Racing: Caldra cut above the rest

A snip in the sale ring makes spectacular progress with the help of a vet's scalpel

After a week in which takings at Europe's elite yearling auction in the Tattersalls arena topped £60 million, and Sheikh Mohammed kept up his autumnal shopping spree with purchases totalling more than £7m, the other side of the investment coin was in evidence at Ascot yesterday. Caldra, the most progressive and impressive of a variety of smart two-year-olds on display, cost just 14,000 guineas in the Newmarket sale ring a year ago.

While that sum may be only a little less than most people in this country earn in a year, in bloodstock terms it is no more than back-pocket change, given in this case by Norman Ormiston, who owns a builders' providers and hardware business in Kells, Co Meath. Caldra has proved the shrewdest of buys; his earnings are now nearly £175,000, and yesterday his upward mobility made him a Group Three winner.

The race he won by no fewer than five lengths, the Autumn Stakes, has a distinguished enough pedigree. Previous winners include the likes of Nashwan, Presenting, Dr Fong, Daliapour and Nayef, and last year, when it was run at Salisbury, Dylan Thomas managed to finish only second.

However, for the very reason that he has progressed so markedly, Caldra will be unable to follow in their distinguished hoofprints. He has proved a snip because of the snip. After he was beaten in his first two races, the decision was made to turn the colt into a gelding and the operation has, somewhat ironically, made a man of him.

"We thought he was a real nice horse," his trainer, Sylvester Kirk, said, "but he let us down the first two runs. His whole attitude to the job has changed, but there's no fancy stuff for him now we've taken his credentials away." Geldings are, of course, ineligible for Classics.

Caldra, the 6-4 market leader, was never in danger of defeat once he took command under Declan McDonough going to the final furlong, with Kid Mambo and Moudez chasing vainly. It was the fourth success from seven outings for the son of Elnadim.

"That's it for this season," added Kirk. "We'll map out a plan for next year over the winter. He's very talented, will strengthen and improve and now has a lovely attitude."

The Cornwallis Stakes is another contest that provides regular pointers to the future, in the shape of embryonic sprinters. The latest winner, Alzerra, gave an inkling of her class when she chased home the winter favourite for the 1,000 Guineas, Sander Camillo, at Newmarket in July and underlined it yesterday with a clear-cut success in the Group Three five-furlong dash. Confidently handled by Martin Dwyer, the filly, relishing the easy conditions, as a daughter of Pivotal should, swept into the lead inside the final furlong and beat Hoh Mike by nearly two lengths.

"It was firm ground when she was second at Newmarket," said Mick Channon, the trainer of Sheikh Ahmed's home-bred, a well-supported 4-1 favourite, "and it did take her a while to get over it. But she bolted up at Ayr last month and came here in terrific form.

"She is so laid-back and I'm sure she'll stay further than this, and I'll run her in one of the Guineas trials next spring to see if she does. But she's not bad over five."

Charlie Farnsbarns, a 20-1 shot, was an unexpected two-length winner of the Hyperion Stakes under Kevin Darley. And the Cape Cross colt has now put himself in line for a tilt against bigger guns in the Racing Post Trophy at Newbury on Saturday week. "It's certainly something we'll now consider," said the winning trainer, Brian Meehan.

Anna Pavlova was another to oblige for the punters, taking the Harvest Stakes at 15-8, despite her erratic course up the straight. The Richard Fahey-trained filly was the class act in the field for the 12-furlong Listed race, having beaten all bar the Oaks runner-up, Rising Cross, in the Park Hill Stakes last month, but her five-length margin of superiority could have been more had she not tacked alarmingly left through the last 200 yards.

"The only time in the race I was worried was after I hit the front," said her rider, Paul Hanagan. "It's a wide track, and she just saw too much daylight, and got a bit lonely. She was going sideways as fast as she was going forward, and I thought I was going to end up in Row Z."

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