Mark Of Esteem poised to exploit the Alhaarth hype

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The Independent Online
When it comes to racing, the senses are not equal. For some unfortunate reason (and greed and gullibility are among the likely explanations) people are happier to trust their ears rather than their eyes.

A perfect example has come in recent days following reports that Alhaarth, this afternoon's 2,000 Guineas favourite, has been sweeping up the Lambourn gallops like a summer bush fire. Reaction to this work was such that many who saw the colt lose his unbeaten record in the Craven Stakes will have upended their wastepaper baskets and erected the ironing board to revive their winter ante-post vouchers.

Alhaarth, once again, seems to be a flying machine, despite the one piece of evidence we witnessed at Newmarket last month. On that day, Dick Hern's colt did not seem to be the most tractable of partners for Willie Carson and looked quite pedestrian when passed by Beauchamp King. Since then Carson has voiced the belief that Alhaarth, the champion juvenile, may have been at his peak as a two-year-old and others have now caught him up, that his best days are already in the photograph album.

However, anecdotal testimony from the trial grounds has forced Alhaarth back into short-priced favouritism. To help him, the colt has a pacemaker in Masehaab, which appears further admission that he is not the great horse once predicted. The pantheon of racing's wonders does not have an annex for their outriders. Alhaarth, without doubt, is dire value.

More worthy of consideration is his Craven Stakes conqueror, Beauchamp King, who is being driven out to almost each-way level. It is an incongruity of this grey that while he has been winning his last five races nobody has thought he was any good. Even his trainer, John Dunlop, considered him to be almost a stone below the highest level last year. Beauchamp King seems likely to go close, though the eclipse of the Craven third, Polaris Flight, in the Premio Parioli (Italian 2,000 Guineas) on Sunday is a little worrying.

Beauchamp King was just in front of Storm Trooper at Ascot last season and the latter's trainer, Henry Cecil, entertains thoughts of revenge. "Last year he was very weak and at Ascot the ground was very testing and he couldn't go on it at all," he said this week. "On faster ground and with normal improvement we might be able to give him [Beauchamp King] a race.''

Storm Trooper, it must be said, became a consideration for the Classic almost as an afterthought. Before he won at the Craven meeting he was virtually an unknown among the betting public.

Barry Hills's Royal Applause is a threat if he stays, but that if is the size of the letters that depict Hollywood in the Californian hills. Danehill Dancer also has his supporters, but worthy as the winner of the Greenham Stakes (a poor provider of subsequent Guineas winners) appears to be, it will be a disappointment if he is the cream of the Classic generation. While visitors to the Rowley Mile will be cupping Bovril in their hands today, Danehill Dancer's owner, Michael Tabor, will be sipping mint juleps as he watches other members of his string at Louisville in the Kentucky Derby.

Of the fancied horses we are left with, MARK OF ESTEEM (nap 3.45) who was with Cecil last year until Sheikh Mohammed's trucks pulled up. At the time he was considered just about the best Warren Place had to offer.

This colt is just a neck behind Alhaarth on last year's form and has subsequently spent a winter under a parasol in the Gulf. Team Godolphin again proved yesterday that a long flight from Dubai had not upset their constitution when Mick's Love won the Newmarket Stakes.

It is no secret that Mick's Love and Mark Of Esteem were not considered to be in the same Emirate by Godolphin. The nearest they got to each other was in the dictionary and with his team once again bubbling it seems senseless to desert their captain.

Tomorrow's 1,000 Guineas is messy following the return of Bosra Sham's foot problems. Some would argue the filly could win the Classic with one leg in a plaster cast, but whether she runs at all will not be known until shortly before the race.

Her absence would seriously devalue the event but it will hardly have winning connections wailing in anguish. They may again be the band that has just unpacked as Bint Shadayid (3.45) the filly who looks as though she has swallowed a wardrobe of coathangers, is the form choice for Godolphin on her second to Bosra Sham in last year's Fillies Mile at Ascot.

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