Racing: Holland keen to atone on Falbrav

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The Independent Online

Tradition has it that whichever horse wins the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes this afternoon will almost certainly elevate itself in the process to the station of Europe's champion miler. It is usually convention also that the beast in question will already have proved its excellence over eight furlongs. The second element, however, may not pertain on this occasion.

Tradition has it that whichever horse wins the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes this afternoon will almost certainly elevate itself in the process to the station of Europe's champion miler. It is usually convention also that the beast in question will already have proved its excellence over eight furlongs. The second element, however, may not pertain on this occasion.

For the QEII favourite, Falbrav, despite his many glorious successes across Italy, Japan, France and England, has never won over this distance. If he can take on and beat the specialist milers today, the five-year-old will surely be the horse of the year after his sweeping successes over 10 furlongs in the Eclipse and International Stakes.

There should also have been a further top trophy accrued in the shape of the Irish Champion Stakes, but the radar of Darryll Holland, Falbrav's usually faultless rider, appeared to have become damaged on the way to Leopardstown earlier this month.

Yet even in Ireland, there was evidence to encourage those who are considering Falbrav this time. Against peerless competition he travelled clearly the best, once again showing he is an animal for whom no pace is too fast.

Speed and acceleration were also the hallmarks of his wins at Sandown and York, where a single pulverising move took him clear of his field from some way out. After that he was just staying on.

Falbrav appears to have two to beat in the shape of Dubai Destination and the filly, Russian Rhythm. Holland assesses them thus: "Russian Rhythm is obviously very talented and I won't dismiss her at all, she's been exceptional against the fillies. But she's taking on the colts now. That's a different ball game.

"Dubai Destination is probably the one to beat in the race. He's very good on his day, but there is the odd run which is not up to it.

"My horse has got a good turn of foot where it matters in a race. That's vital over a mile, the ability to change a gear. I think he'll win."

There have been rumours in the last 24 hours that Russian Rhythm is in season. That hardly helps to clarify the puzzle, but as her form looks distinctly pale when scrutinised it gives yet another reason to ignore her. Dubai Destination's finest moment came when he defeated Rock Of Gibraltar as a two-year-old, though he did have some folk jumping up and down as well after success in this year's Queen Anne Stakes at the Royal meeting.

That, though, was a Group One only because they told us so. It was not indicated by the quality of those in the frame, which included Tillerman and Right Approach. In addition, Dubai Destination flashed his tail horridly that day, as if something was hurting. Last time out, in the Prix Jacques Le Marois, he ran as if there was indeed a leg problem, all four of them moving too slowly.

All factors, including the rather substantial one of good to firm ground, suggest Falbrav (4.20) should win and extend the run of Luca Cumani, who has the best recent record at this meeting with 19 winners since 1987.

It was clear that autumn had arrived this week when we heard the first swoop for a two-year-old by Sheikh Mohammed. The Godolphin mastermind has purchased the unbeaten Punctilious, who may give a quick repayment today in the Fillies' Mile. She is the only winner over the distance in the field.

"She is fine and well," Michael Jarvis, the trainer, reported yesterday. "She gets the mile well - her dam won the Grand Prix de Deauville over a mile and five and her half-brother has won over a mile and six in France this year, so she should stay the trip. One would hope she'd make a Classic filly next year."

Judging from the races she has contested such aspirations are also entertained by those behind Necklace (2.35). She already looks likes Ballydoyle's Oaks filly.

The Irish team also have an interesting runner in the Royal Lodge Stakes, in which several of the market leaders have a leaden, exposed look about them. Preference therefore is for something on the ascent, either Aidan O'Brien's Moscow Ballet or more probably Snow Ridge (next best 2.00) from the Marcus Tregoning yard.

For the bet of the card, though, it is best to return to a system which worked in the days when punting money came out of the pockets of flared trousers. David Chapman's forte for decades has been to wring sequences out of his sprinters and there is another perfect vehicle this afternoon.

The ground has stayed on top and the distance is just right for last Saturday's Ayr Gold winner, QUITO (nap 3.05).

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