Pennekamp prepares for greatness

RACING: Fabre's Classic contender can throw down gauntlet to Celtic Swing in duel for supremacy
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It may be co-incidence, but the great horses in racing history often seem to come in pairs. Mill Reef and Brigadier Gerard, Arkle and Mill House, Sea Pigeon and Monksfield - the only thing more exciting than a supreme racehorse, it seems, is a supreme racehorse with some serious opposition.

At Newbury a week today, Celtic Swing will, we hope, show that the brilliance of his juvenile days has survived the winter. At Evry today, Pennekamp, who was his closest rival in the International Classification, embarks on his own Classic campaign, and if both can live up to expectations, the 1995 season will be one of the finest in living memory.

Pennekamp's reappearance in the Prix Djebel has arrived almost unnoticed, which is a little unfair on a horse who in most other years would be a hot favourite for the 2,000 Guineas. He looked every inch a future Classic winner in the Dewhurst Stakes last year, when he travelled comfortably behind a good pace before a brilliant burst of speed took him past Green Perfume and Eltish, and he should have no trouble at all today against four modest rivals, one of whom is his pacemaker.

Evry's second Guineas trial, the Prix Imprudence for fillies, is much more competitive, with Macoumba, last year's Prix Marcel Boussac winner, facing five opponents including Tereshkova, who has placed form at Group One level, and the highly-rated Smolensk (USA), who is no relation to the Jack Berry-trained runner of the same name at Haydock today.

The trial cycle kicks off in Britain, too, with the Easter Stakes (colts) and Masaka Stakes (fillies) at Kempton, not to mention a conditions event featuring John Gosden's Presenting, a much whispered-about Derby entry. Neither is regularly won by a serious Guineas prospect, though today's running of the Easter Stakes does include Stiletto Blade, fifth to Pennekamp in the Dewhurst. In the Masaka, Hiwaya (40-1 for the 1,000 Guineas) and Spout (33-1) are the only runners with any real hope of travelling on to Newmarket.

Indeed, the Durante Conditions Stakes may turn out to be the most significant event on the card. As well as Presenting, Al Widyan (by Slip Anchor out of the French Oaks winner Rafha) is expected to be very useful at middle distances this year, while Commoner and Warning Order are others to watch with interest.

The feature event at Haydock is the Field Marshal Stakes over five furlongs. At one runner per furlong, the field might appear somewhat thin, but Jack Berry is optimistic that Mind Games can step into Lochsong's horseshoes as the country's best sprinter. If he can give the 5lb sex allowance to Mark Johnston's useful filly Millstream, Berry's dream may turn out to have some substance. Further Flight, now a nine-year-old, is another welcome sight in the opening conditions event.

There are four National Hunt meetings today, but even the possibility of a couple of easy winners in thin holiday weekend fields has not persuaded Richard Dunwoody to return to the saddle. Dunwoody suffered a heavy fall on Wednesday and has decided not to ride until Monday.

Also below his best is Jodami, who was a surprising absentee from the list of final declarations for the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse on Monday. The 1993 Gold Cup winner ran poorly when well-backed to regain the championship at Cheltenham last month, and Peter Beaumont, his trainer, said yesterday: "He's lacked that bit of sparkle he needs and we will put him out to grass now. We'll bring him back next season and the Grand National will be his target."