Racing: Godolphin put trust in Grandera to reach target

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The Independent Online

Prevailing wisdom has it that this three-year-old crop represents a lost generation, that the class of 2003 should all be in the corner wearing conical hats sporting the letter D. Yet the bookmakers, who are not the biggest stupids when it comes to money gathering, expect a horse from the Classic ranks to prove superior in the biggest generation game of them all.

Prevailing wisdom has it that this three-year-old crop represents a lost generation, that the class of 2003 should all be in the corner wearing conical hats sporting the letter D. Yet the bookmakers, who are not the biggest stupids when it comes to money gathering, expect a horse from the Classic ranks to prove superior in the biggest generation game of them all.

The top two horses in the betting for the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot tomorrow week are both refugees from the Derby. And, strangely again, Alamshar, who was soundly beaten by Kris Kin at Epsom, is favourite to reverse that Blue Riband form. This can be partly attributed to Alamshar's interim success in the Irish Derby. In addition, there is Kris Kin's well-charted lethargy away from the track, once again demonstrated on the Newmarket gallops this week. If he raced a steamroller at home it would end in a photo finish.

The shape of the market is also recognition that the racing public have a tendency to back the new young thing, particularly in the King George. The statistics, though, show that only once in the last seven seasons, when Galileo was successful two years ago, has a younger horse won.

This, apparently, suggests there is great value about the champion of the greybeards this year in Nayef, a head second to Golan at Ascot 12 months ago. The five-year-old remains a potent force, judged on his victory in the Prince of Wales's Stakes at the Royal meeting, which preceded a creditable second to Falbrav in the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown.

"He's another year older now and is holding his form extremely well," Marcus Tregoning, Nayef's trainer, said yesterday. "He's run the best races of his life this year and you'd be hopeful he'd run another big race. He's in great form and he's a fantastic horse to have in the yard."

For those seeking another historical perspective, there will be interest too in whatever Godolphin choose to saddle. The Dubai team has won the King George with Lammtarra (1995), Swain (1998) and Daylami (1999) and now have Sulamani and Grandera, two more older horses, in the mix.

Their challenge contains a sub-plot as Godolphin remain marooned, as they have been for two months, on 99 Group One victories since birth. The King George would be a significant occasion to bring up the three figures.

"Grandera is a definite starter, but we'll work Sulamani again this weekend and if all goes well and weather permitting, he will make it," Frankie Dettori, Godolphin's stable jockey, said yesterday. "The King George, apart from the Derby, is the biggest race. As I've won it three times, it's also one of my favourite races. If we get our 100th winner in the King George then it will be absolutely amazing.

"It's in the back of our mind that we've been on 99 for the last two months. It's funny, it's like when you get to 13 and you can't get off that. People start to get superstitious about these things.

"Everybody has been waiting for this 100 for so long. Over the last two months there has been a championship race to be won somewhere in Europe and we've missed out. To be honest, in a normal year we would have got it straight away. For some reason we just can't get off the 99 mark and everybody is putting so much pressure on us.

"There's apprehension now. Everybody is trying extra hard to make it happen, but sometimes when you try extra hard it doesn't happen. So maybe we should take a step back, then just ride and see what happens."

RICHARD EDMONDSON

Nap: Celtic Mill

(Hamilton 7.45)

NB: Izmail

(Pontefract 7.35)

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