Racing: Cumani applies the final polish as Gossamer glides to Guineas

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The Independent Online

Gossamer, second favourite for the 1,000 Guineas, will go straight to the first fillies' Classic 26 days hence. The pretty bay daughter of Sadler's Wells, impressive winner of the Group One Fillies' Mile at Ascot last year, has glided through the winter as smoothly as she did up Warren Hill in Newmarket yesterday morning and her trainer Luca Cumani sees no reason to tempt fate by subjecting her to the rigours of competition before her date with destiny.

The trials season begins in earnest at the Suffolk town's Craven meeting next week. But though Cumani did give Gossamer's big brother Barathea an outing at the fixture before his second place to Zafonic in the 2,000 Guineas nine years ago, little sister is different.

"You always take a bit of a chance by running one that close to the Guineas," the Italian said. "There is always the risk of picking up a problem. If a horse needs a prep, fine; Barathea was a big strong colt who had done himself very well over the winter.

"Gossamer, though, is easy to get fit. And you are not really conceding an advantage by going straight there. You'll be competing with fillies that haven't run this season or have run only once. It's more or less a level playing field. It's doable and its easier."

Gossamer, bred by her owner Gerald Leigh, looked at ease with the world as she tracked five-year-old Kuster and her contemporary All In All in her routine Monday morning canter up the steep all-weather strip, relaxed yet athletic in the hands of her regular rider Debby Jones. Small but very nearly perfectly formed, the filly has gained two and a half centimetres during the close season, bringing her height to a shade over 15.1 hands. But her lack of inches is deceptive, for she has disproportionate room for heart and lungs, her aerobic system. "She's as deep as a colt," said Cumani's racing secretary Rachel Barrow, who rode the stable star on a few occasions last year. "If I rode one of the big colts and then put my saddle on her, the girths would be on the same buckle."

Gossamer has inherited the family traits of a delightful, professional disposition and equable temperament. Cumani has trained most of them and said: "The negatives I have yet to see. A few were not good racehorses but all of them behave extremely well and are very responsive and co-operative in the way they work with man. They are always keen to please and to do the things you want them to do. Very classy, natural athletes. A joy to train."

Cumani, sitting on his grey hack Thor, smiled with delight and gratitude as his pride and joy loped past, the bright morning sunlight picking up an early spring gleam on her rich tan hide. "You can't help but be pleased," he said, "she's a very straightforward, uncomplicated lady. She hasn't missed a day's work and she's always very happy. You really would almost want to be married to her."

Gossamer's top-level victory, her third from as many runs last year, came on soft ground, but Cumani is not concerned about underfoot conditions. He said: "Last year she did most of her training on fast ground and if it stayed dry that wouldn't worry me."

Newmarket's 2002 season, which will be offering an increase of £350,000 in prize money on 2001, begins next Tuesday, the first of 36 days on the Rowley Mile and the July courses. If the dry spell continues, watering may take place before the start of the Craven week for only the second time in living memory.

It was revealed yesterday that the populist July course, with its massively-attended summer afternoon and evening cards, has been subsidising its grander cousin, the very headquarters of the sport, since the opening there two years ago of the much-criticised £16m Millennium Grandstand. A 12 per cent drop in annual membership on the Rowley Mile last year, when racecourse attendances have been booming, has caused the Newmarket management to hoist the white flag over the deployment of space and facilities.

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