Racing: Fanshawe sings praises of his sweet Soviet

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The spotlight will do its job twice in the racing arena tomorrow, firstly falling on noble deeds and later on those under a cloud of suspicion. At Newmarket in the afternoon, the six-year-old mare Soviet Song will take centre stage as she tries for her third successive Falmouth Stakes; in London some two hours later the latest act in the Kieren Fallon drama will be staged, in the form of an appeal against his suspension from riding in Britain.

Fallon will not be present to face the Horseracing Regulatory Authority's independent panel, chaired by the former High Court judge Sir Roger Buckley; he will leave the arguments to his legal team.

He will be the first of the three jockeys arrested on conspiracy to defraud charges last week to have his petition heard; a date has yet to be set for Darren Williams's appeal and Fergal Lynch has yet to lodge his. All three men protest their innocence.

The allegations against Fallon and his colleagues have cast a shadow over the sport but this week's meeting at the course where it all began in earnest - Thursday's July Stakes, dating back to 1786, is the oldest two-year-old race in the calendar - is a welcome reminder of what is really at the heart of it all. Soviet Song, a short-priced favourite for tomorrow's £200,000 Group One feature, will represent a money-making opportunity to none but big-stake gamblers, yet, should she stride to victory, she will be cheered home just for herself.

Soviet Song will face a maximum of six rivals in the race she has made her own. Owned by the Elite Racing Club, a small-subscription body with some 20,000 members, she has become something of a people's favourite and her trainer, James Fanshawe, admits to feeling the strain of overseeing her career. For a six-year-old female to win a Group One contest is a rare feat, as is a Group One same-race hat-trick for any age or sex.

"The responsibility of having to decide whether to have her in training this year was taken away from me," he said, "because those that run the club made it for me. But even so, I wish this race was out of the way, win lose or draw."

Soviet Song warmed up for her task with an easy, confidence-boosting success at Royal Ascot, her ninth victory, of which five have been at the highest level. Fanshawe deserves every plaudit, for the high-mettled mare has not ever been easy to deal with, physically or mentally, behind the scenes. She raced only three times last year.

"She has had all sorts of problems," he said. "Her brittle feet have been a nightmare, it's difficult for her to grow hoof. This year, though, they're better and we've been able to get proper shoes on her with nails, as opposed to stick-on ones. As an athlete, she's more mature - a woman now, not a girl - and she does seem to have retained her enjoyment of being a racehorse and is still sweet about it, not sour.

"Earlier in the year we wondered about that aspect, because she didn't seem too motivated. But when we went to Ascot, and she walked into the parade ring, we realised she still had it. And her temperament seems to have mellowed a bit as she has got older, but there's still a fine line to tread with her between keeping her fire and brilliance focussed on the job and her being an over-the-top nutcase."

Soviet Song has proved a fine yardstick between the distaff generations. Two years ago, she proved the three-year-old star Attraction's mistress; last year she put four-year-old Alexander Goldrun in her place. Tomorrow the two main threats are perceived as the three-year-old Nannina, winner of the Coronation Stakes, and four-year-old Peeress, winner of the Lockinge Stakes. Both carry the colours of the Cheveley Park Stud, but the mud-loving older filly will run only in the event of significant precipitation. The ground at Newmarket was yesterday good to firm; the forecast rain started at 6pm but there are plans to water should it fail in its intensity.

Fanshawe is on a Falmouth Stakes five-timer - another Pegasus Stables inmate, Macadamia, won in 2003 - and will be double-handed in his attempt, for he also fields Peter Player's five-year-old Musicanna in the mile contest first run in 1911. The field is completed by the four-year-old Cape Columbine (trained by David Elsworth) and the three-year-olds Rajeem (Clive Brittain) and Nasheej (Richard Hannon).

Chris McGrath

Nap: Digger Boy (Wolverhampton 8.20)

NB: Xpres Maite (Southwell 4.00)

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