Racing: Royal Storm has speed to lead Cup charge

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The Independent Online

The very name sends a shudder down the collective spine: the Stewards' Cup. They periodically refer to Goodwood's downhill, six-furlong scamper as a cavalry charge and it has the potential to provide the fate the 600 encountered when they trotted into the valley of death.

The very name sends a shudder down the collective spine: the Stewards' Cup. They periodically refer to Goodwood's downhill, six-furlong scamper as a cavalry charge and it has the potential to provide the fate the 600 encountered when they trotted into the valley of death.

Just looking down the list of the tightly handicapped 30 runners (now 29 after the removal of topweight Fire Up The Band) is enough to put a musket to punters' heads. Yet the puzzle can be unravelled and bookmakers too have had cannons to the left of them down the years. Upset them too with names such as Rotherfield Greys, Danetime and, the winner 12 months ago, Patavellian.

Victory for the last-named further stamped the theory that a high draw is required for this afternoon's renewal of the contest first run in 1840.

John Quinn, the Malton trainer, at least has his bases covered in this respect as he has a runner on either side of the course. Fantasy Believer, who might even start favourite, will break from stall No 24, while Caribbean Coral is near the stands side in stall eight. "They are both well. Statistically, you would prefer to be drawn on the far side, but maybe the bias is changing a bit with the results earlier in the week," Quinn said yesterday.

"The thing about the stands side is that there are a few speed horses there, so at least Caribbean Coral is with some decent ones, and Fantasy Believer is on the preferred side as we speak."

One runner guaranteed not to be short of a gallop is Willie Muir's Material Witness, who was second to Golden Sahara at the foot of Trundle Hill on Thursday. "He's come out of the race very well. He's eaten up and has been out in the field with his old mate Alpen Wolf this morning. He's in good shape," the Lambourn trainer, who is also doubly represented, said yesterday.

"He ran off 99 on Thursday, he runs off 94 in the Stewards' Cup. Saturday will be his last handicap as he'll have to go Listed, otherwise he'll never be able to carry the weight. He's tough and, as he's got older, he's got over the little problems he had. He's in great shape."

Muir is concerned that Material Witness might find life hard breaking from the No 4 berth. Texas Gold, the other Linkslade runner, appears better blessed. "I was praying Material Witness would get a high draw, but it's not to be and I'll have to take it on the chin," the trainer said. "Texas Gold is in the form of his life and, without wishing to tempt fate, stall 25 looks very handy indeed and he's also in really good shape."

Two Step Kid, Jeremy Noseda's runner, would be just about favourite were it not for his apparent disadvantage. "I'm drawn six and everybody's telling me it's a bad draw, but we need to be lucky tomorrow with the pace," Eddie Ahern, the jockey, said. "I think he'll run a good race if there's pace around my side. He's very easy to ride, uncomplicated. He could make the running if I thought that the pace my side was too slow. He's in with a good weight."

And here may be the key to this afternoon's race: the horse that makes the pace. Patavellian showed last year that running your own race while others buffet each other in behind can be a fruitful tactic. ROYAL STORM (nap 3.35), a course and distance winner, was running over a trip beyond him at Ascot last time, but was the pathfinder until around the final furlong. Amanda Perrett's horse can jump cleanly from stall No 26 today and it could be the next time he sees a horse is in the winners' enclosure.

It will be quite lonely by comparison in the Nassau Stakes, which has attracted, if that is the right word, six runners, the smallest field since Caramba beat five rivals in 1995. It looks a bit runny in quality as well for a contest supposedly at the highest level. Chorist won the Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh last month, which was a weak run around for a Group One offering, which means this must be too as she is one of the favourites.

On the back of this we can anticipate victory for a filly who ran in a handicap on her most recent outing, and did not manage to win that either. Zosima (next best 3.05) was fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies last autumn, and ran a race plump with promise at Royal Ascot when a fast-finishing third to the good horses Celtic Heroine and Coy.

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