Racing: Weld's colt puts Classic potential on display

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The Independent Online

Just when you think it is safe to start evaluating the juvenile pecking order, another great white hope swims into view. Yesterday at Leopardstown Grey Swallow confirmed the most favourable impression he made when he won by 10 lengths on his debut at Galway back in July by taking the Kilavullan Stakes by eight lengths. It was a display that lacked nothing; the son of Daylami behaved well, travelled well and quickened more than well and is now high in the ante-post lists for both the 2,000 Guineas and Derby.

The opposition to the Dermot Weld-trained colt at the Co Dublin track numbered only three, but the one chasing him home was the Ballydoyle representative Newton, who had passed the post in third place, six lengths behind the subsequent Racing Post Trophy winner, American Post, in the Grand Criterium at Long-champ on his previous outing.

Grey Swallow had ducked his Group One engagements in Britain because of prevailing firm underfoot conditions, but on yesterday's evidence - the turn of foot he produced once set alight by Pat Smullen going into the final of the seven furlongs was that of a high-class performer - would not have been out of place in them.

Weld, not noted for mistaking swans for geese, has long had a high opinion of Grey Swallow, who was bred by his mother Gita and sold to his present owner, Rochelle Quinn, for 150,000 guineas at the Newmarket sales last year.

"The ground at Newmarket and at Doncaster was too quick. As it turned out he may well have won the Dewhurst, but I didn't want to risk jarring him up," he said yesterday. "I'm sure here today was the logical place to run him. The ground was good and he won't have to carry a Group One penalty in a Classic trial next spring."

Grey Swallow, who has inherited his sire's quicksilver coat, is now second favourite for the Guineas to the the Ballydoyle No 1, One Cool Cat. "He has all sorts of gears," added Weld, "and was cruising throughout. How far he'll stay we'll have to see, but I would imagine he'll get at least 10 furlongs."

As one bright Irish talent emerged, another may be nearing the end of the road. Johnny Murtagh, dogged by weight problems since a fall at Royal Ascot, is to end his domestic season early and has no plans to ride abroad this winter.

Murtagh took a break in August to have treatment on the back injury that prevented him maintaining his fitness regime and although he returned to ride Alamshar in the Irish Champion Stakes in September, stability has been a problem since.

But a greater shadow is hovering over the Irish scene with the news yesterday that apprentice rider Sean Cleary is fighting for his life after a fall at Galway on Sunday when his Paddy Mullins-trained mount All Heart came down after clipping the heels of another runner in a seven-furlong race.

The youngster, attached to Pat Flynn in County Waterford, is critically ill with severe head injuries in the neuro-surgical unit at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin.

Edredon Bleu's spring-heeled demolition of his opponents at Wincanton on Sunday was a reminder that the jump season is gathering momentum and another came yesterday as Thisthatandtother put down his marker to be considered one of the stars among the novice chasing ranks.

The seven-year-old, no mean hurdler, made a bright start over fences with a foot-perfect 17-length success under Joe Tizzard in the Althrey Beginners Chase at Bangor and now has the Independent Newspaper Novices' Chase at Cheltenham next month in his sights.

"He's got a great jump," said his trainer, Paul Nicholls, "but we've been struggling to do much at home with the ground so firm. He needed some racecourse practice and this was just the job."

Nicholls supplies two of yesterday's 10 entries for the first significant staying chase of the season, the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on Saturday: the Gold Cup fourth, Valley Henry, and Sleeping Night. The £60,000 Grade Two contest has also attracted last year's winner, Marlborough, and another of the divisional big guns, Chives, although the final composition of the field will be dictated by whether or not the forecast rain finally arrives in West Yorkshire.

2,000 GUINEAS: Latest odds (Coral bookmakers): 9-4 One Cool Cat, 6-1 Grey Swallow, 10-1 Three Valleys, Lucky Story, 12-1 Pearl Of Love, 14-1 Milk It Mick, 16-1 Snow Ridge, 20-1 Haafhd, Sabbeeh, Wathab, Bachelor Duke, 25-1 Balmont, Bago, Byron, Fantastic View, Imperial Stride, Grand Reward, Akimbo, Auditorium, 33-1 others.