Racing: Perfect timing gives Rakti record victory

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The Independent Online

He is not little, he may not have a curl right in the middle of his forehead, but when he is bad he is certainly horrid. When he is good, though, he is very, very good indeed. Yesterday at Newbury, sometime bad boy Rakti was on his best behaviour, and not only blew away a high-class international field to take the Lockinge Stakes by five lengths, but the course record as well, by more than a second.

He is not little, he may not have a curl right in the middle of his forehead, but when he is bad he is certainly horrid. When he is good, though, he is very, very good indeed. Yesterday at Newbury, sometime bad boy Rakti was on his best behaviour, and not only blew away a high-class international field to take the Lockinge Stakes by five lengths, but the course record as well, by more than a second.

It was as impressive a performance as ever seen in the mile contest that is the first Group One clash of older horses on the domestic programme. Rakti, the 7-4 favour-ite, was headed for only the first half-furlong, by the quick-breaking Australian raider Elvstroem; thereafter he dictated matters and quickened impressively away inside the final quarter-mile. The rank outsider of the eight-strong field, the 50-1 shot Mac Love, ran the race of his life to take second place, ahead of Hurricane Alan and Elvstroem.

On firm, drying ground with a following wind, a fast time might have been expected, but such conditions are not generally conducive to such wide-margin victories. But then Rakti is a high-class act: yesterday was his sixth top-level triumph. The six-year-old has a mighty engine, but one governed by an unpredictable mind. For if Rakti was human, he would undoubtedly get banned from Bluewater; indeed, he wears a hood for stalls entry. His whole demeanour smacks of simmering aggression; he is as handy with his teeth as his front feet when it comes to making a point. He demands respect from those around him, and gets it, and trainer Michael Jarvis and rider Philip Robinson deserve every plaudit they get for their handling of this equine volcano.

Yesterday, Rakti looked a picture of pent-up power in the preliminaries, with almost a summer shine on his dark bay hide, but hung on to his cool. Robinson took him to the start early, and on his own, so he would not be fired up by the company of others until it mattered. The horse has blistering pace, and running over a mile lets him express it without fighting, and as he hit his stride he took charge of his rivals but not of Robinson.

"He was really confident," the jockey said. "He relaxed lovely in front. The plan had always been that I would go on if they went slowly. This just showed how good he really is on his day, and if we can keep him in this sort of frame of mind, he is going to be very hard to beat. It will just be a matter of keeping his head straight."

This son of Polish Precedent is versatile as well as able; his list of Group One achievements started with the mile-and-a-half Derby Italiano at three, took in the 10-furlong Champion Stakes at four, and carried on with his first success over a mile, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes last year. "We've had our tricky moments with him," Jarvis said, "but he is a wonderful horse. And all credit to Philip. He has always said that a mile would be his best trip. He can get in front, relax and switch off, then pick up again." A trip to York for Royal Ascot next month, for the Queen Anne Stakes over yesterday's distance, rather than the 10-furlong Prince of Wales's Stakes in which he took the honours last year, is now on the agenda for Gary Tanaka's temperamental colour-bearer.

Behind him yesterday Mac Love, the reliable Hurricane Alan and gallant Elvstroem, making his British debut, ran with honour. But the joint second-favourites Le Vie Dei Colori and Antonius Pius were hugely disappointing, in sixth and eighth places, respectively. Tarfah was withdrawn at the start after becoming upset and hurting herself in the stalls.

A few hours before the Lockinge Stakes, in the Champions Mile at Sha Tin, another of last year's British-based stars, Attraction, beat only two of her 12 competitors home as the Hong Kong hero Silent Witness failed by inches to make it a career 18 from 18. Agonisingly, the Tony Cruz-trained gelding, trying eight furlongs for the first time, was run down by a short-head in the last stride by his own stablemate Bullish Luck.

Rakti has put down an impressive marker for the mile division. Today at Longchamp, in the two French Guineas, some of his putative rivals for later in the season strut their stuff. In the 15-strong colts' race, last year's juvenile champion, Shamardal, bids to retrieve a reputation lost in Dubai in March, accompanied by Coeur Courageux, Montgomery's Arch, Kamakiri and Tony James from Britain. In the fillies' contest, the local heroine Divine Proportions faces just seven, including a British raider, Magical Romance.

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