Parisian Lady a high flier

A sprinter trained on a mountain top can reach a hat-trick of victories at Newmarket today. Greg Wood reports
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There is little point denying that the athletes on the minds of many punters this afternoon will be the ones in football boots kicking off a new season, something which those in charge of the racing programme seem to have acknowledged with two relatively low-key televised meetings, but for one small trainer from north Devon, it could be the most rewarding day of his short career.

Tony Newcombe will saddle Parisian Lady in the Sweet Solera Stakes at Newmarket, and victory for the filly who cost him just 2,000 guineas as a yearling would be a priceless advertisement for his 30-horse yard near Barnstaple.

If Newmarket is the headquarters of Flat racing, then Barnstaple is about as out-of-the-way as it is possible to get, and the nearest Flat track to Newcombe's yard is 130 miles distant, but he would not have it any other way. ``People keep telling me I should move if I want to progress in the racing world,'' he said yesterday, ``but I tell them that if I did that, I'd be giving away my No 1 weapon.''

That vital advantage is the ability to train his horses at altitude, a traditional technique among human athletes but one neglected for thoroughbreds, no doubt because the top of a mountain is not an ideal location for a racing yard.

``We're 900 feet above sea level,'' Newcombe says, ``but we also get a warm breeze from the Gulf Stream, and we seem to have got an oasis which produces freak blood counts in our horses. They have a very high level of haemoglobin, which means that there's a lot of oxygen in their blood, and we've done particularly well with staying horses because of it.''

Staying was never going to be Parisian Lady's game, however. A daughter of the sprinter Paris House, she also has Group-winning blood on her dam's side, which makes it all the more surprising that she could have been bought so cheaply.

``She was a bit leggy,'' Newcombe recalls, ``and people didn't really take a shine to her, but there was nothing wrong with her and with that sort of pedigree, we thought it was worth taking the chance.''

His judgement was vindicated after just 71 seconds of Parisian Lady's racing career, when she repaid her purchase price with victory in a Salisbury maiden at 33-1, breaking the track record in the process. ``Next time up,'' her trainer says, ``she hammered four good horses by nine lengths. The firm ground at Newmarket will suit her. She's got a big chance.''

The locally-trained Eloquent will be a difficult opponent, but PARISIAN LADY (nap 3.35) has impressed on the clock in both her starts, and the first day of the football season would be an appropriate moment for her to complete her hat-trick.

Handicaps form the remainder of the televised card at headquarters, where Cosmic Prince (4.10) and Farmost (4.40) hold strong chances, and two-thirds of the action from Haydock. Among the favourites for the five-furlong Coral Handicap will be Blessingindisguise, whose trainer, Mick Easterby, was fined pounds 2,500 by the Jockey Club earlier this week in connection with a non-trier offence, a financial setback which would be all but erased by success for his runner today. Another runner who comes into the race after three wins on the trot may frustrate him, however, since Fairy Prince (next best 3.50) has crept in on a very attractive mark.

The feature race at Haydock is the Group Three Rose of Lancaster Stakes, which should be a straightforward assigment for Germano (3.15). Geoff Wragg's colt was beaten a neck in a Listed event at Newbury last time out, a solid peformance which gives him every chance in what appears to be a field consisting mainly of horses in various stages of decline. In the earlier handicap, meanwhile, Tertium (2.45) can break a losing streak which has much more to do with misfortune than any lack of ability on his part.