Sendawar primed to be princely

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Racegoers spent almost as much time looking at the sky as they did at the Ascot track yesterday, as a series of dark clouds threatened to destroy several million pounds-worth of millinery. Even a monsoon may not divert attention from the course at 3.45 this afternoon, however, when the confrontation between Dubai Millennium, possibly the finest racehorse on the planet, and Sendawar, who is rated just 3lb his inferior by Timeform, should make the Prince of Wales's Stakes the most enthralling encounter of this Royal meeting.

Racegoers spent almost as much time looking at the sky as they did at the Ascot track yesterday, as a series of dark clouds threatened to destroy several million pounds-worth of millinery. Even a monsoon may not divert attention from the course at 3.45 this afternoon, however, when the confrontation between Dubai Millennium, possibly the finest racehorse on the planet, and Sendawar, who is rated just 3lb his inferior by Timeform, should make the Prince of Wales's Stakes the most enthralling encounter of this Royal meeting.

In Dubai Millennium's camp at least, there seems little doubt that their horse will prove superior. "We think we will beat Sendawar quite comfortably," Simon Crisford, Godolphin's racing manager, said yesterday, and he is not normally a man to offer hostages to fortune. The bookies, however, can barely split them, with Hills offering Dubai Millennium at 10-11, with 5-4 against Sendawar, and 12-1 bar.

Godolphin clearly believe that Dubai Millennium is every bit as fit and talented now as he was when he cantered home in the Dubai World Cup in March, while Sendawer proved that he has trained on from three to four with a facile success in the Group One Prix d'Ispahan at Longchamp.

A key factor in today's race, though, could be one of the few which is beyond even the power of Sheikh Mohammed to alter. Sendawar, for all that the going was good to soft at Longchamp last month, would like the ground as fast as possible today, while his main rival would prefer something a little easier. Despite the heatwave which swept Britain last weekend, Ascot added plenty of water artificially, and yesterday received a steady two hours of the natural variety. By this afternoon, the going could be either yesterday's good to firm, or a more demanding good to soft.

Pace, too, is always a concern in small fields, although Rhythm Band has been entered by Godolphin to ensure that they do not crawl through the early furlongs. A true gambler might take a chance with a horse like King Adam, who comes from a top yard and has undoubted potential, since the only way to get rich by backing either principal is to be rich enough to bet a hefty sum in the first place. One of the two champions will surely prevail, though, and if there is no significant rain before the race, expect it to be Sendawar (3.45), whose form - the only horse to beat him last year was Montjeu - reads every bit as well as that of Dubai Millennium.

The race for punters rather than purists is the Royal Hunt Cup, in which CALCUTTA (nap 4.20) stands every chance of giving Barry Hills his second successive victory in the race. As a three-year-old, he was a progressive handicapper with an excellent turn of foot, and he has been brought to hand very carefully this year, no doubt with today's race in mind. At 16-1 he makes much more appeal than the favourite, Caribbean Monarch, who has disappointed when strongly fancied on each of his runs this season.

The Jersey Stakes is probably a race to avoid, although Danceabout (2.30) showed the potential to win a good race on her debut at Goodwood, and has a trainer with a fine Ascot pedigree in Geoff Wragg. Prairie Falcon (next best 5.30) should go well in the Ascot Stakes, assuming the ground is no softer than good, while Celtic Silence (4.55) and Al Ihsas (3.05) also hold sound claims.

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