Racing: One Cool Cat over right trip to atone for Classic failure
Saturday 04 September 2004
It may be verging on the trite to say so after the image-damaging turmoil of the past few days, but this weekend the focus is on racing for the right reason, in fact the sport's
raison d'être: the thoroughbred, and which one can run fastest. Four top-level contests - one at Haydock this afternoon, others in France, Ireland and Germany tomorrow - cater for the élite of the breed; a low-grade lunchtime fixture at Folkestone today is for betting-shop punters who would rather gamble on live domestic action, for all its real or imagined flaws, than events in South Africa or on intelligence-insulting bookmaker-produced numbers games in the guise of cartoons.
It may be verging on the trite to say so after the image-damaging turmoil of the past few days, but this weekend the focus is on racing for the right reason, in fact the sport's raison d'être: the thoroughbred, and which one can run fastest. Four top-level contests - one at Haydock this afternoon, others in France, Ireland and Germany tomorrow - cater for the élite of the breed; a low-grade lunchtime fixture at Folkestone today is for betting-shop punters who would rather gamble on live domestic action, for all its real or imagined flaws, than events in South Africa or on intelligence-insulting bookmaker-produced numbers games in the guise of cartoons.
Horses are the chief fascination for most, and none this season has been more intriguing than One Cool Cat, favourite for the Sprint Cup at Haydock. The dark, handsome colt who had Aidan O'Brien purring all winter with his electric zest turned out to be not just a riddle inside a mystery wrapped in an enigma, but one encased in a Rubik's cube as well. His flop as hot favourite in the 2,000 Guineas was certainly one for the conspiracy-theorists but the signs are that there was nothing more sinister afoot than the trainer having essayed a bridge too far.
One Cool Cat's hallmark at home has always been blinding speed and the solution is that he is, after all, just a sprinter. It seems that eight furlongs is too much for one of such explosive body and mind, for the embarrassment on the Rowley Mile was followed by another in a lesser contest on the Curragh and after both he suffered physical distress. But he bounced back imperiously over today's six furlongs at the Co Kildare track last month and followed that with an eyecatching third over the minimum trip in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York.
Traffic problems did not help then, and with 18 rivals today it must be taken on trust that Jamie Spencer, whose steering and judgement has not always been of the highest order this year, has the confidence to prevent a recurrence. There is a question mark in that box, but ticks in terms of the drying ground and return to a distance over which the three-year-old is unbeaten.
One Cool Cat (2.35) has not yet shown the brilliance of two other speed champions handled by O'Brien, Stravinsky and Mozart, but given the lack of quality in the division he may not need to. The time-honoured sprint handicap concept of "whose turn is it today?" is currently rife at Group One level too, hence the gang of usual suspects taking each other on again this afternoon.
Last year's winner, Somnus, a confirmed mudlark, and his recent Deauville victim, Ashdown Express, are respected, but the unexposed Tante Rose more so. A four-year-old filly on the upgrade is always a force to conjure with at this time of year and her turn of foot to take a distaffers' Group Three at York last month was impressive.
Reputations are there to be redeemed, confirmed and established tomorrow. The 11 runners in the Prix du Moulin at Longchamp include the talented but wayward Antonius Pius and American Post, gifted the French 2,000 Guineas by that Ballydoyle inmate's antics and unsighted since his sixth place in the Derby. The British challenge comes from another of last year's leading juveniles, Lucky Story, inched out on his belated return to action this term, and Le Vie Dei Colori.
At Baden Baden, the Marcus Tregoning-trained Mubtaker continues his progress to the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in the local Grosser Preis, where he will face Clive Brittain's admirable Warrsan. And at the Curragh, the filly stars of the future contest the Moyglare Stud Stakes. Richard Hannon's unbeaten Jewel In The Sand heads the raiding party, accompanied by Borthwick Girl and Umniya. O'Brien has taken three of the past four runnings but though Silk And Scarlet is the yard number one, her stablemate Drama might be a more appropriate winner, given recent events.
It is business as usual today for the three jockeys arrested on Wednesday. Low-profile Darren Williams has no rides; Fergal Lynch is on four at Haydock, including Monsieur Bond for his principal employer, Bryan Smart, in the feature; and the champion, Kieren Fallon, has six mounts at Kempton, where he can get back on the title trail with Mystical Girl (2.10), who may appreciate the drop in class, and Golden Dixie (4.55).
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