Distant Music ready for Greenham test

<i>Craven Meeting: </i> 2,000 Guineas favourite should be the prime beneficiary of the better ground in Classic trial transferred from Newbury
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The compelling wilderness welcomes us for the first time in 18 months this afternoon when racing resumes once again on Newmarket's Rowley Mile course.

The compelling wilderness welcomes us for the first time in 18 months this afternoon when racing resumes once again on Newmarket's Rowley Mile course.

Racehorses will potter out on to the windy landscape, like penguins on the Antarctic shelf, one of the few living things on the Suffolk plains. Not much survives here in spring. Certainly not prospecting punters, who attempt to stay alive on a diet of unraced and immature racehorses. And it may not be the time to be a racecourse executive either when the Newmarket annual members lift up the flap and see the accommodation they have been afforded in the new grandstand.

Yet Newmarket is most certainly the place to pitch camp this week. We have the Free Handicap and the Craven Stakes to come and, today, there is the exotica of two official Classic trials and another which may in fact offer up the winner of the 2,000 Guineas.

When the Greenham Stakes was washed away at Newbury on Saturday, Headquarters became the unlikely resting place for the Group Three contest. This means that we do, after all, have the chance to assess Distant Music's ability on the racecourse as a three-year-old before the 2,000 Guineas itself.

The short-priced and unbeaten Classic favourite tackles this race in preference to the snappily named thehorsesmouth.co.uk Craven Stakes on Thursday. He would have had to carry a 3lb penalty in that mile contest, but now he is off levels, over a furlong shorter, and on grass that has been untouched for two springs.

Nick Lees, the clerk of the course, began by saying he had provided "decent ground, rather like good jumping ground". Yesterday, he amended the going to good, adding: "We had 2mm of rain overnight, but it's been dry all day. There are storms about but none of them have hit here yet." That wasn't storms you heard Nick, just the annual members gathering.

Distant Music (1.35) should win his comeback, but it will be no flypast with Scarteen Fox and Barathea Guest in the field. The latter was first past the post on devilishly soft going in last October's Group One Grand Criterium at Long-champ only to be demoted in favour of Aidan O'Brien's Ciro. He would be shorter odds if he was trained by one of the best boys of Newmarket, but he is in the keeping of George Margarson, the travelling head lad to Mick Ryan for 15 years. He looks the one for the forecast.

Giant's Causeway, who maintained his unbeaten record in the Gladness Stakes at the Curragh nine days ago, is second favourite for the Guineas, even though his participation has yet to be confirmed by Aidan O'Brien. The French and Irish versions stand as alternatives.

We do have the third favourite for the Guineas today, however, in the shape of Michael Stoute's Misraah, who will be a short price for the BTSME Stakes on a card featuring four seven-furlong contests. Misraah's run will not be on network television, but the pictures we have already seen of him include a 10-length demolition at Leicester on his second outing last season. He showed a floor-hugging action that day, the gait of a fast-ground horse, and it will be informative to see how he copes with today's terrain.

On a card which should inform, if not enrich, from beginning to end, there is also the reappearance of ALASAN (nap 4.45), who was a hugely promising third to King's Best on his Newmarket debut for Luca Cumani last August. He is now that winner's stablemate at Stoute's Freemason Lodge following the Italian's disagreement with the Aga Khan.

In the last contest, After The Blue is one of Channon's dark horses to follow this year, while earlier there are pass notes to be taken for the 1,000 Guineas when 13 fillies line up for the Nell Gwyn Stakes.

This, it must be stressed in the biggest red capital letters, is not a medium for a life-changing bet. Three-year-old fillies are not the hardiest of creatures and we have been told that they perform like flowers in the spring. As many blossomed in the recent warm weather only to crumple on the back of the subsequent frost, heaven only knows which will feel able to perform today.

John Dunlop's Aunty Rose is reported to be better than stablemate Iftiraas, who won the Fred Darling Stakes at Newbury on Friday, so must be a consideration. But if we have to rely on one solid factor then that would be last season's form and the Cheveley Park winner, Frankie Dettori's mount Seazun (3.10).

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