Tobougg puts Wanna Bein his place

The names that may become next year's household ones are already being spoken abroad. This weekend 12 months ago Giant's Causeway in France and Sinndar in Ireland stepped into the spotlight; yesterday at Longchamp Tobougg followed in the iron horse's hoofprints in the Prix de la Salamandre and today at the Curragh 10 wannabe Derby winners face the starter in the National Stakes.

The names that may become next year's household ones are already being spoken abroad. This weekend 12 months ago Giant's Causeway in France and Sinndar in Ireland stepped into the spotlight; yesterday at Longchamp Tobougg followed in the iron horse's hoofprints in the Prix de la Salamandre and today at the Curragh 10 wannabe Derby winners face the starter in the National Stakes.

Though only four two-year-olds lined up for the Salamandre they were a representative enough bunch of the best of their age. Bad As I Wanna Be, trained by Brian Meehan in Upper Lambourn, was the one with the points on the board at this Group One level, having taken last month's Prix Morny at Deauville in devastating fashion, and Tobougg, Honours List and Wooden Doll, all brimful of promise, had between them taken five lesser races from six outings.

A forgotten passport prevented Tobougg's trainer, Mick Channon, from making the trip to Paris to supervise his charge, but such was the nonchalance of the colt's two-length defeat of Irish raider Honours List that he almost could have done it without his jockey, never mind his trainer. Mick Kinane set a spanking pace on Honours List but inside the last of the seven furlongs Craig Williams did not have to ask Tobougg too hard for the bay to lengthen past his rival and win easing down with his ears pricked. Some way behind, Wooden Doll, the only French-trained runner and only filly, stayed on to deprive Bad As I Wanna Be, who had pulled hard early, of third place.

Tobougg, a son of mile champion Barathea and Prix de Diane (French Oaks) winner Lacovia, cost his owner, Sheikh Ahmed, 230,000 guineas as a yearling and was the least experienced in the field, having won on his debut in a York maiden only 17 days previously. "We have always thought he was of the highest quality," said Channon, who watched the race on TV at Newbury after being turned back at the airport, "but he has a rather quirky temperament at home, which is why his first appearance was delayed somewhat."

Yesterday's victory was Channon's first Group One in France and a first in Europe for the Australian Williams. Tobougg is likely to tackle either the Dewhurst or Racing Post next, although whether he remains at West Ilsley this winter remains to be seen; he is owned by Sheikh Mohammed's young brother and his success yesterday will have caught the eyes of the Godolphin scouts. "He will stay a mile, and goes on any ground," said Channon.

Having thoroughly tested the firepower of the opposition on one of the Ballydoyle supporting cast, Kinane will be in the saddle on one of the yard's perceived stars, Darwin, in the National Stakes, another seven-furlong test for juveniles, today. The Danehill colt, acquired for team Coolmore for 500,000 guineas as a foal, hacked up by seven lengths on his debut in May and is accompanied to post by three stablemates, including last year's 1.7m-guinea purchase Beckett. The Mark Johnston-trained Down To The Woods, a winner at Doncaster last week, is the sole British challenger.

Even apart from Giant's Causeway (who will face old rival Best Of The Bests in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Saturday after the Godolphin colt was supplemented to the Ascot feature yesterday), the Salamandre has proved a reliable guide to future élite form, with the likes of Hector Protector, Arazi, Zafonic, Kingmambo, Celtic Arms, Penne- kamp, Xaar, Aljabr and Bachir among the winners and placees in the past 10 years. The National Stakes, too, has produced its share of top-class horses; Desert King and King of Kings won in 1996 and 1997.

Britain's contribution to the two-year-old scene this weekend, yesterday's Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury, is named after a better horse than any of these, but has nothing like the status as a pointer. The only colt who progressed from the race to Classic glory was Mon Fils, who took the 1973 2,000 Guineas at 50-1.

If the latest winner, Bouncing Bowdler, is to find future fame it will probably be as a sprinter, but the Mujadil colt is nothing if not game, thrusting his nose in front of Pomfret Lad's on the line with Bram Stoker a neck away third. The Mark Johnston-trained winner, running over six furlongs for the first time, also has consistency to his credit; in nine runs he has picked up three firsts, five seconds and a third.

At Ayr, David Nicholls' eight-horse assault on the Gold Cup reaped its reward when Bahamian Pirate, one of the least fancied not just of the octet but of the 28-strong field at 33-1, burst clear of 50-1 shot Lago Di Varano to take the historic sprint handicap by a length and a quarter. It was very much a family affair; the winner was ridden by his trainer's 19-year-old son Adrian, who lost his apprentice claim in the process. Guinea Hunter (25-1) took the minor place, followed by 8-1 favourite Gaelic Storm.

At the Curragh, Arctic Owl, trained by James Fanshawe, relegated Yavana's Pace (Mark Johnston) to the runner-up spot in the Irish St Leger for the second successive year with Godolphin's Mutafaweq taking third to make it a clean sweep for the visitors. Patiently ridden by David Harrison, the six-year-old winner quickened to lead inside the final quarter of a mile and an assault on the Melbourne Cup in November is now under consideration.

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