Racing: Iceman has surface to put Guineas rivals in cold

There has been just one word, one name, whistling around Newmarket this week between the racecourse and the clock tower. If Dubawi does not win the 2,000 Guineas down the long Rowley Mile this afternoon there are going to be some even longer faces streaming away from Britain's oldest battleground for racehorses.

There has been just one word, one name, whistling around Newmarket this week between the racecourse and the clock tower. If Dubawi does not win the 2,000 Guineas down the long Rowley Mile this afternoon there are going to be some even longer faces streaming away from Britain's oldest battleground for racehorses.

They have been racing here - the course where there is no hiding place, physically or metaphorically - for three and a half centuries now and, during that time, the two Guineas races have evolved most slowly. The greatest change, as elsewhere, has come in the last few years and much of it has been to the traditionalists' chagrin.

The 2,000 Guineas used to be a glittering trophy in its own right, but the expansion of sport on the turf and the emphasis on greater prizes later in the season have diluted its influence. It was almost painful to stand in the Ballydoyle courtyard earlier this week and listen to Aidan O'Brien detailing how his two horses would come on for the Classic at the beginning of an anticipated long campaign. He made the Guineas sound dangerously close to a prep race.

Another modern phenomenon has been the arrival of the Godolphin horses at this meeting, fresh from the winter sun of Dubai. They always look the business on the blasted heath and occasionally they run like it too. Dubawi aims to be the third 2,000 Guineas winner for the boys in blue following Mark Of Esteem (1996) and Island Sands (1999).

On the plus side, the son of the short-lived Dubai Millennium is unbeaten and has already won a Group One race, the National Stakes at the Curragh. He may even start at odds-on on the back of a private trial at Nad Al Sheba, which impressed the locals but could not have the official trumpeters of form in great fanfare. And Dubawi's price itself may be a historical ball and chain around one of his shapely ankles. The Godolphin colt is set to go off the shortest-priced favourite since Xaar was beaten when odds-on in 1988, while only one favourite - Zafonic in 1993 - has been successful in the last 15 years.

More and more the Guineas becomes what the Americans call a crapshoot, an indecipherable conundrum between immature horses. No matter what Dubawi's credentials, he cannot be supported at his current price.

The Ballydoyle representatives are strangely unfancied in the betting. Kieren Fallon has selected Footstepsinthesand, but might even have got his two-horse race wrong, as stablemate Oratorio, who does not show much at home, is far more prominent in the form book.

The suggestion in Ireland this week was that if Fallon had a choice of the entire field he would probably select Rob Roy, a colt trained by an old confederate in Michael Stoute. The jockey was impressed by Rob Roy's running-on effort in the Craven Stakes and we must all be impressed by Stoute's 2,000 Guineas record - five wins, including three of the last nine.

Yet if you like Rob Roy there must also be a place in the heart for ICEMAN (nap 3.15). John Gosden's colt was another of the quartet which tried to dive into the same mousehole in the closing stages of the Craven and he was giving Rob Roy 3lb.

In advance of the Craven, Gosden seemed to be suggesting that Iceman was so short of work that it came as a surprise to see him emerging on the day without a double chin. The little horse battled that afternoon, much as he had done throughout a full juvenile season, during which today's forecast firm going brought the best out of him.

"There's no doubt he's a superior horse on fast ground," Gosden said yesterday. "He won the Coventry on good to firm and he was second giving 5lb to Etlaala on fast ground at Doncaster. When he came down for the Middle Park it was soft and for the Dewhurst it was, sadly, deplorable ground and he's not happy in that.

"He's come out of the Craven well. I'm sure some others have too. He finished well in the race and has worked pleasingly since. As long as they don't get too much rain at Newmarket he should run a big race."

The 1,000 Guineas was eviscerated earlier this week when the winter favourite, Damson, was removed from consideration. There does not seem to be much outstanding left.

In the circumstances a shock result could emanate, and the best qualified among the outsiders and a filly who would be a a lot shorter price in the hands of different connections is the Fred Darling Stakes winner, Penkenna Princess (3.25).

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