Racing: Close To You sets standard in Solario Stakes

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The Independent Online

These, of course, are the sort of circumstances which bookmakers adore: young, immature horses coming together on the the kind of going hardly any has ever encountered. When there is muck of this sort it usually means brass for the layers.

However, today could be different. It is not often that the form horse and the one we know will handle the conditions happens to be one and the same animal. Yet that arrangement exists now.

Close To You (next best 2.20) was said not to appreciate the pudding at Newbury last time, but that was difficult to detect in the manner he ran away from his field. He has already proved himself over a yomping seven furlongs, and that would give him a chance even if he were not obviously a colt on the upgrade with a swift hat-trick behind him.

Close To You is the representative of the father-and-son combination of Terry and Robert Mills, the former so Pearly King of voice that it is something of a surprise he is not covered in sequins when you first meet him.

The arrangement is unique at Epsom's Loretta Lodge, the visible product of Terry Mills's great success in another mucky business, that of waste disposal. Terry has had decent horses before and, spookily, all the good ones seemed to be named after Frank Sinatra numbers. Close To You is no different. He is expected to put his mud-proven ability to good use this afternoon.

"He's in great nick and we are confident of a good run," Mills Jnr reported yesterday. "We are drawn a bit wide and the conditions might not be great, but he's done it before when he's not enjoyed the ground. Nine times out of 10 class will show when a horse is up against it, as our's did at Newbury. This is obviously far tougher, but he deserves to be there and there's more to come from him."

Team Mills are so emboldened that they are even thinking of the next assignment for Close To You, the Group One setting of the Dewhurst Stakes in October. "It's rare as a relatively small yard that we've got the chance to think about a race like this, so hopefully we can take our chance," Mills added.

"The Dewhurst is a definite option and the Solario can be seen as a stepping- stone towards that race. He's a good horse and should hopefully give a good account of himself." Close To You's prospects are further enhanced in view of the fact that the ground is expected to be against one of his major rivals, Richard Hannon's Asset.

"He's a very big horse and is still a bit weak, so the rain would be a major concern," the trainer said. "There's absolutely nothing wrong with him though - he's a pretty good horse and is in good form. We could really do with faster ground and if there isn't, it might work against him."

The one for the forecast then could be Yasoodd from the yard of Mick Channon, who has been making his name by deed and word this week, with the effect of Flashy Wings at York and biting words about the footballing display of England's national side. Yasoodd demonstrated he could perform in the soft when third to Horatio Nelson in the Superlative Stakes on Newmarket's July course.

That winner again flaunts his unbeaten record this afternoon in the Futurity Stakes at the Curragh, where Aidan O'Brien, the colt's trainer, goes for his fourth win in the race in five years. Nothing else will do as Horatio Nelson is already 16-1 second favourite behind stablemate George Washington for next spring's 2,000 Guineas.

Back in Britain, the Sandown conditions should mean that Echelon, four times a beaten favourite, gets a horrible shock from MUSICANNA (nap 1.50), while the richest race on the richest-ever card at Beverley can go to Liakoura (3.15).

Eoghan O'Neill believes Always Hopeful has a "great chance" of success in the Prix Morny at Deauville tomorrow. The colt is the leading light among three British raiders in the French Group One contest. "He is probably the best horse in the race - he won a Group Two at Goodwood," the Newark trainer said. "We can stick him in behind, settle him and finish on him." O'Neill expects the O'Brien-trained Ivan Denisovich to be the main danger.

Richard Edmondson

Nap: Musicana (1.50 Sandown)

NB: Close To You (2.20 Sandown)

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