Racing: Big names take a battering in trials

THE BIN MAN is going to be angry this week. All those extra bags to take away. We are used to the phenomenon of equine reputations being punctured in the spring and betting slips bearing the names of the exalted being turned into refuse, but seldom can the process have started so early.

Stravinsky hit the first bum note for Aidan O'Brien two weeks ago, and the Irish trainer was let down again yesterday when Blackrock Desert was badly beaten behind Two-Twenty-Two in the Gladness Stakes at the Curragh. He is now 33-1 (from 12-1) for the 2,000 Guineas with William Hill.

O'Brien's great Godolphin rivals might be able to revel in this minor misery, but they have little to cheer from within. The Arabian team's Prado's Landing was last of eight in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on Saturday night and his Kentucky Derby chances look as close to nil as man has yet discovered. Worldly Manner and Aljabr are still on course for the Run For The Roses on 1 May following their domination of a trial in the Emirates.

Trials in the desert have taken on even greater importance since Almutawakel won one and then a fortune in the Dubai World Cup. But Team Godolphin did not get the results they expected when they held their British Classic trials at Nad Al Sheba on Saturday.

The colts' race over a mile was won by the former David Elsworth boarder, Island Sands. Behind him came Mukhalif, a graduate of the David Loder academy who won a conditions race at Ascot last year, and Adair, who collected on his only start over nine furlongs at Belmont Park for Bill Mott as a two-year-old. Back with the flotsam were previously sparkling names such as Iftitah, Rhagaas, Dubai Millennium and Lujain. The last-named is almost certainly destined for a sprinting campaign.

"You plan the whole winter around this event in order to answer questions before we decide our team for the Classics," Simon Crisford, Godolphin's racing manager, said. "Some of the horses we held high expectations for disappointed.

"Iftitah, Dubai Millennium, Rhagaas and Lujain did not perform to the standard required for Classics. I would also put Saytarra [last year's French Group winner and disappointing in the fillies' trial won by Pescara] into that same bracket so some big names have dropped slightly by the wayside. Some very high-profile horses did not live up to expectations.

"Rhagaas and Dubai Millennium, who we were hoping were going to be Derby horses, are going to have to prove themselves. We're not now going to set such ambitious targets for them to begin with because they didn't perform as well as other middle-distance colts like Adair and Mukhalif.

"Rhagaas is a mile-and-a-half horse, but if he's a Derby contender he needs to be up there in a race like yesterday's.

"Dubai Millennium was behind schedule in his work and will improve, but even taking that into consideration we thought he would finish closer. He was well beaten.

"We've not lost faith in those horses and we think, along with Lujain, they're going to have a cracking season. But what emerged from last night is that we've got to be a little less ambitious. So Dubai Millennium will not be wheeled straight into the Dante Stakes. He'll start in a conditions race. Adair might be able to go for a Dante and Mukhalif could take in a Listed race at Newmarket.

"What we've learned from the trials is that there's no Cape Verdi [last year's 1,000 Guineas winner] and probably no Mark Of Esteem [the 1996 2,000 Guineas winner]. But, let's not forget, this was a very strong trial, stronger than what Mark Of Esteem had to go through. It wasn't a circus, a Mickey Mouse event. The handbrake was off. We were looking for that fifth gear and some of them just don't have it."

n Olivier Doleuze yesterday received a 15-day ban from the Longchamp stewards for mistaking the winning post and will miss the ride on the 1,000 Guineas favourite, Moiava in the Newmarket Classic on 2 May.

n Blue Royal will run in the 1,000. The Andre Fabre-trained filly's place had been uncertain after she won the Prix Imprudence by just a neck at Maisons-Laffitte on Friday.

1,000 Guineas (2 May) William Hill: 5-1 Moiava, 6-1 Etizaaz, 10-1 Mother Of Pearl, Sunspangled, 14-1 Blue Cloud, Calando, Zahrat Dubai (from 50- 1), 16-1 Imperial Beauty, 20-1 Edabiya, Pescara (from 50-1), Wannabe Grand, 33-1 others.

2,000 Guineas (1 May) William Hill: 3-1 Mujahid (from 7-2), 6-1 Killer Instinct, 8-1 Commander Collins (from 9-1), Enrique, 10-1 Orpen (from 12-1), 12-1 Ballet Master, Stravinsky, 14-1 Island Sands (from 25-1), 16-1 Auction House, Iftitah (from 10-1), 20-1 Dubai Millenium (from 16- 1), Mukalif (from 40-1), 33-1 others.

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