Racing: Horatio Nelson answers call of duty in style

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The Independent Online

The Ballydoyle stable's George Washington is a strong ante-post favourite for the 2,000 Guineas, and with his no-nonsense two-and-a-half-length defeat of Galantas, Horatio Nelson maintained his second-choice position in that market. He is, however, viewed as more of a Derby type at home, and is indeed the Epsom favourite in most lists at 12-1 at this early stage. The further he went in yesterday's seven-furlong test, the further he won.

On his previous outing, the Superlative Stakes at Newmarket in July, the son of Danehill had cut out the pace. This time, again with Kieren Fallon in the saddle, he was given a lead through the first half of the race by the speedy Silent Times, after which he was able to engage overdrive and draw steadily clear for his third success from as many runs. At 2-7 favourite, he was a fifth winner of the Group Two contest for O'Brien in seven runnings, preceded by Oratorio last year, Van Nistelrooy, Hawk Wing and Giant's Causeway.

Ireland's premier two-year-old race, the National Stakes over the same course, is now on his agenda.

"It was great that he didn't have to make the running this time," said O'Brien, "and we will have to step up to a big one now. He wouldn't mind going a mile even at this stage, but he has plenty of pace, and a lovely laid-back way of doing things."

Horatio Nelson could hardly be better bred for exploits on the Surrey Downs in June. He is a paternal half-brother to last year's Derby winner, North Light, and is the first foal of the Oaks heroine Imagine, who is herself a half-sister to the 1991 Derby victor, Generous, from the family of dual Coronation Cup winner Triptych.

Ivan Denisovich, the Guineas third favourite, has a more difficult task in France today in the Group One six-furlong race won in the past by O'Brien with Orpen, Fasliyev and Johannesburg and last year by top-class Divine Proportions. The colt leads a raiding party of five - his pacemaker, Nero, the Mick Channon-trained pair Silca's Sister and Puskas, and Eoghan O'Neill's charge Always Hopeful - but the home defence is mighty strong, in the shape of two unbeaten fillies, New Girlfriend and Mauralakana.

In Ireland yesterday, invaders took the serious money on the card, the first two prizes in the six-furlong dash restricted to graduates of one of last year's Irish yearling auctions. Wake Up Maggie, sent over by the Newmarket-based Chris Wall, streaked away from the Richard Hannon-trained top weight Cool Creek, who upheld the form of Ivan Denisovich's July Stakes, in which he was a close fourth. The winning filly earned €147,000 (£94,750), a fair return on her €24,000 (£16,240) valuation as a yearling, and completed a fine week for her rider, Alan Munro, the winner of the Ebor handicap at York on Thursday. And there was British juvenile success in France, too, when Sir Mark Prescott's charge Confidential Lady took the Prix du Calvados.

Yesterday's domestic two-year-old feature, the Solario Stakes, has a patchy record in spotlighting future talent, with Storming Home, second five years ago, the last to go on to a top-level success after his freshman year.

The latest winner of the Group Three seven-furlong event, Opera Cape, is likely to be given the chance to emulate the 2003 runner-up, Milk It Mick, who upset Three Valleys and Haafhd in the Dewhurst Stakes. Opera Cape, like many by Barathea, coped well with the rain-softened ground in Esher and, as soon as asked by Steve Drowne, strode away from Superlative Stakes third Yasoodd up the hill to win by a length and three-quarters, with Asset three lengths back in third.

"It was the way he did it that impressed me," said the winning trainer, Sylvester Kirk, of Jeff Smith's colour-bearer. "He used to be a highly strung individual but he has become much more relaxed and we will certainly treat him like a good horse; I think we'll have to consider the Dewhurst."

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