Racing: Abundant stamina gives Abury an edge: Domestic durability can prevail in the Oaks while the Prix du Jockey Club may go to a son of the Brave

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FURTHER evidence this week that the horse strains emanating from the United States are exerting a damaging influence on the Epsom Classics.

The American obsession with speed, and breeding from fast animals, means the thoroughbreds that are funnelled into European racing are becoming increasingly incapable of coping with the 12 furlongs of the Derby and Oaks.

One observation on Commander In Chief's Derby was that of the six North American- bred horses in the race, none finished in the first six. The trend runs deeper than that, however, as the vast majority of the Arab- owned animals now on our courses have American ancestry.

Notable among those that have failed in the Oaks are Shadayid, who was outstayed by Jet Ski Lady in 1991, and All At Sea, whose stamina did not match User Friendly's 12 months ago.

This afternoon's Oaks looks an oasis in this worrying trend, though, as there are several fillies whose best distance may be the Classic trip of 1 1/2 miles (Bashayer, Gisarne and Sueboog do not get into this group).

Yawl, the ante-post favourite, has both the breeding and style of running for this assignment, as she was produced from a coupling between the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Rainbow Quest and Bireme, the winner here in 1980. For those moved by omens, she has the shadow of Barry Hills's Epsom misfortune over her, however.

Hills has never won either the Derby or the Oaks, but the number of hard-luck stories he has gathered along the way suggests he spurns the gypsies on the way into the course.

The jockey arrangements apparently show that Intrepidity is the best of Sheikh Mohammed's three runners, but she should not beat Wemyss Bight on their respective efforts in France against Dancienne.

The most runs going into the race have come from Marillette, who competes for the 11th time, while perhaps the most intriguing single effort was Oakmead's run at Newmarket last month when she split the subsequent Derby first and second, Commander In Chief and Blue Judge.

Oakmead, though, is not even the first choice of her trainer, Peter Chapple-Hyam, who also saddles Abury. Several of today's fillies have shown they should last the Oaks trip, but only ABURY (nap 4.05) has displayed that the longer distance is imperative.

If Wemyss Bight does succeed, though, she will set up a remarkable four-timer for her sire, Dancing Brave. The champion racehorse of 1986 has already provided Commander In Chief and White Muzzle (Derby Italiano) as Classic winners in the last week, and is represented in tomorrow's Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) at Chantilly by the favourite, Regency. He should win as well, as his record reads better than that of Hunting Hawk. Hernando, the Longchamp conqueror of Armiger, looks to be a 10-furlong horse.

Newton's Law, who has form with the Derby placed horses Blue Judge and Blues Traveller, is the sole British runner and has place prospects at best.

Francois Boutin's Arinthod is the only European challenger in the final leg of the American Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, tonight. Prairie Bayou and Sea Hero, winners of the Preakness Stakes and Kentucky Derby respectively, will dominate the betting here, but neither will dominate the race like the great Secretariat did 20 years ago.

The original 'Big Red' made the 1973 Belmont Stakes one of the most memorable races ever run, his checked-hooded head coming home 31 lengths clear in a time two seconds faster than any other Belmont before or since. The days when staying horses like Secretariat were celebrated in America are, sadly, no more.

PRIX DU JOCKEY-CLUB (Chantilly, tomorrow): Known Lover (trained Mme C Head) ridden M De Smyter; Regency (Mme C Head) Pat Eddery; Fort Wood (A Fabre) W R Swinburn; Hunting Hawk (A Fabre) T Jarnet; Badolato (A Spanu) L Dettori; Sin Kiang (J de Roualle) E Legrix; Shandon Lake (J Bolger, Irl) C Roche; Dernier Empereur (A Fabre) S Guillot; Hernando (F Boutin) C Asmussen; Newton's Law (P Chapple-Hyam, GB) J Reid; Freezing Bird (Mme C Head) F Head.

BETTING: 6-5 Regency & Known Lover (coupled), 9-4 Hunting Hawk & Fort Wood (coupled), 9-2 Hernando, 8 Sin Kiang, 11 Freezing Bird, 14 Dernier Empereur, 20 Newton's Law, 33 Shandon Lake, 200 Badoalto.

Channel 4 will screen a recording of the Prix du Jockey-Club in a 30-minute programme commencing at 11.10pm.