Racing: Elhamri super bargain for Kirk
Sunday 23 July 2006
Royal Ascot form and Richard Hannon's influence were the key to yesterday's most valuable prize, but not in the way expected. Gilded, winner of the Queen Mary Stakes, started 11-4 favourite to give the East Everleigh trainer his seventh victory in the Super Sprint here, but the 9-1 shot Elhamri, who took the less prestigious Windsor Castle Stakes, was the winner. Neatly, the colt's trainer, Sylvester Kirk, is Hannon's former assistant and now son-in-law.
Elhamri, a son of Noverre, made just about every yard of the five-furlong dash, blazing his trail down the centre of the course. His nearest pursuer for the latter stages was We'll Confer, who harried him throughout the final furlong. After Elhamri asserted under Declan McDonogh and went a length clear, We'll Confer was pipped for second place by Ishi Adiva.
It was a most meritorious performance by the winner, who defied top spot of 9st 4lb and set a weight-carrying record for the race in the process. "He's very tough," said McDonogh, "and I thought he was beaten twice inside the furlong pole when the other horse came at him, but he still battled back."
The Super Sprint, run for the 16th time, was designed by equine auction houses to give the bargain-basement end of the bloodstock market the chance of a jackpot payday. Runners are weighted according to their prices at the sales.
As a 28,000-guinea yearling, Elhamri, a white-faced bay like his sire, was not the dearest horse in the field but his exploits at the Royal meeting added the impost that took him to the top of the handicap.
With his best form on firm ground, the downpour that softened underfoot conditions before racing was another source of concern to Kirk, based in Upper Lambourn. "With that penalty, I thought they'd come and do him," he said, "but he found another gear. I had actually been worried about the ground and had considered pulling him out, but, as Declan says, he is tough, and very genuine."
Several previous winners of the race - such as Paris House, Risky, Lyric Fantasy and Superstar Leo - subsequently proved themselves very smart performers, and Elhamri will be given his chance in Group company next time out. "He could go for the Molecomb Stakes or the Prix Morny," added Kirk.
Yesterday's £77,908 first prize brought Elhamri's earnings for his owner, Norman Ormiston, to more than £113,000, making him a bargain by any standards. But don't forget Ishi Adiva, one of the cheapest buys in the field at 10,000 guineas. The Ishiguru filly, who earned £29,000, did her small Lambourn yard, that of rookie trainer Tom Dascombe, proud as she came within one place of providing the Super Sprint's second successive 100-1 winner. We'll Confer (20-1) was followed in by El Bosque (33-1), Ingleby Image (12-1) and Gilded, who will now have a rest before reverting to six furlongs.
Another fast-ground specialist seemingly impervious to the wet was Fayr Jag, who bounced back from a poor showing in the July Cup the previous week to take the afternoon's Group Three feature, the Hackwood Stakes. The veteran Tim Easterby-trained sprinter, winner of the Golden Jubilee handicap at Royal Ascot two years ago, drifted in the market to 16-1, but the negative vibes were no guide as he pounced to win by a neck in a bunch finish.
"I did think our chance had gone when the rain arrived," said the winning rider, David Allan, "but perhaps he is changing his preference as he gets older."
At Newmarket, the improving filly Quenched earned a tilt at the Park Hill Stakes with a last-gasp victory in the Aphrodite Stakes. Through the last furlong John Gosden's charge was trapped in a pocket on the rails, with the trailblazing Cresta Gold not stopping in front. But her rider, Robert Havlin, sat and waited, and when the gap opened, his mount had the class and acceleration to go through it and score by a cosy half-length.
Pictavia finished a close third in the colours of Godolphin, whose racing manager, Simon Crisford, reported the blues' star performer Electrocutionist in top form for his next assignment, the King George and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot on Saturday. "He's sharper than he was when he was beaten at Royal Ascot," he said. "But he'll have to put up a career best if he's to win."
The élite action is in Europe today, when the Geoff Wragg-trained Derby runner-up Dragon Dancer drops in distance and class as he tries to win his first race in the Prix Eugene Adam at Maisons-Laffite, and 15 colts line up for the last of the European Derbys, the German version at Hamburg.
BETS OF THE DAY
Best shortshot: White Deer (Redcar 2.20) from a yard firing in juveniles, should come on for his debut run over a furlong shorter.
Best longshot: Saabiq (Redcar 3.50) previously highly tried, shaped well when dropped in distance and to handicap company last time.
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