Racing: Meehan hands Junior a royal warrant

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The Independent Online

It was at Salisbury last June that Sir Percy prompted Marcus Tregoning to pledge that he would win the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood and the Dewhurst Stakes in the autumn. He neglected to add that the colt would also win the Derby, but perhaps felt he had dug himself a deep enough pit as it was.

Standing on precisely the same spot yesterday, another trainer was doing his best to moderate expectations for the best colt in his care. But Brian Meehan could not disguise his belief that David Junior has continued to flourish since his searing performance in Dubai in March. Having resisted the recent temptation to take on Hurricane Run in heavy going at the Curragh, Meehan believes him to be at concert pitch for Royal Ascot next week.

As Meehan's very first runner after moving from Lambourn to Manton, David Junior could scarcely have laid down a more purposeful marker. Always cruising under Jamie Spencer, the brawny chestnut scattered any lingering suspicions about his 25-1 success in the Champion Stakes at Newmarket last autumn by bolting away with the Dubai Duty Free Stakes, the richest prize ever won by a British horse.

"Or perhaps it would be better to say by any horse based in Britain," Meehan said. "He's Irish-trained, of course." He stabbed out his cigarette and grinned. "You couldn't have written the script. It was obviously a tremendous way to start, great for the staff - those who came with me, those already there. We all had a good party, everyone from the gardeners to the cooks. And it was also important to show the Sangster family that they could have some confidence in me."

The earthy Meehan has never one to dramatise the complexities of his calling, and the success of Sans Reward at what is now his local track was his 20th of the season. "It's a very straightforward set-up, Manton, with so much support - the gallops staff, the maintenance boys, the team at the stud," he said. "They've been there 20 years so I don't mind listening to them."

Dubai itself was a novelty, after all. He had never saddled a runner there before and consulted Gerard Butler, who had been going for several years. "He said we shouldn't go too early and that we should leave the horse there for a few days afterwards," Meehan said. "So we flew him out on the Sunday before the race, which allowed him three canters. He hasn't shown any of the effects you apparently get sometimes in horses that spend the whole winter out there, and his coat's looking great."

As it happens, his chief rival for the Prince of Wales's Stakes is Electrocutionist, who won the Dubai World Cup on the same night and represents Godolphin, struggling for form since their return from the desert. "I'm not going to stand here trying to convince everyone that we are going to win," Meehan said. "But I will say that his preparation has gone extremely well. Jamie rode him last Thursday and was very pleased indeed. It's a different race this time, a different playing field. But he has won Group One races back to back, and shown he doesn't need a run to put him straight."

Other horses on duty next week include Red Rocks, who last month won the same Newmarket listed race as David Junior last year. "He routed them," Meehan said. "He was backward at two but is really progressing now. He does have an option over 10 furlongs but will probably step up in trip for the King Edward VII Stakes. If he happened to win that, he might go for the Irish Derby."

The heatwave finally imploded into heavy rain before racing here, but there was no dampening the molten form of Ryan Moore, who rode another double and is now only two winners behind Jamie Spencer at the top of the championship table.

Chris McGrath

Nap: Wiggy Smith

(Market Rasen 4.20)

NB: Dark Charm

(Hamilton 8.15)

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