Racing: Lame Story weakens the Guineas defence

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The Independent Online

Lucky Story, one of last season's most exciting juveniles and among the market leaders for the 2,000 Guineas, was yesterday ruled out of the first Classic, 24 days hence, by his trainer Mark Johnston. Indeed, the son of Kris S is likely to be off games until at least Royal Ascot, having suffered bouts of as yet unexplained lameness.

Lucky Story, one of last season's most exciting juveniles and among the market leaders for the 2,000 Guineas, was yesterday ruled out of the first Classic, 24 days hence, by his trainer Mark Johnston. Indeed, the son of Kris S is likely to be off games until at least Royal Ascot, having suffered bouts of as yet unexplained lameness.

The big brown colt, four for five last year including a gutsy defeat of Auditorium in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster, was as low as 9-1 in bookmakers' ante-post lists and is to be sent to a top Newmarket diagnostic centre for assessment. "Lucky Story was noted to be lame on his right hind leg twice in the past 10 days," said Johnston, "and although he quickly became sound again on both occasions, his training has been halted while further investigations take place.

"It is now likely that he will be aimed for a campaign from midsummer onwards, but we may be able to give a more accurate timescale for his preparation after he has further scans at the Animal Health Trust." Johnson's Middleham yard also houses Guineas hopes Pearl Of Love and Russian Valour.

But as one home-based contender for the 186th 2,000 Guineas disappeared from the lists, a live challenger from France took his place after a convincing success at Maisons-Laffitte yesterday. On soft ground, Robert Collet-trained Whipper, winner of last term's Prix Morny, romped to an eight-length victory in the Prix Djebel over the Paris track's straight seven furlongs. Suitably impressed, Ladbrokes cut the colt from 25-1 to 12-1.

With Lucky Story's absence and the defeat of Milk It Mick, the Dewhurst Stakes winner, at Lingfield on Saturday, disqualified Middle Park Stakes victor Three Valleys is now the sole British-trained Guineas aspirant in the first half-dozen in the betting as, with the Craven meeting at Newmarket just six days away, the focus begins to sharpen on the élite Flat scene. Ballydoyle's One Cool Cat, who produced a dazzling racecourse gallop at the Curragh on Sunday, heads the market, in front of his compatriot Grey Swallow.

One of the longer shots in the home side, Peak To Creek, is on course to make his seasonal debut in the Craven Stakes. The hardy, progressive Royal Applause colt has won seven of 12 starts, ending his juvenile campaign with success in the Horris Hill Stakes. "He is a very tough horse who thrives on racing, as he showed last year when he kept surprising me," Jeremy Noseda, his trainer, said yesterday, "so he will come on for his first run. The work he has done suggests he's maintained his improvement over the winter and the question is whether we can get the 7lb from him I think we need for him to win a Guineas. I'd be disappointed if he didn't finish in the first six."

After the untimely death of Park Accord and the removal of Carry On Katie by Godolphin, Peak To Creek is Noseda's chief hope of winning a Classic this year, though he will "fly a kite" by running the Irish River filly St Francis Wood in the Nell Gwyn Stakes next week to test her 1,000 Guineas aspirations. "When Park Accord died it was the biggest blow of my career," the Newmarket handler said. "She was the apple of my eye, the best filly I'd been around since Balanchine. Losing an old servant like Adiemus in Dubai was terrible. But Park Accord was losing a dream. A Classic is a goal it is so hard to get to."

Another of Noseda's three-year-old stars, Gimcrack Stakes winner Balmont (who picked up the Middle Park on the technical disqualification of Three Valleys) is in work after a leg problem but has a sprinting career mapped out and returns at Royal Ascot.

Henry Cecil plans to reintroduce his talented maiden Akimbo, narrowly touched off by Mukafeh on his sole start, over a mile at Newbury on Saturday week. "I haven't yet ruled out the Guineas," said Cecil. "He had muscle problems last year and I feel the change of scene in going to Newbury, and the journey, will help him grow up."

Newmarket, with nine Group One contests now in its portfolio, will offer a record £6,875,000 prize-money this year, topped by the Guineas races at £300,000 each. That, though is a drop of £20,000, a knock-on from the collapse of the attheraces deal. Lisa Hancock, the track's managing director, said that the end of that package could adversely affect television-airtime-dependent sponsorship. Negotiations to take terrestrial coverage of domestic racing beyond June will continue tomorrow.

2,000 GUINEAS (Newmarket, 1 May) (best prices): 5-2 One Cool Cat, 5-1 Grey Swallow, 13-2 Three Valleys, 12-1 Diamond Green, 16-1 Whipper, Bago, 20-1 Pearl Of Love, 25-1 Milk It Mick, Snow Ridge, 33-1 Akimbo, Auditorium, Bayeux, Fantastic View, Peak To Creek, Russian Valour, Mukafeh.

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