Racing: Alamshar to upstage his rivals in final curtain call

Champions' day at newmarket: Two great colts have one more opportunity to embellish their reputations before starting new careers at stud
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The Independent Online

All manner of musical acts are booked for Newmarket's summer evening fixtures, but for the final, definitive, movement at Headquarters this afternoon there should be only one performer, only one song in connection with the Champion Stakes.

The end is near for both Alamshar and Nayef and they have both done it their way, the former in a mighty splash over one season, the other through a compilation of admirable performances over four campaigns. Both horses have the physical enjoyment of a stud career beckoning, and this afternoon's result will determine which of their owners can anticipate the other good feeling of benefit from an increased breeding valuation.

It would, however, be crude to portray the Champion as simply a match. It could never be so with the likes of Rakti, Vespone and, particularly, Russian Rhythm in the field. The first-named is returning after a period of inactivity, but would not be boxing here if the estimable trainer Michael Jarvis did not believe he was ready for the bell.

Vespone had good form in France earlier in the season, indeed that was the siren call that floated into Sheikh Mohammed's ear before he was slotted into the Godolphin battalion. Payback time starts right here.

And there is Russian Rhythm, who suffered no disgrace in going down in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes to Falbrav, especially as that horse may soon prove he is the most potent equine athlete on the planet.

Yet it must be, if the Champion is to justify its name, that another comes to claim its crown. If it were down to brownie points then Nayef would already be having space made for another badge on his upper arm.

The tall horse has helped his trainer Marcus Tregoning achieve statuesque proportions himself over the last two seasons, including victory in this race. The five-year-old is upright, he is honest, but, at the absolute pinnacle, he may not be quite good enough. This is not a statement available about Alamshar.

John Oxx's colt too has had his bad moments, most notably his recent defeat in the Irish Champion Stakes, but there is the counterbalance of some extraordinary efforts. Here we are talking about the sole defeat of Dalakhani, in the Irish Derby, and a spreadeagling effort in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Repetition of either will see Alamshar (next best 4.00) transported to another life on a garlanded sedan chair.

The Dewhurst, on the other hand, is for fledglings still struggling to lever themselves out of the cot. On previous occasions a colt with the qualifications of Antonius Pius would already be halfway past the post. An unbeaten inmate of Aidan O'Brien's yard is usually the equivalent to a 100-yard start, but, this season, the Ballydoyle army have discovered that leg-chains can also be part of the equation.

The Dewhurst has become, realistically or not, a match of its own, between Three Valleys and Snow Ridge, which sound like competing ski resorts. Three Valleys has a similar profile to a contestant in this race of 12 months ago, Trade Fair. He bears the same colours and same expectation, and, it is to be hoped for connections at least, he does not bear the same sense of anticlimax.

There is a stain on Three Valleys' record, following his defeat in the Phoenix Stakes in Ireland, but there is mitigation also as he returned to Beckhampton a sick horse.

Nevertheless, now is the time to stay with the maybe horse in Snow Ridge (3.25), maybe because there remains the promise that he could be the ultimate engine over a range of distances. Marcus Tregoning's colt has been supported for both the 2,000 Guineas and Derby this week.

The card opens with a living legend in turf terms, and it may be that racegoers will want to retain their cards to remind them of a final act. Persian Punch has been outrunning his age for several seasons now, but there were omens in the Prix du Cadran on Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe day that the game was very close to up. Millenary (1.40) may be the one to help him into retirement.

Trade Fair (2.10) himself has won everything but the Sussex Stakes this year, and even if he failed at the highest calling, he is still a horse of some calibre. The Challenge Stakes will prove that.

In the Cesarewitch, Sir Mark Prescott is chasing a £100,000 bonus after his Cambridgeshire success with Chivalry and the prospect of a new humidor when he saddles two runners in the interminable yomp over the flatlands. For a race which takes several advert breaks to cover, the Cesarewitch is strangely draw dependent and it is fortunate that Prescott's Numitas (nap 2.50) fits into the high bracket of those with some sort of chance.