Racing: Etlaala is new 2,000 Guineas favourite

It is Barry Hills's custom to run his best two-year-old in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster and, according to the bookmakers, he saddled the best juvenile in all of Britain when Etlaala swooped to land the Group Two contest yesterday.

It is Barry Hills's custom to run his best two-year-old in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster and, according to the bookmakers, he saddled the best juvenile in all of Britain when Etlaala swooped to land the Group Two contest yesterday.

The striking chestnut has supplanted Mark Johnston's Shamardal as favourite for the 2005 2,000 Guineas in some lists and is trading around 10-1. Most impressively, Etlaala won via a circuitous route which brought him into fleshy conflict with several of his opponents.

The problems began immediately, when the 6-1 shot failed to recognise that the opening of the stalls was the signal that the sports had begun. "With a clear round I'd have won two lengths, but Plan A went out the window when we missed the break," Richard Hills, the jockey, said.

"Then, as we tried to creep into the race, gaps closed as fast as they opened. I put his head half-way in a split between Iceman and Elliots World a furlong and a half out but had to pull out when they shut the door sharply. He hit them up the backside and was lucky to stay on his feet. All credit to Etlaala for picking himself up, because when I pulled outside Iceman he really took off."

In a sense, Iceman, conceding 5lb and beaten half a length, was the moral winner, yet he is 16-1 for the scamper down the Rowley Mile next spring, a contest Etlaala will take in after his final first-season start in the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket. "He has always worked at home like a colt who was out of the top drawer," Hills snr said.

2,000 Guineas (May 2005): Coral: 10-1 Etlaala, 12-1 Shamardal, 14-1 Iceman, 20-1 Echo Of Light, Layman, Librettist, 25-1 Belenus, Dubawi, Oude, Oratorio, Windsor Knot, 33-1 others. William Hill: 8-1 Etlaala, Shamardal, 16-1 Librettist, 20-1 Iceman, Oratorio, 25-1 Belenus, Layman, Windsor Knot, 33-1 others. Ladbrokes: 10-1 Etlaala, Shamardal, 14-1 Librettist, 16-1 Iceman, Layman, 25-1 Belenus, Echo Of Light, Oude, Oratorio, Windsor Knot, 33-1 others.

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