Racing: Cumani aims to conquer leading milers with Falbrav

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The Independent Online

Turnstile-clicking news attached itself to Saturday's Queen Elizabeth II Stakes yesterday with the revelation that Falbrav, described by his trainer, Luca Cumani, as "the best horse in the world", has been supplemented for the race at a cost of £25,000.

The Group One race represents a drop back to a mile, two furlongs shorter than Falbrav's accepted best trip, yet Cumani is undisturbed by the distance. The state of the ground - Ascot was visited by several squalls yesterday - is of more concern.

"We are fairly confident that a mile will suit him as well as a mile and a quarter as the horse has lots of speed," the trainer said from the sales in Ireland. "Darryll [Holland, the jockey] thinks the horse has got a lot of speed and in all his races he's been travelling very well. He is a Group One winner over nine furlongs in the Prix d'Ispahan so this is not a lot shorter.

"It's the only race around before the Champion Stakes or Breeders' Cup and that's another month. At the same time, the horse is in excellent form and the ground seems to be staying right for him."

Horses, we are often told, are not machines, but Falbrav has been fairly automatic this season, contesting seven races, all of them at the highest level. At the same time he has brought a renewed assurance to Newmarket's Bedford House, providing Cumani again with a mound of chips at the top table.

The five-year-old has already collected six Group Ones in four countries and there are possibilities of another, as his owners, Scuderia Rencati and Teruya Yoshida, are appealing against the horse's neck defeat by High Chaparral in the Irish Champion Stakes this month. While there is little chance of overturning the Irish verdict (it was a day when Holland just got it wrong), Falbrav did show at Leopardstown that he is probably the best 10-furlong horse in Europe on firm ground.

Holland himself is relishing the prospect of making swift amends. "Nothing went right for me in Ireland last time and everyone has a different opinion of the race," he said. "I know I should have won, but I just did not get the breaks. I'm ready for Saturday and looking forward to notching up my third Group One on the horse.

"Mr Cumani has done a wonderful job keeping Falbrav at the top of his game this season and he felt like a Ferrari when I rode him work on Saturday. I am absolutely certain a mile will be fine for him as he travels so well and has a lightning turn of pace.

"He's the best mile-and-a-quarter horse in Europe and I strongly believe he will prove himself the best miler as well on Saturday - without doubt he is the one they all have to beat."

There are at least a couple of local difficulties to be ironed out, as Russian Rhythm and Dubai Destination, both of whom have been spotted moving with purpose on the Newmarket gallops, were among the 17 Queen Elizabeth declarations yesterday.

The former, who is trained by Sir Michael Stoute, has compiled an admirable sequence of her own this campaign. The winner of three Group Ones, including the Coronation Stakes at the Royal meeting, she now takes on colts for the first time.

Dubai Destination, another Royal Ascot winner, in the Queen Anne Stakes, represents the Godolphin stable which appears to be coming to the boil.

In the three-year-old department, Aidan O'Brien has left in Statue Of Liberty and Middlemarch, while Soviet Song, Tout Seul and Norse Dancer all remain on course.

The star attraction though would be Falbrav because when Cumani recently referred to him as "definitely the best horse horse anywhere in the world", it was not the rank hyperbole such a sweeping statement usually represents.

A deflating thought after Falbrav had won the International Stakes was that it appeared likely to be his last display on British soil. Now it may be that he will appear twice more, as connections remain perturbed by the punishing cost of supplementing their horse for the Breeders' Cup series in California next month.

"Newmarket [and the Champion Stakes] is difficult to predict in terms of the state of the ground," Cumani said. "At Santa Anita is it is more likely to be in his favour, but we have the problem of the expenditure." Victory on Saturday might make that problem academic.

Racing in brief: Murtagh appeals over Arc ban

* Johnny Murtagh has lodged an appeal with the Irish Turf Club against the seven-day suspension that would rule him out of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. He was given the ban for making insufficient effort in a maiden race at the Curragh on Sunday.

* Jamie Spencer recorded a 408-1 treble at Kempton yesterday with Solar Power, Thurlestone Rock and Reveillez.

* The Irish Turf Club has announced that it has no plans to restrict the use of mobile phones by jockeys. "We have decided against a ban as we are not aware of phones being used to compromise the integrity of racing," Ray Rooney, the Club's Senior Steward, said. "We fully understand the predicament which the Jockey Club found themselves in where it was stated in court that mobile phones were being used for such purposes. In our view they had to take action in some form."

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