Racing: Alight has speed to block Sky

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The Independent Online
THERE have, as always, been several performances at Ascot this week to enthral the purists, those for whom the sight of man and beast in headlong, athletic unison is the greatest thrill of all. For those of us with a more mercenary attitude, however, there are just two victories which stand out, those of Refuse To Lose in the Hunt Cup and Rosselli in the Norfolk Stakes.

Both were drawn low on the straight course, and both stuck to the stands rail like the hare at Hackney dogs ("right up the paint", as the commentator put it in the case of Rosselli). Not only is the ground clearly faster on the near side, it also seems to be progressively so through the final three furlongs, which is particularly interesting given that the two feature events on the final day of the Royal meeting are both sprints.

The draw, it seems, is becoming more important as the meeting progresses, and horses with a high stall in either the Wokingham Handicap or the King's Stand Stakes may need to run the race of their lives simply to reach the frame. The picture is a complicated somewhat in the Wokingham by the presence of Selhurstpark Flyer, a front-runner and last year's winner, in stall 20, but with World Premier, another front-runner, emerging from stall 10, both sides should receive a decent lead.

The ante-post favourite for the Wokingham is Sheltering Sky, who has a good draw in seven and will set off at a ridiculously short price for such a competitive handicap. Though he is quite possibly a Group horse in a handicap, his habit of finding trouble in running, which cost him the race last time out at York, is a serious concern. It should be remembered that Danetime, who did indeed prove to be a top-class sprinter, could finish only second in the Wokingham last year when the gaps did not appear.

A far more interesting bet at the early odds of 14-1 is ALWAYS ALIGHT (nap 3.45), who should be able to sit in behind the pace from stall three and quicken past World Premier in the final furlong. Karl Burke, his trainer, has already won an Ayr Gold Cup with Daring Destiny, and he can collect another of the season's most prestigious sprint handicaps this afternoon.

Sheltering Sky is as short as 4-1 for the Wokingham this morning, but in the Group Two King's Stand Stakes, Coral are betting 11-2 the field. Among their favourites, however, is the French challenger Sainte Marine, drawn 15 of 17 and easy to dismiss as a result.

Instead, the finish should be between Bollin Joanne and Lochangel (next best 4.20), a half-sister to Lochsong who has started to show unusual improvement as a four-year-old, just like her famous relative.

Swain seems sure to start favourite for the Hardwicke Stakes, as he richly deserves to following his success over course and distance in the King George last year. Rugged and reliable though he is, however, his run behind Silver Patriarch in the Coronation Cup at Epsom earlier this month was not all that might be expected, and his Group One penalty may find him out today. Stage Affair (3.05) could be the one to benefit, while Royal Anthem (2.30) and Yorkshire (5.30) are others to bear in mind.

n Cape Verdi is to drop back to a mile when she returns to action next month. She has been pencilled in for the Falmouth Stakes at the Newmarket July Meeting. Godolphin are satisfied that their 1,000 Guineas winner has recovered from her exertions in the Derby when she was a disappointing ninth.