Racing: Aljabr ready to complete renaissance

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The Independent Online
IT SEEMED we had seen the unravelling of a racehorse at Churchill Downs in the spring. Aljabr, Godolphin's unbeaten two-year-old, had amused the locals with eccentric track behaviour in the build-up to the Kentucky Derby. Then, two days before the run for the roses, the grey broke down physically as well with muscle problems. He seemed to have gone.

Three months on, however, Aljabr goes into today's Group One Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood as the prospective champion miler of Europe. He is expected to improve from his praiseworthy second to Sendawar in the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, and races such as the Prix du Moulin and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes are back on the agenda.

It may even be that the abortive trip to the United States was the making of the horse. "The very positive thing that came out of America was that it settled his mind," Simon Crisford, the Godolphin racing manager, said yesterday. "Beforehand he had been a little bit nervy, but the training at Churchill Downs settled him. Mentally, he is more mature and, hopefully, now we'll see a really professional performance.

"He ran very well at Royal Ascot considering his preparation. He'd travelled 19,000 miles, taken in a trip to the States. Since Ascot he's been doing really nicely, working well."

Some stunning horses have won the Sussex Stakes: Zilzal, Brigadier Gerard and, 40 years ago to the day, the mighty grey Petite Etoile was pointed home by Lester Piggott at 1-10.

If another of her hue is to succeed today then Aljabr will have to overturn two sets of statistics. No favourite has collected in the last six runnings and older horses have taken the last four encounters at the foot of Trundle Hill.

All this should soon be bonfire material. Enrique, too, should give a good account of the Classic generation, though his depressing sequence of seconds looks set to continue. He is more than likely to be led home by Aljabr (next best 3.20).

Frankie Dettori, Aljabr's jockey, should also be successful with High And Mighty (2.15). The four-year-old won the Ascot Stakes on his latest outing and has gone up 7lb, but as the runner-up, Far Cry, went on to win the Northumberland Plate the form looks strong.

If the Richmond Stakes becomes a battle there will be no better beast to have on your betting slip than Far Mount (2.45), who has shown great courage in assembling an unbeaten record in three races.

If whispers count for anything then MARY STUART (nap 3.50) is already under the hose after the Tote Gold Trophy. Sir Michael Stoute, her trainer, has told his colleagues to not even bother entering a horse for this race.

RICHARD EDMONDSON

Nap: Mary Stuart

(Goodwood 3.50)

NB: Aljabr

(Goodwood 3.20)

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