Racing: Decision day for George Washington

O'Brien's Guineas winner has to show he is back on track
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The Independent Online

One of the gambles of the season takes place this afternoon, though it will be unrecorded in the bookmakers' ledgers. The reputation, and putative future earnings at stud, of the 2,000 Guineas winner, George Washington, is being placed on the line at Goodwood as he returns in the Celebration Mile from a three-month break.

The son of Danehill could have been retired, with honour just about intact, after damaging hip muscles in the process of chasing home Araafa in the Irish 2,000 Guineas. But John Magnier, his Coolmore partners and trainer Aidan O'Brien have decided that, on this occasion, attack is the correct policy to adopt. George Washington's potential remains unfulfilled and lucrative end-of-season prizes at Ascot and in Kentucky beckon.

On the plus side today are George Washington's innate talent - Sir Percy, from whom he quickened away on the Rowley Mile, went on the win the Derby and Araafa, fourth, added the St James's Palace Stakes to his Curragh prize - but there are plenty of boxes by his name containing question marks.

The handsome bay colt has just five rivals but they include the second and third in last month's Sussex Stakes, six-time Group One winner Soviet Song, Rob Roy, and the upwardly mobile Godolphin representative Caradak, and the record of élite three-year-olds against older horses this season is moderate.

And George Washington will not only have to overcome high-class rivals and ring-rustiness, but his own feisty, sometimes obdurate, mindset and a new pair of hands - Mick Kinane's instead of Kieren Fallon's - on the reins. He will be accompanied to Goodwood by stablemate River Tiber, who will act as a security blanket as well as pacemaker, and indeed fulfilled the former role when the temperamental Ballydoyle star had a recent away day at Naas.

Yesterday, O'Brien was banging no drums. "He's in good form," he said, "and he's ready to go back racing. I think he's settling down, he was very good and relaxed at Naas. It will be a learning curve for Mick and we'll just be delighted if the horse goes and runs well and comes back safe. The ground should be nice enough for him and he should handle the course, he's well balanced. But whatever happens, he'll come on a ton for the race."

The Ballydoyle team deserve every plaudit for pitching their valuable commodity, one of the season's truly charismatic players, back in the fray and there is a favourable precedent. The last Guineas winner to use today's Group Two race as a stepping stone back to the top level after a defeat, Mark Of Esteem 10 years ago, succeeded on both counts.

And the weekend has already produced one heartening comeback. Godolphin's US-based three-year-old Discreet Cat, who made an exciting impression when winning Nad Al Sheba's UAE Derby in March, marked his return with an 11-length victory in a minor seven-furlong event at Saratoga on Friday night in the fastest time clocked at the track this year.

At Goodwood yesterday St Leger hope Jadalee battled home by a neck in the March Stakes, paying a compliment to his two most recent conquerors Sixties Icon, favourite for the final Classic at York 13 days hence, and Youmzain, third in the lists.

Otherwise, the focus was largely on the youngest generation, on both sides of the Irish Sea. At Sandown, the Mark Johnston-trained Drumfire showed admirable fighting qualities to take the Solario Stakes; the Danehill Dancer colt, ridden by Joe Fanning, took the field along until passed by Danebury Hill inside the final furlong. However, he not only clawed back the advantage but had enough left to repel Caldra's late challenge by half a length.

A seven-furlong race with a rather better record in spotlighting future stars is the Futurity Stakes at the Curragh; four of the past seven winners have been the Ballydoyle luminaries Giant's Causeway, Hawk Wing, Oratorio and Horatio Nelson. The Co Tipperary yard had to settle for second yesterday, though; the best of its three challengers was Eagle Mountain, beaten a head by the favourite Teofilo. The winner, trained by Jim Bolger, is unbeaten in three runs.

Today two-year-old fillies step into the spotlight, in the Prestige Stakes at Goodwood and the first of the season's Group One contests in the division, the Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh. Jeremy Noseda-trained, Coolmore-owned Simply Perfect, the choice of Fallon, heads the British challenge.

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