Racing: Balisada to foil Cape's crusade

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The Independent Online
THE LAST time Cape Verdi appeared on a racecourse, she swallowed hundreds of thousands of gambled pounds in a two-and-a-half minute stagger around Epsom, but no one will hold that against her today. When she passed the post in ninth place behind High-Rise in the 1998 Derby, having started the race as the 11-4 favourite, it seemed that a Godolphin stud farm in the Suffolk countryside would be as close as she would ever get to a track again. What we forgot, though, was that Godolphin do not seem to operate like that.

The royal blue colours are there to be worn, not retired, and it is a philosophy which has improved British racing immeasurably in recent seasons. The decision to campaign horses like Classic Cliche and Kayf Tara in the Cup races did much to revitalise the best stayers' events, but the reappearance of Cape Verdi is possibly their bravest move yet. Sheikh Mohammed does not put hard cash on his horses, but there is more than one way to take a gamble.

Cape Verdi, in case anyone needs reminding, won last year's 1,000 Guineas with extraordinary ease. Whatever it was that stopped her at Epsom - the ground, the hubbub, a bump or two, or the distance - she has little left to prove. Yet here she is, pushing that glowing reputation into the middle of the table as the new generation of milers studies its hands.

Balisada looks to be the one with the nearest thing to a four of a kind, after her unexpected but unimpeachable success in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot. Even with a 6lb penalty for that Group One success - the same extra burden which Cape Verdi must shoulder - she looks to have the beating of Hula Angel, Choirgirl and Presumed. And with more improvement expected, Balisada (3.40) should beat Cape Verdi too.

Godolphin provide two more fascinating runners this afternoon, in Royal Line (2.05) and City On A Hill. The former will start at a very short price in the opener, for while his only race to date brought success in a minor race in France, the second horse home that day was Sendawar, a dual Group One winner this season.

City On A Hill is David Loder's second British runner in his new role as Godolphin's primary school headmaster, in charge of the two-year-olds at Evry. He may be frustrated, though, by another wunderkind, as Mull Of Kintyre (next best 2.35), who cost a million dollars as a yearling, won by seven lengths first time up and should land the July Stakes for Aidan O'Brien.

Punters should perhaps boycott Newmarket altogether after the stewards' extraordinary decision yesterday to move the stalls from the far rail to the stands side after the fourth race. Safety was not an issue - it had simply become clear that the ground on the near side was riding much faster, and riders with a high draw were heading for the stands rail.

When backers had spent all morning and half the afternoon placing bets on the basis of the stalls being on the opposite side of the track it was a shameful thing to do. The draw, though, should play little part in the Duke of Cambridge Handicap, in which SMART SAVANNAH (nap 3.10) can finally capitalise on a series of promising runs.