Racing: Home advantage points to Nayyir

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The Independent Online

Whether or not racing has lost its innocence, it still has its Eden. And at the height of this seething, volatile summer, the sanctuary of Goodwood seems more refreshing than ever. For the next five days, the anguish of scandal and suspensions can be soothed by top-class horses galloping against a backcloth that might have been painted by Gainsborough himself.

Not that bliss will be universal. Twisting along a downland ridge, this track demands a peculiar aptitude in horse and rider alike, and there will doubtless be many cases of bad luck and worse judgement over the course of the week.

A proven empathy with Goodwood commands interest in the chance of Nayyir in the Betfair Cup, more familiar as the Lennox Stakes and highlight of the opening day. Indeed, this is the veteran's fifth consecutive visit to the meeting. He won this race in 2002 and 2003, and was arguably unlucky not to beat Soviet Song when elevated to the Sussex Stakes itself in 2004. He tried again last year, but was badly hampered before finishing fourth.

It subsequently began to look as though Nayyir might be entering a decline - his trainer, Gerard Butler, was even deceived into running him over a mile and a quarter during the winter - but his last two starts have confirmed that he retains all his old speed.

He attested to his comfort on undulating tracks when preserving an unbeaten record at Epsom on Derby day, and then ran up a series of blind alleys at Newmarket.

Some would say that he is the sort of horse who courts bad luck, though the fact that he today meets a new jockey for the 12th time suggests that Butler allocates the blame elsewhere. Either way, Nayyir (3.15) undeniably fits Goodwood like a glove, with the hungry way he travels between horses and that scuttling turn of foot.

Mind you, he must certainly remain at his peak if he is to beat Jeremy, who improved to beat a strong field in the Jersey Stakes with authority, and Iffraaj, who had to delay his run before forcing a photo for the July Cup. The suspicion persists that the latter might just be best over six furlongs, though at least this is as sharp a seventh as you could hope to find. Jeremy must meanwhile prove himself away from a straight track for the first time, whereas this is very much a home game for Nayyir.

Trainers as well as horses seem to have a felicity for Goodwood and it can be safely assumed that Mark Johnston will soon be enhancing his terrific record here this week. Linas Selection (2.40) began his season in what has turned out to be the hottest handicap of the year, bumping into Papal Bull at the Craven meeting. Unbeaten since, he looks more formidable every time and a positive ride can see off Sixties Icon, who has also rubbed shoulders with Papal Bull, in the BGC Gordon Stakes.

The third Group race on the card is over the downhill five and as such requires very different assets. Enticing (3.50) was born to run - her dam was that very fast juvenile, Superstar Leo - and has looked a ball of speed in both starts. She can make the most of the fillies' allowance in the Betfair Molecomb Stakes.

The meeting opens with the first of many frantic handicaps during a week in which judicious tactics will be essential. The importance of a high draw is sometimes squandered by jockeys proving too eager to take advantage, but if the cards fall right for Dancing Lyra (2.05) he looks qualified to go close. He won his first two races after joining his new trainer in the spring, and has looked as though he remains on a productive mark when finding excuses in both starts since.

Both other handicaps can also fall to horses that appear to have thrived for a change of stable. Soulacroix (4.35) is just the type to respond to the sensitive hands of Kerrin McEvoy, while a handy draw can compensate Illustrious Blue (5.35) for the handicapper's 7lb punishment after an improved display at Newbury.

Only seven were declared for the Cantor Spreadfair Sussex Stakes tomorrow. These include Araafa, whose trainer won the race 12 months ago with Proclamation, and Soviet Song, runner-up there after beating Nayyir the previous year. Coral make Araafa 11-10 favourite for a third consecutive Group One success, with Soviet Song 4-1 and Echo Of Light 6-1.

Chris McGrath

Nap: Rushneeyriver (Worcester 7.15)

NB: Lahib The Fifth (Perth 9.00)