The South African has partnered both colts to Group One successes this season, but believes Opera House to be a more purposeful performer when the ground has give. 'The fast ground should suit Barathea best,' Graham Rock, Roberts's agent, said yesterday. 'He ran well up to a mile and a quarter in the Derby and Michael feels he has more scope for improvement.'
Those with Opera House vouchers should not despair, however, as his rider will be Michael Kinane, who makes as much of cast-offs as a Blue Peter presenter. The Irishman's victories on second-strings include the Derby on Commander In Chief and the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes aboard Belmez.
Sandown today features a horse who has done the unimaginable this year and helped invent a new excuse for losing a race. Wrong pace, wrong ground and wrong track are among the more regular explanations in this crowded lexicon, but River North has come up with a fresh addition in another department. Wrong diet.
The gelding is likely to be disqualified from winning a Brighton maiden in April as a proscribed drug was found in his system. Lady Herries, River North's trainer, believes her pack of spaniels Kandy, Golly and Jemima Puddleduck (try calling her to heel) are behind the problem, as one of them is on a course of pills which contains a metabolite of the banned substance etamiphyline.
Dog relieving itself on grass and horse feeding on the patch is alleged to have been the method of entry into the system, which proves that while River North may be one of the most improved animals in training his tastebuds are not among the keenest.
The chestnut, probably the best horse bought by the prolific owner Peter Savill, has a sharper sense of competition, though, and goes for his fifth successive victory today. River North has an obvious chance as the last of those wins was from a mark of 99, and he is 5lb lower this afternoon, but at the likely short odds and in a buffeting field he is worth opposing.
Highland Dress and Dana Springs have both performed well in conditions events recently and enter calculations, but perhaps the value is DREAMS END (nap 3.05), who has finished runner-up to the accomplished handicappers Azhar and Quick Ransom on his last two starts.
The previous Listed race sees two members of Richard Hannon's cub camp of two-year-olds in action. Hannon has sent out more juvenile runners, and winners, than any other trainer this season and should further improve the statistics with Bid For Blue (next best 2.30).
The one for the treble is Triple (4.05), who looks too good to be in a claimer, while Second Chance (3.35) is worth one after finishing unplaced at Epsom on Wednesday evening.
ECLIPSE STAKES (Sandown, tomorrow): Ladbrokes: 9-4 Barathea, 5-2 Tenby, 5-1 Arcangues & Opera House, 8-1 Environment Friend, 14-1 Great Palm, 20 Misil, 25 Alhijaz & Ezzoud, 50 Karinga Bay; William Hill: 2-1 Tenby, 5-2 Barathea, 5-1 Arcangues & Opera House, 11-1 Environment Friend, 16 Great Palm, 33 Ezzoud & Misil, 50 Karinga Bay.Reuse content