Racing: Rajeem can usher in new era by staking Classic claim on sand

A new era began at Kempton a week ago and another dawns today with the first running in Britain of recognised Classic preps, the Masaka and Easter Stakes, on an all-weather track. There have been remarks made about their ongoing validity because of the transfer to sand but these two races have always been as much runouts as sharp-end trials and artificial surfaces are widely used behind the scenes. It's the future. Get used to it.

The mile contests have attracted much the same type of field as they always have; a few runners in each engaged in, and on the outer fringes of the betting for, the Guineas, others in search of some minor black type.

The 27-year roll of honour of the Masaka Stakes, named for the 1948 Oaks heroine who began her three-year-old campaign with a victory at Kempton, is not exactly littered with superstars, but it is dotted. The best renewal was in 1982, when Time Charter, who went on to take the Oaks, won and Awaasif (Yorkshire Oaks) was fourth. Since then Nicer followed up in the 1993 Irish 1,000 Guineas, and the last two winners, Hathrah and Vista Bella, finished third at Newmarket.

Two of today's field of 11, Rajeem and Cross Channel, will be hoping to lay 1,000 Guineas markers. Both are available at 66-1 for the Classic and own solid credentials for this lesser event.

Rajeem (2.45), a daughter of Diktat, is a winner at this Listed level, when she won a decent backend contest at Newmarket. At this time of year fitness must be taken on trust but her trainer, Clive Brittain, has started the year in style, with six winners and 12 places from 29 runners. Rajeem carries a penalty, but is a filly of substance and is the physical type to have trained on. Though speedily bred, she liked stepping up to a mile last term.

Cross Channel, too, appears to have progressed through the close season, although, as Giant's Causeway half-sister to smart Sabre D'Argent, her pedigree says she will appreciate farther that today's trip in due course. She will provide the first hint as to the value of some of last year's best juvenile distaff form; she was fifth, albeit a well-beaten fifth, in the Fillies' Mile.

The past five Masaka winners went into the race with a rating of less than 100 and emerged with one slightly more. Two who have already achieved the required standard are Rising Cross and Suzy Bliss. On her seasonal debut the former, who showed smart placed form in top company last year, was an encouraging staying-on third over seven furlongs two weeks ago at Lingfield behind stablemate Kingsgate Prince, but she is exposed and may be vulnerable to an improver.

Suzy Bliss is a most interesting contender, having put in some promising efforts against high-class opposition last year. But she is another who may be seen to best effect later on over further.

The equivalent colt's race, the Easter Stakes, has yet to produce a victor in any Classic, though last year's winner, Rebel Rebel, beat all bar Footstepsinthesand in the 2,000 Guineas.But the race being on Polytrack has brought another factor into the mix; ranged against those with lofty aspirations is a gelding for whom sand is a specialist subject, the four-time Lingfield winner Kingsgate Prince.

The two 2,000 Guineas entries are Asset (3.55), 66-1 for Newmarket, and Dubai Typhoon, among the 200-1 shots. Asset, a son of Marju, progressed steadily last term - after a six-length win in his maiden he ran third on unsuitably soft ground in the Sandown Group 3 won by Opera Cape, subsequently twice Group 1-placed. His yard, that of Richard Hannon, is another rattling in winners in recent weeks and over a mile he can thwart Kingsgate Prince's nap hand on a track which should suit his up-with-the-pace style.

For anyone wishing to go racing today, the optimum town of residence must be Cranleigh, in Surrey, just about centrally placed between the three surviving meetings. Kempton, at Sunbury-on-Thames, is the northernmost of the trio in a ludicrously cramped geographical spread that makes today's date entirely appropriate. A change in the system, from considered allocation to a free market, has made the sport look foolish. To complete the joke Lingfield, less than 50 miles from Kempton, also stages all-weather fare.

At least Fontwell, on the south coast, offers something different. The day's feature handicap is there, a three-and-a-half mile chase - grandiosely called the Southern National - that will be a war of attrition in the mud. Calvic (2.55), in first-time blinkers, can be the one who gallops round least slowly.

Chris McGrath

Nap: Asset (Kempton 3.55)

NB: Creative Mind

(Kempton 4.55)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
people
News
20. Larry Page: Net worth: $23 billion; Country: U.S; Source of wealth: Google
business
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
A collection of 30 Banksy prints at Bonhams auction house in London
art
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Recruitment Genius: PA

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A PA is required to join a leading provider of...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness