Lake Coniston lands speed title

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The Independent Online

reports from Newmarket

A sprinter to take on the magnetic mantle of Dayjur and Lochsong arrived here yesterday when Lake Coniston burst to a four-length success in the July Cup. The colt, according to the immediate judgement of official handicappers, is as good a speed horse as we have ever seen.

Lake Coniston was rushed to the head of the historical rankings before his ribs had stopped heaving. "You wouldn't be afraid to put him up against any other sprinter of the last 25 years and that includes Dayjur," Matthew Tester, the official sprint handicapper, said. "That was an exceptional performance."

It also signalled an exceptional turnaround in the fortunes of Pat Eddery. On Wednesday, the Irishman picked up a 19-day ban and was also found guilty of irresponsible riding, which would have tempted others to lock the study door, pour a stiff drink and get a pistol out of the drawer. This, however, is not Eddery's style. "When I spoke to him this morning you'd have thought he'd ridden a treble," Geoff Lewis, Lake Coniston's trainer, said. Eddery's demeanour was probably helped by the notion that he might complete a treble, a feat he did achieve by also partnering Allied Forces and Danehill Dancer to success.

Lake Coniston was just one of several beasts possessing outstanding looks as the field circled in the paddock before yesterday's Group One event. Around the oval track there was the sight of So Factual mincing around as if his shoes were a size too small, Sergeyev dribbling like a baby and Piccolo noisily chomping his bit in the manner of a schoolboy crunching boiled sweets. There was little time to assess the favourite, however. He was taken to post early.

The four-year-old was also taken to the front early by Eddery. "He's so quick early that he burns them off and if anything ever leads him you can be sure it will be going too fast," the jockey reported. "From a furlong and a half out he just quickened away from them off a good pace. He's as good a sprinter as I've ever ridden and today he was unbeatable."

Lewis, who won this race in 1963 as a jockey, praised just about everyone but his dustbinmen in the post-race melee. Lake Coniston was the best horse he had ever trained, Eddery the best jockey. "Pat's a pretty easy- going guy, as you can tell by the way he takes his suspensions without growling," he said. "He's the best ambassador you can get as a jockey, but he's being crucified at the moment for silly little things. To get the punishment he's had is criminal. Pat, pound for pound, is still the best around."

As a rider himself, Lewis won just about everything that was going, but this was his first ever Group One success as a trainer in Britain, although he has won at that level in France and Italy. The silver-haired Epsom man will be 60 at the end of the year, by which time he expects to have carried away two further notable prizes in his holdall.

Lake Coniston will be rested now before reappearing in what Lewis yesterday referred to as "the Vernons", which is rather like maintaining that Chester is still called Deva. The sprint in question now goes by the name of the Haydock Park Sprint Cup, which should be fairly easy to annex as Lake Coniston will be meeting little more than the animals he defeated yesterday.

His final assignment is more problematical. In late October, Lewis is planning a venture to the Breeders' Cup Sprint, to be held at Belmont Park. By delicious irony the series returns to the New York circuit at which Dayjur, Lake Coniston's predecessor as Britain's startling speed machine, jumped a shadow with the race at his mercy in 1990.

Win, lose or draw, Lewis will be able to reflect that, as in the case of Eddery this week, racing has taken him full circle. This autumn, the man who began his working life as a bellboy at London's Waldorf Hotel will be able to have his bags carried in the Waldorf-Astoria of the Big Apple.

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