Rose has chance to bloom in nursery

Montjeu, like Achilles, used to be considered an insuperable champion, but, following his recent demise, appropriately enough in Paris, the challengers are massing. When John Hammond's colt lines up in the Champion Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday there will be plenty happy to take him on. The rivals were talking a good fight yesterday while Montjeu's seconds were expressing doubts in the wake of the colt's defeat in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

Montjeu, like Achilles, used to be considered an insuperable champion, but, following his recent demise, appropriately enough in Paris, the challengers are massing. When John Hammond's colt lines up in the Champion Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday there will be plenty happy to take him on. The rivals were talking a good fight yesterday while Montjeu's seconds were expressing doubts in the wake of the colt's defeat in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

Michael Tabor, Montjeu's part-owner, fears his horse may have been hurt by the effort in the Bois de Boulogne. "History has shown that might be the case on more than one occasion," he said yesterday. "You look at the likes of Nijinsky [beaten in both the Arc and Champion Stakes 30 years ago]. So it's a question mark."

There was no such talk from the camp of Distant Music, the fallen winter favourite for the 2,000 Guineas who began his redemption in the Park Stakes at the Doncaster St Leger meeting. The Champion will, nevertheless, be the colt's first effort over a mile and a quarter.

"We wouldn't run him for fun," Teddy Beckett, racing manager to owner Khalid Abdullah, said yesterday. "He has Nijinsky on his dam's side and there must be every chance of his staying. We are not worried about Montjeu."

Also in the red corner will be the Henry Cecil duo of Love Divine, the Oaks winner, and Shiva. Richard Quinn, stable jockey at Warren Place, rides Love Divine following a piece of work at Newmarket yesterday. "I rode Love Divine this morning, with Willie Ryan on Shiva," Quinn said. "I was pleased with Love Divine, but I expect both of them to go really well."

But Montjeu is still a hero to some. Coral cut him to 11-10 (from 11-8) yesterday. Sakhee, the Derby runner-up, will miss the race, and the signals are that Holding Court, the winner of the French equivalent, the Prix du Jockey Club, will be absent too. He looks more likely to contest the Group Two Prix du Conseil de Paris at Longchamp on Sunday.

The Dewhurst Stakes, often the two-year-old end-of-season championship, is no less complicated, with Aidan O'Brien still mulling over his 10 of the 20 entries. Whatever the Ballydoyle trainer's selection, he will come up against an old foe in Godolphin, who will saddle supplementary entry Noverre. The colt will represent something of a watershed in Godolphin's history as he and Small Change will run on the final weekend of the operation's salvos from its base at Evry in France.

The soft ground is threatening the participation of the Khaled Abdullah-owned pair Vacamonte and Endless Summer. Vacamonte, trained by Henry Cecil, would be seeking to restore his reputation after his baffling flop when long odds-on for the Solario Stakes at Sandown. "Nothing has come to light to explain that run - you certainly couldn't say it was anything to do with the ground," said Beckett. "He is in good form now and has won on good to soft, but if there was a great deal more rain there would be a doubt about him running. There are no alternatives if he does miss the Dewhurst, but that's not so bad. He will get plenty of opportunities next year."

Endless Summer, second to Minardi in the Middle Park Stakes, has thrived on fast ground. Trainer John Gosden was planning to check the track yesterday. But Beckett said: "He doesn't want it soft and a decision on his participation will be taken overnight."

The expected deluge at Newmarket over the next few days means we must look for soft-ground horses to find early winners at the meeting. At Headquarters today there are options for SABO ROSE (nap 2.35), who won at Pontefract last month on easy going and will be finishing better than most this afternoon.

Diamond White (2.05) was unsuited by the fast ground in the Prix de l'Opera at the Arc meeting, while Sheer Viking (next best 3.10) will also like to splash around. He has not won for two years and it has been a long run back into form, but, on the plus side, if you can puff the dust from your form books, he is a course and distance winner.

Finally, try Sky Dome (3.40). He has won only once in the last four years, but that success, last season, was also gained over one mile at Goodwood.

CHAMPION STAKES (Newmarket Saturday) : Coral: 11-10 Montjeu, 7-2 Kalanisi, 9-2 Greek Dance, 5-1 Love Divine, 6-1 Shiva, 10-1 Indian Danehill, 11-1 Indian Lodge, 14-1 Distant Music, 16-1 Holding Court, Slickly, 40-1 others. Ladbrokes: 5-4 Montjeu, 9-2 Kalanisi, 5-1 Love Divine, 11-2 Greek Dance, 7-1 Shiva, 12-1 Indian Danehill, 16-1 Indian Lodge, Distant Music, Holding Court, Slickly, 50-1 others.

* Sinndar, winner of the Derby, Irish Derby and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, has been retired to stud. The colt will stand at owner the Aga Khan's Gilltown Stud in Ireland next year. His fee will be IR£30,000.

* Enzeli runs in next month's Melbourne Cup in new ownership. The winner of last year's Gold Cup at Royal Ascot runs in new colours on November 7 at Flemington. A spokesman for trainer John Oxx said last night: "I cannot say who the new owners are. The horse will stay with us in his build-up to the Melbourne Cup and then will be trained in Australia."

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