Heavenly success for Island

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The Independent Online
There were deep clouds and occasional crackling over Trundle Hill yesterday. The noise may have been coming from a party. For the second time in five days the Pearly Gates will have been reverberating to the roars of the Moller brothers, Eric and Budgie, as their chocolate and gold colours were yet again successful in a Group One race, this time with First Island in the Sussex Stakes. And while Pentire, Saturday's King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner, will no longer be cause for celebration following his sale to Japan, First Island will be around for some time to come. So, it seems will be the influence of the brothers.

Eric Moller set aside funds before his death to continue the family influence posthumously under the banner of Mollers Racing. The operation has become self-financing and more following the feats of Petardia, First Trump, Nicolotte and the two recent winners.

Reports that First Island worked well recently with Pentire were not sufficient to put him at the top of the betting market ahead of Charnwood Forest. Perusal of the parade ring would not have put supporters off the favourite either.

While Matiya looked like a midfielder, all chunkiness and blue and white bandages lending the appearance of football socks, and Mistle Cat was almost an apparition with his ghostly greyness, Charnwood Forest stood out. The colt possesses proportions that would accommodate several Trojans and his frame is covered by a taut, gleaming dark hide.

He must be hard to miss, which is just one reason why Michael Hills, First Island's jockey, chose to track him. For a while this policy looked doomed. Charnwood Forest was trapped on the inside and First Island was in even greater trouble on his rival's heels. The favourite eventually managed to snap his shackles, but the chestnut had further problems. First Island was temporarily held up between Alhaarth and Sorbie Tower, but at the furlong point he moved like wet soap between the palms, bursting forward to challenge Charnwood Forest. The big horse was swiftly brushed aside.

"It was a very classy performance," Geoff Wragg, the winning trainer, said. "He's always been a very, very nice and versatile horse, but he's had problems; he put a stifle out terribly when he was younger. He might run next in the International Stakes at York or at Deauville. He's improving all the time and we'll keep him in training next year, when he could develop into an Arc horse."

Michael Hills is developing into one of the country's leading riders, and this success, following Pentire's and Shaamit in the Derby, ensured this will be a season to remember whatever he manages in the future. His identical twin, Richard, on the other hand, would welcome a spot of amnesia.

Hills major (by 20 minutes) was on board the favourite, Sahm, in the Champagne Stakes, a race which has delivered Classic winners such as Troy, Dr Devious, Mister Baileys and Don't Forget Me. Not only did he fail, he was demoted from second to last for irresponsible riding and the jockey was awarded a seven-day suspension.

The contest went to Putra, who has a similar physique to Bambi. The two- year-old is nevertheless a stout performer and he earned a quote of 14- 1 (with William Hill) for next year's 2,000 Guineas.

Another of Putra's qualities is that he requires little pandering. "He is very athletic," Paul Cole, the winning trainer, said. "He is a horse who trains himself." The Whatcombe man did not comment on whether this meant he would be returning a portion of the training fee to Putra's owner.

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