Racing: Doyen can throw down gauntlet to Motivator

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The Independent Online

Impressive as he has been against his contemporaries, it says much about the fickle nature of the Turf that Motivator should be quoted as short as 5-4 favourite for a projected encounter with his seniors in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes next month.

Impressive as he has been against his contemporaries, it says much about the fickle nature of the Turf that Motivator should be quoted as short as 5-4 favourite for a projected encounter with his seniors in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes next month.

Never mind that he must first deal with Shamardal at Sandown, he is already being treated as different class from the likes of Bago, Grey Swallow, Yeats and Azamour - not to mention Doyen, who put up such a brilliant performance in the race last year. Admittedly the Godolphin horse lost his way in two subsequent starts, but today he seeks a fresh start in the Hardwicke Stakes, a race he won by six lengths 12 months ago.

Certainly a repeat of that performance would restore perspective on the further progress required of Motivator. Once again, Doyen faces just five rivals, and at his best none of them would have a prayer.

It is possible to have reservations, in that last year he showed the palpable benefit of his reappearance in the Coronation Cup, and he clearly needs to pick up the pieces after that disappointing autumn. But it is worth noting that he has raced only 10 times in his life, and he was entitled to recoil from the massive improvement he showed last summer. His stable excels with maturing horses and DOYEN (3.05) clearly tops the bill on the final day of the meeting. Should he fall short of his best, the doughty Gamut is best qualified to take advantage.

None of the runners in the Group One race on the card, the Golden Jubilee Stakes, share the same star quality but in consequence this should be a far more competitive business. The draw could well help sort out the sheep and goats, as the pace is clearly concentrated in the high numbers, and Orientor can duly be expected to go better than he managed in the King's Stand Stakes on Tuesday.

Quito will thrive on the hectic gallop and a career-best beckons, but perhaps the key evidence can be traced to this course and distance two summers ago, when Balmont won the Gimcrack Stakes with Byron back in third. The latter should be very effective now that he is finally dropped back in trip, but Balmont (3.45) put up an excellent trial in the Temple Stakes and is better over this extra furlong. His trainer has brought his team here in magnificent fettle.

Jeremy Noseda also has strong claims in the Wokingham Handicap, having originally given Soldier's Tale an entry in the Golden Jubilee itself. Certainly this colt looked a Group sprinter in the making when winning a strong handicap over course and distance at the May meeting. That was only the third race of his life due to a serious leg injury last year, but he overcame his inexperience to get up in a photo after being taken behind the whole field on to the stands rail. Sadly he again starts from stall one.

Iffraaj is another that could end up in Group company, but Peter Paul Rubens (4.20) remains unexposed at six furlongs, having shaped as though it would suit him ideally even when making such giant strides over seven last year. Certainly he showed his usual dash when tried over the trip for a first time on his reappearance, fading only as lack of fitness told.

Flamboyant Lad has obvious credentials in the Duke of Edinburgh Handicap, but would have been better served by a low draw, in which respect Coat Of Honour (4.55) has come up trumps. Clearly it would take a high-class performance to win this under such a big weight, but his tendency to idle means he was by no means fully exposed when sold to join Howard Johnson last autumn.

He has prospered over hurdles since and represents a team that has demonstrated its good form through the week - notably through the Norfolk Stakes success of Masta Plasta. The runner-up there gets an early chance to frank the form in the Windsor Castle Stakes. Having finished well after missing the break, Strike Up The Band (2.30) would be very hard to beat if reproducing that effort.

The meeting ends, as usual, with the longest race in the calendar. Dancing Bay should go well in the Queen Alexandra Stakes, having looked unlucky not to win it last year, but Cover Up (5.30) had taken the two previous runnings and made a promising return from injury at Sandown last month.

Richard Edmondson

Nap: Coat Of Honour (York 4.55)

NB: Strike Up The Band (York 2.30)

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