Presenting takes St Leger road

GLORIOUS GOODWOOD: The final Classic of the season beckons for yesterday's convincing winner of the Gordon Stakes

Racing

GREG WOOD

reports from Goodwood

Given the ill fortune which has dogged him in the Classics so far this season, it is probably an invitation to disaster, but Presenting demonstrated here yesterday that he should be a leading contender for the St Leger in early September. The only advice, perhaps, is to wait until he is safely locked away in the stalls at Doncaster before supporting him with hard cash.

Third in the Derby (when he came from way off the pace), Presenting banged his head as he was being led on to a plane to the Curragh for the Irish equivalent and went straight back home to Newmarket. Yesterday, though, he arrived for the Gordon Stakes after a trouble-free preparation to find the ground baked firm, just the way he likes it, and his determination to succeed was unmistakable.

Presenting and Lanfranco Dettori led at the turn for home, with half a mile still to run, but while Istidaad and Don Corleone both threatened to pass him, Presenting kept finding a little more, an attribute which will serve him well down the long straight at Town Moor.

"It was a hard race today," John Gosden, Presenting's trainer, said. "They started racing as soon as they straightened up and it was a fair old battle." How much it took out of Presenting should become clear in the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York next month, but if the ground is still fast, it is hard to see beyond him.

Presenting's performance was just one of four which set new track records yesterday, with Hever Golf Rose reducing the mark over five furlongs in the King George Stakes, and Brief Glimpse taking almost a second off the seven-furlong record in the Oak Tree Stakes. April The Eighth also improved the juvenile best over six furlongs despite carrying top weight in the nursery.

What this means is that the ground at Goodwood is now as yielding as the average runway, a point to bear in mind when making selections for the rest of the week. It certainly caused no problems to Hever Golf Rose, though since her previous four outings had taken in Sweden, Italy and Germany, it seems likely that there is little left to surprise her.

The astonishment belonged to the spectators, as Hever Golf Rose burned up the stands' rail having started the final two furlongs in last place and caught Eveningperformance with a stride to spare. As a filly who started off in handicaps last year, the similarities with Lochsong, winner of the King George for the last two seasons, are striking. They will be even more so if Hever Golf Rose can take the Group One Nunthorpe Stakes at York next month.

There were no such last second heroics from Silver Groom, who had the William Hill Handicap won before the furlong pole. It was further testament to Reg Akehurst's touch with handicappers, not least because the trainer himself was attending his son's wedding in Barbados.

The victory did not find universal favour, however. James Bethell, who saddled Hunters Of Brora to finish second, pointed out that Silver Groom's recent form was a little less than outstanding. "My horse got a little blocked in about three furlongs out, but where has the winner been?", Bethell said. "He hadn't won any of his last few races and yet runs away with this competitive handicap. It really gets to me."

Similar incidents have recently prompted invitations to the trainers concerned to explain the improvement at the Jockey Club. The Goodwood stewards, by contrast, seemed to view it as just part of the game. While they were probably correct, current policy seems to be no more consistent than the horses concerned.

n Michael Hills, with two wins, leads the Ritz Club Trophy after the first day of Glorious Goodwood. Hills moved to the front after victories on Brief Glimpse and April The Eighth. The first-day crowd of 13,681 was 24 down on the 1994 figure.

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