Pivotal can spin fortune of French rival

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The Independent Online
Two worlds collide at Newmarket this afternoon when the best dragsters from Britain and France meet in the July Cup. Sir Mark Prescott's Pivotal and Mind Games, who is trained by Jack Berry, meet the best sprinting colt from the land of the beret, Anabaa.

The French horse has won all four of his races this year by an aggregate of 17 lengths in the manner of an animal who has been granted a considerable reprieve. This is fitting. As a two-year-old Anabaa was diagnosed as a "wobbler", an animal prone to convulsive fits because of a spinal problem. This condition usually leads to an early grave, but, just as the cartridges were being loaded, the colt's owner, Maktoum Al Maktoum, granted a stay of execution by giving the horse to Alec Head. He got better after that.

Whether he is better than Britain's best is put to the test this afternoon. Pivotal and Mind Games were separated by the width of the track and half a length in Royal Ascot's King's Stand Stakes and the former's hegemony should be maintained today as he is more likely to be suited by the extra furlong.

If Pivotal does succeed he will be Prescott's first Group One winner in 25 years with a licence. He is looking forward to welcoming that distinction to Heath House.

"A Group One winner is a rare bird here and if it does arrive in the dovecote I'll make a fuss of it," the Newmarket trainer said yesterday. "My horse is not any better physically than he was at Ascot, but there is an argument that he might improve for the extra furlong and the extra education. On form he should beat all the English horses if he's as well, and he's as lucky, as he was at Ascot. But nobody knows about the French horse."

The academics who study speed figures think they have a rough idea though and their information is that Pivotal (next best 3.40) will prevail.

The opening encounter on the July course should got to Makhbar (2.05), who won at this course last month, while Persian Punch (2.35) has a sporting chance of reversing Queen's Vase form from Royal Ascot with Athenry. Fahim (3.05), who had three subsequent winners directly behind him, including Tuesday's victor here Crown Court, at Beverley last time is another to consider.

Finding the winner of the Bunbury Cup is usually as astounding as uncovering the secrets of alchemy but this year there are sound reasons to back CRUMPTON HILL (nap 4.10). The gelding has already been placed in the handicap jungles of Kempton's Jubilee Handicap and the Royal Hunt Cup and is now drawn on what appears to be the more advantageous ground on the far side of the track.

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