Racing: Democratic victory gains few Guineas votes

At the end of most trials comes the verdict, but only a knave could rush to judgement after yesterday's running of the Craven Stakes here. It was the most chaotic and cluttered of races across the sweeping Suffolk plain, a race which culminated in four horses being virtually fired at the same piece of East Anglian turf, roughly the size of a picnic blanket.

At the end of most trials comes the verdict, but only a knave could rush to judgement after yesterday's running of the Craven Stakes here. It was the most chaotic and cluttered of races across the sweeping Suffolk plain, a race which culminated in four horses being virtually fired at the same piece of East Anglian turf, roughly the size of a picnic blanket.

Democratic Deficit won the Group Three contest for Ireland, from Rob Roy, Kandidate and Iceman and the distances were a head, short-head and a head again. The quartet formed a strange fleshy bundle in the vast expanse.

No sane person could speculate that this result would be replicated if we had to do it over again. Too much happened out there.

Therefore, there is little positive application for the contest as a 2,000 Guineas trial. The Craven has been tipping that way for some time now. Until Haafhd won here 12 months ago and went on to take the first Classic, the race was going nowhere. It is no longer the supposed potting wheel on which the shape of the Guineas is moulded.

There was reason, however, to believe yesterday's was to be an above standard renewal. There were the proven horses in there - the Coventry Stakes winner Iceman and Champagne Stakes victor Etlaala - as well as the flashing promise of Rob Roy, the most prominent of the talking horses to have appeared on the Newmarket trial grounds this spring.

The greatest presence in the paddock though was created by the amply proportioned Democratic Deficit, who had a similar effect on the other side of the Millennium grandstand, where he was cut to 12-1 from 25-1 on the boards.

Rob Roy was a dark form, the little Iceman appeared the lesser of the species, while Etlaala was all chestnut and white flashiness, the sort of animal you see in old movies, rearing with a sheriff on his back. His transpired to be a cowboy performance.

Kandidate and Forward Move set the pace, but theirs was no runaway train, a fact which was to affect the other end of the race. The most inexperienced colt showed it. Rob Roy was green and pulling around, his tongue lolling.

Democratic Deficit was last until the quarter-mile pole, when Kevin Manning decided it was time to have an influence on the race. The Irish colt was pointed down the outside, but, as he passed horses, he gradually edge left towards the rail. Those that were already there, namely Rob Roy and Iceman, felt the dungeon door closing.

By the time the pair switched back and outside the race was gone. Iceman finished best of all and might be the one to take most from an uncertain encounter.

Democratic Deficit, though, has ticks in boxes. Penalised winners rarely win the Craven. The colt, like his owner, Harry Dobson, is spoilt for choice. He is in both the Newmarket and Curragh 2,000 Guineas. Dobson, who is sitting on a £500m property and mining fortune, also has a coveted chunk of Manchester United shares.

Rob Roy will have benefited from the greatest tutorial of his life. "It was a messy race but I'm very pleased with him," Sir Michael Stoute, his trainer, said. "The main thing to take out of the race is that he will have learned a bit."

Also contented was Iceman's trainer. "I was thrilled," John Gosden said. "He was a bit fresh early on, but Jimmy [Fortune] settled him nicely and got him to learn a little. He was unlucky, but at least he was unlucky in the trial."

The puzzle of the race was the favourite. Etlaala was left behind when the tempo increased and trailed in last of eight. He was scoped post race and mucus was found in his trachea. The jury is now out on one of last season's leading two-year-olds. But then the jury is out on the whole evidence of this year's Craven Stakes.

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