Racing: Magritte can show true Classic potential

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For the youngest generation the style and glitz today may be in California but, in the longer term, the substance and grit may prove to have been at Doncaster.

The number of Breeders' Cup Juvenile winners to have gone on to Classic glory is one (Timber Country in the 1995 Preakness Stakes); the number of Racing Post Trophy winners is eight. All right, so the US race is in only its 20th manifestation and this afternoon's Group One showpiece has been going, in various guises, since 1961. But the point is that the winner on Town Moor is likely to prove the better stayer in most senses of the word.

Aidan O'Brien goes for the hat-trick in the last top-level race on the domestic calendar, and his fifth win in seven years, Saratoga Springs (1997) and Aristotle (1999) having preceded High Chaparral and Brian Boru. His attack today is two-pronged and if either Magritte or Mikado, the remains of the usual multiple Ballydoyle entry, should win, it will also be a third consecutive success for a son of Sadler's Wells, and the sixth in all.

Magritte, whose brother The Great Gatsby finished fourth in the Racing Post Trophy last year and second in the Derby this, is the perceived first string on the strength of his sole outing, an impressive success in a Tipperary maiden back in July. The ground was heavy that day but the white-faced bay is such a fluent mover that, even if some cut would ideally suit, he should cope with faster conditions.

O'Brien already has the favourite for the 2,000 Guineas in One Cool Cat, but his juveniles have hardly swept all before them this season and the Irishman has yet to saddle a Group winner in Britain this term. Like High Chaparral, Magritte and Mikado (one of the Eydon Hall breed; his dam is a half-sister to Barathea and Gossamer) come to Doncaster off maiden wins.

By contrast, the French challenger American Post has already scored at the highest level having taken the Grand Criterium at Longchamp on Arc day by four lengths, quickening well through testing ground. There is a view, though, that it was a substandard renewal of the Group One event.

The sole Gallic raider to take the Doncaster prize thus far has been Green Dancer, sent over by Alec Head in 1974. American Post is trained by the great horseman's daughter Criquette for Khaled Abdullah, who is having a sensational year, with 17 Group or Grade One victories from eight individuals already on the board.

The Saudi Arabian prince heads the owners' table in France, the States and Britain but his lead over Hamdan Al Maktoum in Britain is the slenderest, which was one factor behind the decision earlier in the week to pay the £17,500 supplementary fee for a crack at the £225,000 purse.

The pink, green and white have been carried successfully here before, albeit by three of the race's less distinguished alumni, Alphabatim, Bakharoff and Armiger.

American Post, a son of Bering, is another untested on fast ground, but his dam's half-siblings High And Low (runner-up in a St Leger) and Corradini had no problems in that department. Like the O'Brien duo, he should not fail for lack of stamina down the long Doncaster straight but he has already exhibited one weakness.

Before the Parisian contest his behaviour was atrocious; he jibbed going out onto the track, stamped his feet and ran backwards into barriers and gave the stalls handlers a hard time with another temper tantrum at the start.

Today's other three runners - two of which, Cape Fear (who is due under the hammer at the Newmarket horses-in-training auction on Tuesday and is a doubtful runner) and Fantastic View, were also supplementary entries - seem exposed as below the standard required.

So, the dilemma is whether to side with proven or potential class, and which famous Belgian to go for. Christophe Soumillon rides American Post, but Magritte (3.05), who carries the name of a surrealist painter from the much-maligned country, can consolidate his position in the ante-post lists for the Derby.

The afternoon's other Group race is the St Simon Stakes at Newbury, where the going is likely to be too lively for The Whistling Teal, who revelled in the soft ground when winning last year. In any case, even at his best he would struggle to cope with St Leger runner-up High Accolade (2.45), who showed his well-being a fortnight later when making all in the Cumberland Lodge Stakes at Ascot.

There is just the one televised race from Kempton, the handicap chase that was formerly the Charisma. James Davies is the leading conditional this season and his 5lb claim could just make the difference on Eau De Cologne (3.35), on whom he has won twice from just four rides.

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