Racing: Damson blow costly for Guineas punters

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The Independent Online

Ante-post punters were dealt a resounding thump in the wallet yesterday with the news that Damson, winter favourite for the 1,000 Guineas, has been ruled out of Sunday's race. The Irish-trained filly, winner of four of her five starts last year, scoped badly after working in Newmarket during the morning.

Ante-post punters were dealt a resounding thump in the wallet yesterday with the news that Damson, winter favourite for the 1,000 Guineas, has been ruled out of Sunday's race. The Irish-trained filly, winner of four of her five starts last year, scoped badly after working in Newmarket during the morning.

"Obviously, it is disappointing," said her trainer, Co Tipperary-based David Wachman, "but it is not the end of the world. We hope we can get her back to form in time for the Irish 1,000." Damson, as short as 3-1 in the lists, had headed the Guineas market since her scintillating three-length Queen Mary Stakes victory at Royal Ascot last June.

Confidence in her camp had been especially high after her stablemate and regular galloping companion Indesatchel won the Greenham Stakes at Newbury, but had eased a little in the betting market earlier in the week with the reluctance of her scheduled rider Kieren Fallon to commit to her.

Damson's place under Fallon on the Rowley Mile will be taken by Aidan O'Brien-trained Virginia Waters, also in the ownership of Sue Magnier and Michael Tabor.

Her place at the forefront of the betting has been filled by John Gosden's charge Karen's Caper, winner of the Nell Gwyn Stakes, and Shanghai Lily, unraced this term but the pick from the Sir Michael Stoute stable, both priced at 4-1 with Ladbrokes.

The 2,000 Guineas favourite Dubawi, who arrived in summer quarters from Dubai with the rest of the Godolphin squad on Monday, showed his well-being yesterday in a leg-stretch up Warren Hill under his lad John Kaye.

The morning was bright but brisk, but adaptation from a hot to a colder clime is not considered to present any real problems. "It is more difficult going the other way," said Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford yesterday.

"Dubawi and the others all shipped well and have settled in, and are in good form. All the serious work has been done by now." Dubawi, Frankie Dettori's mount, is likely to be joined in the Guineas field by Satchem.

If another reminder was needed of the perils of long-term ante-post punting, perhaps the case of defending triple Cheltenham Gold Cup champion Best Mate, a defection eight days before this year's race, should be cited. And the horse who won in his absence, Kicking King, is now only 5-2 for a repeat after an easy, contemptuous defeat of Rule Supreme in the Punchestown Gold Cup yesterday.

The reigning monarch's exhibition round against his five opponents was much appreciated by the faithful, whose belief in the holy order of things had taken a knock with Moscow Flyer's defeat the previous day.

Jumping simply beautifully for Barry Geraghty, the King was given a rousing cheer as he passed the stands first time just behind the leaders, a full-throated one as he leapt past Kingscliff to the front four out, and a joyous ovation as he was led in by owner Conor Clarkson.

The 8-11 favourite had an eased-down three lengths to spare over Rule Supreme, with another 15 back to Kingscliff, who had made a hash of the third-last under pressure. "Pure class," said trainer Tom Taaffe, "no other way of describing it. He just gets more professional, both mentally and physically."

The eight-year-old was a rare Gold Cup winner to follow up with a victory in the same season. The last to do so at the Irish festival was Dawn Run, who won a famous match against Buck House in 1986, and the only one since was The Fellow, who scored at Auteuil in 1994.

"I don't mean to sound big-headed," added Taaffe, "but I came to today fairly confident. He was so well at home that we had to go for it. He's done exactly what you would expect a progressive Gold Cup horse would do and this epitomises what you dream about."

Rule Supreme may run again today against Solerina and co in the Grade 1 stayers' hurdle. "I'll see how he is in the morning," said trainer Willie Mullins.

The day ended with the second British victory of the meeting, when the Jonjo O'Neill-trained mare Refinement romped away with the Grade 1 bumper.

Reflecting on a year which saw his stable ravaged by the virus, O'Neill said: "I needed that. Alan Berry did a brilliant job. Three champion jockeys have ridden her [Tony McCoy, Kieren Fallon and Barry Geraghty] and got her beat so I thought I would put on the lad who knows her best!

"Alan gave her a great ride and you can never be certain what will happen if you go to Aintree and Cheltenham. She has been unlucky in her last couple of runs. She is a bit of a lady so we thought some blinkers might help."

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