Moonax underlines Godolphin's staying power

RACING : The St Leger winner returns to stamp his authority on the last day of a Dante meeting short on significant Classic clues
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The Independent Online
The trials for the Derby and Oaks may have been disappointing, but on its final day the Dante meeting reminded us what a real Classic winner looks like. Moonax, the 1994 St Leger winner, was magnificent in the parade ring and even better on the track, taking the Group Two Yorkshire Cup with an air of authority which few stayers will match this summer.

His success took the recent haul of Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin operation to an almost embarrassing level, and the disturbing thought for anyone considering taking them on is that their team has yet to reach full strength. Balanchine, last year's Oaks and Irish Derby winner, is due to return to competition at Royal Ascot, by which time both Epsom Classics might conceivably have fallen to the royal blue silks (Moonshell is 5-2 second- favourite for the Oaks, while Vettori now seems certain to go to post for the Derby and will do so with a significant chance).

Moonax, meanwhile, will be aimed at the Ascot Gold Cup, and the strength and enthusiasm which marked yesterday's defeat of Parthian Springs and Shambo will make him a popular selection on Ladies' Day. There will be an extra six furlongs to travel, but Pat Eddery, his jockey, will be surprised if Moonax's stamina drains away on the turn for home. "Two and a half miles at Ascot won't stop him," Eddery said. "He's won going away today, and he'll stay really well."

The Leger winner, unusually for one of Godolphin's horses, returned yesterday evening to the trainer who prepared him last year, Barry Hills, rather than the operation's headquarters in Newmarket. "That was always the plan," Simon Crisford, Godolphin's racing manager, said. "He won two Classics for Barry, which is different to being a maiden winner." Hills, watching from the weighing-room steps as Moonax returned, had the air of a satisfied man.

Eddery too will have left the Knavesmire a happy man, thanks to the subsequent victory on Lake Coniston in the card's other Pattern event, the Duke of York Stakes, which also promised even better to come. Lake Coniston quickened away from all but So Factual - another Godolphin representative -to justify his price of 8-11, even though Geoff Lewis, his trainer, had feared that the colt was short of his best.

"We still haven't made it yet and he's got to win a Group One before he can be called a top sprinter," Lewis said, "but potentially he's the best horse I've had anything to do with." The Cork and Orrery Stakes at Royal Ascot and Prix Maurice du Gheest at Deauville are expected to be his assignments.

The Glasgow Stakes has a history of throwing up apparently live Derby outsiders which are unsighted once the gates open at Epsom (the honourable exception is Commander In Chief), and yesterday's winner, Tamure, does not impress as the sort to buck the trend. That said, his hard-fought defeat of Minds Music, with the remaining three runners soundly beaten, looked rather better a couple of hours later when Sebastian, second to Tamure at Newmarket recently, won by 10 lengths at Salisbury.

John Gosden, Tamure's trainer, nominated the Derby as the colt's next race, but with at least three parts hope to one part expectation. "If he's well he would have to take his chance," Gosden said, "and the one thing about him is that he wants all of a mile and a half. He went for a gap today and then got squeezed, and I was impressed that having let them get first run on him he still managed to get there." It was probably significant, however, that even bookmakers desperate to inject a little spice into a lifeless Derby market were not prepared to cut his odds. Tamure is a 25-1 chance for Epsom with Coral this morning, just as he was 24 hours ago.