Racing: Smart Predator shines as the brightest shade of pale

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The Independent Online

The charge of the white brigade, the Grey Horse Handicap, here yesterday was almost inconsequential in racing's greater scheme, apart from being the first contest in this country confined to horses of its eponymous colour. But one of this sport's attractions is its aesthetic quality, and the 13 runners provided a stunning spectacle, first beneath the trees of the saddling area, with diffuse light flitting and dancing on cool-hued coats, and then in full sun in the parade ring, where the jockeys' motley contrasted splendidly with the monochrome mounts.

The charge of the white brigade, the Grey Horse Handicap, here yesterday was almost inconsequential in racing's greater scheme, apart from being the first contest in this country confined to horses of its eponymous colour. But one of this sport's attractions is its aesthetic quality, and the 13 runners provided a stunning spectacle, first beneath the trees of the saddling area, with diffuse light flitting and dancing on cool-hued coats, and then in full sun in the parade ring, where the jockeys' motley contrasted splendidly with the monochrome mounts.

Shades of grey, though, are not dull. There was Mardoof, an inky steel; Nasty Nick, as dark but with silver flashes in his iron-black mane; Legal Set, strikingly dappled on shoulders and quarters; Diamond Orchid, his misty coat offset to perfection by sooty limbs and tail; and Malaah and The Gay Fox, one like snow, the other starred with frost.

None of the contestants in this sprint handicap for horses rated 0-80 could be mentioned in the same breath as any of racing's amazing greys, such as Abernant, Daylami, Native Dancer, Petite Etoile or Spectacular Bid on the Flat or Desert Orchid, One Man or even Kribensis, the 1990 Champion Hurdle hero who paraded with the other silver darlings here, over jumps.

Grey is a colour that has always been associated with speed, though, and even though the runners were a lowly collection, nine of them could trace the inheritance of their grizzled coats to one of the fleetest greys of all time, Mumtaz Mahal. The winner, 11-4 favourite Smart Predator, is a four-greats grandson of the flying filly of the Twenties, and gets his mottled beauty via his dam She's Smart, her sire Absalom, then Abwah, Abernant and Rustom Mahal, Mumty's daughter.

What quality there was on the domestic scene yesterday was largely on show at Newbury. Mubtaker may now have the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, rather than the Melbourne Cup, as a target after producing a faultless performance to follow Sovrango, High Line and Ardross into the record books by winning a second successive Geoffrey Freer Stakes.

Sheikh Hamdan's lightly raced six-year-old was backed to 4-6 favouritism, as if defeat in the Group Two contest, over an extended mile and five furlongs, had not been considered, and barely gave his supporters a moment's concern as Richard Hills sent him about his business three furlongs out. The chestnut went past the trailblazing Systematic, racing for the first time in 11 months, in a matter of strides and came home three-and-a-half confident lengths ahead, with Mamool a rather disappointing third.

Afterwards Angus Gold, the sheikh's racing manager, was still mulling over the staying route of the Irish St Leger as a warm-up for the Melbourne Cup, but Mubtaker's trainer, Marcus Tregoning, feels the son of Silver Hawk has enough versatility to take on the big guns in Paris in October. "He could easily drop back in trip, and the Arc is a possibility," he said. "Today could have been a career-best performance as he still seems to be improving. He's so enthusiastic too, as brave as three lions."

Mubtaker completed a double for the Hamdan colours, carried to victory in the opening juvenile maiden, in which Mukafeh upset the 8-11 favourite Akimbo, who had been backed in the past week for the 2,000 Guineas on the strength of prowess on the gallops, by a head. The two well-bred colts were making their debuts and it was Mukafeh, a Danzig grandson of Salsabil, who showed more determination than his babyish rival.

At Ripon, things finally went right for apprentice David Nolan, who was banned for 12 days on Thursday for dangerous riding, as he brought the 16-1 shot Hidden Dragon home by a head in the Great St Wilfrid Handicap. He sent the gelding, acquired by trainer Paul Blockley as a Ballydoyle cast-off last year, to the front a furlong and a half out and had just enough left to inch out Undeterred, with Mutawaqed third and Budelli fourth. The first seven home in the 23-runner contest raced on the far side of the course.

Godolphin's Dubai Destination and Frankie Dettori face 11 rivals in the Group One Prix Jacques le Marois over a mile at Deauville this afternoon. The domestic top-level circuit moves on this week to York, where Oasis Dream heads the 12 declared for Thursday's Nunthorpe Stakes.

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