Racimg: Homage from Cecil after Sham's show

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The Independent Online
When certain jockeys return to the winners' enclosure and insist that their mount is "the best I've ridden", they are met by a chorus of knowing sniggers from an audience which has heard it all a hundred times before. When Henry Cecil offers a similar judgement, however, everyone listens, and the tight huddle around the most successful trainer of the last two decades was an oasis of silence here yesterday as Cecil declared Bosra Sham to be the finest horse ever to carry one of his saddlecloths.

This, remember, is a man who has prepared 19 English Classic winners, horses like Reference Point and Oh So Sharp, Old Vic, Diminuendo and Wollow, but after Bosra Sham's eight-length stroll in the Prince of Wales's Stakes, no one was in a mood to argue. "I've never said it before and I almost hate to do it now because so many of them have been good to me," Cecil said, "but I think she deserves it now."

Bosra Sham has now won seven of her eight starts, with a second place to Mark Of Esteem in last year's Queen Elizabeth II Stakes the only blemish on an otherwise perfect record. The field for yesterday's race was one of the poorest she has faced, but the burst of speed which carried her clear in the straight was breathtaking none the less, and Cecil is now planning a campaign which could mark her down as one of the finest competitors that any of us have seen.

"As we are going to see her for the rest of the year, let's try and appreciate her because we might not get another one like this for some time," Cecil said. "She will run next in the Eclipse [at Sandown on 5 July], and then it's whether we go for the Sussex Stakes, or the King George or the International at York. I'm not sure whether to run her over 12 furlongs [in the King George], I'd hate to ruin her, she doesn't deserve it."

To add the King George to her Group One wins at eight and 10 furlongs would secure Bosra Sham's place in turf history, and Kieren Fallon, her jockey, is confident that she has what it takes. "I think she'll stay a mile and a half," Fallon said. "I would prefer to step her up rather than go back to a mile, but she's got so much speed I think she can do either."

For the second year running, a former Cecil resident who now races in the royal blue of Godolphin took the first race of the meeting, the Queen Anne Stakes, but while Charnwood Forest's win 12 months ago was just one more stopping-off point on the road to the trainers' title, it was a much- needed moment of relief for the men from Dubai when Allied Forces held off Centre Stalls yesterday.

"We've been in the wilderness for a long time so it's nice to be back in the winner's enclosure," Simon Crisford, Godolphin's racing manager, said. "I don't believe there has been a problem, 90 per cent of it has been that the horses haven't been good enough and we've been asking them to compete at a level that's a little too tough for them. We've decided to move out a lot of older horses, bring in the young players and bring them along for next year."

Another hint for 1998 was Harbour King's success in the Coventry Stakes, a first win on the Flat in Britain for Aidan O'Brien. The nudge, however, may be towards King Of Kings, another of O'Brien's two-year-olds, whom the trainer conceded "might have a length or two" on Harbour King. A more immediately relevant snippet is that Harbour King is said to be the worst of O'Brien's four juveniles at Ascot this week.