 Guineas favourite. Further glory seemed assured. But that is where the success story seems to have ended. The winter Classic favourite has been more like lion food in racing's amphitheatre this season, falling to Barathea Guest in the Greenham and then finishing eighth behind King's Best in the Guineas itself. He has been a flop.

Hills has allowed Distant Music four months off, ostensibly to allow the colt time to recover from the rigours of an early-season preparation. It has also allowed a period for us to forget the memory of his humbling.

In recent days, Barry has been opining that he has seen something of the old fire in the horse he once described as the best two-year-old he had trained.

It must be though that he has keener eyesight than anyone else in Lambourn, for it is not a view of potential redemption that is held widely in the Valley of the Racehorse. It is almost certain that Distant Music's time has been.

These may be only Group Three animals that he now runs into, but there are some useful performers among them nevertheless. Cape Town, who was third in the Irish 2,000 Guineas, filled a similar position in the Celebration Mile at Goodwood last time and, on a line through the runner-up Observatory, beats Swallow Flight.

Valentino (next best 2.05) was a disappointment in the Sussex Stakes on the same track, but with a head defeat behind Giant's Causeway in the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot in the locker and John Gosden's horses in such scintillating form he has to be the choice.

Hills runs another infuriating athlete in Rainbow High in the Doncaster Cup. Runner-up to Far Cry in the race 12 months ago, the five-year-old always looks as though he is going to win at some point in his races and then contrives a way of failing.

Elsewhere in the race we have the now veteran Persian Punch, and the crafty Three Cheers. The only bigger monkey than him was the one buzzed by aircraft as he climbed the Empire State Building.

Much more reliable is SAN SEBASTIAN (nap 3.10), who was third in the Goodwood Cup and previously fourth in the Gold Cup after being hampered by the winner.

If a juvenile shooting star is to emerge in Distant View manner today it is likely to be Karasta (2.35), who is both quite a size and quite a performer judged on her Newmarket debut success.

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