Racing: Soft going rules Rakti out of Champion

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The Independent Online

Michael Jarvis, for instance, is unlikely to send Rakti, one of 15 declared for the Champion Stakes, to the fray. The enigmatic six-year-old won the Group One 10-furlong contest two years ago but likes to hear his feet rattle. "For him, I'm afraid the ground has gone," said Jarvis. "Which is a shame as it would have been his final race in Britain before he retires to stud. The Breeders' Cup is off the agenda but there is a race in Hong Kong in December."

The Champion Stakes favourite, Oratorio, is on a Group One hat-trick after defeating Motivator in the Eclipse Stakes and Irish Champion Stakes. The Ballydoyle representative is clear market leader at around 5-2, ahead of the two for money yesterday, the French-trained mudlarks Pinson and Pride. Three-year-old Pinson brought up a four-timer in a Deauville Group Two last time and five-year-old mare Pride came in seventh in the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe.

Aidan O'Brien, snapping at the heels of Michael Stoute (three-handed in the £430,000 Champion Stakes with Maraahel, Rob Roy, who likes easy ground, and Chic, who does not) in the race for the trainer's title, has declared both George Washington and Horatio Nelson for tomorrow's juvenile top-level feature, the Dewhurst Stakes, but will run only one of the star colts.

George Washington, already a dual Group One winner in Ireland in the Phoenix and National Stakes, is ante-post favourite for the 2,000 Guineas and Horatio Nelson, who took the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at Longchamp on Arc day, heads the 2006 Derby betting. "There's no question of them running against each other," said O'Brien yesterday, "George Washington will run if the ground is good or faster, and Horatio Nelson if it remains soft." If the going does stay as advertised, O'Brien risks the wrath of the stewards; if it changes, he will avoid a fine.

The Newmarket turf, with a fresh strip due to be used, drains well with clear skies and a drying wind, but those are not forecast to arrive until tomorrow morning. Whichever of the Co Tipperary duo takes the field, he will find a home defence of seven waiting, headed by the unbeaten pair Sir Percy and Primary.

Best-backed yesterday, to around the 5-1 mark, of the full field of 36 for tomorrow's Cesarewitch was Nicky Henderson's charge Afrad, rested since his success in the Goodwood Stakes on soft going in July and the mount of Kieren Fallon.

The easing of the ground may thwart Northumberland Plate and Ebor Handicap winner Sergeant Cecil's bid for an unprecedented treble in the season's top staying handicaps, for the six-year-old may be switched to the less competitive Jockey Club Cup.

The exploits of Dubawi and Shamardal apart, the Godolphin's profile has been uncharacteristically low this term, but Bold Crusader's win here yesterday was the sixth victory from as many runners in three days for the blues. The two-year-old was the third leg of a 59-1 treble for Frankie Dettori, who has picked Layman over Echo Of Light from the team's Champion Stakes duo. "Echo Of Light likes it soft, Layman prefers it better," said Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford. "If the forecast is right, the ground will be good, but both will run whatever."

Richard Edmondson

Nap: The Tatling

(Newmarket 3.10)

NB: Rising Shadow

(Newmarket 3.45)