Racing: Cape crusader for Godolphin

Sue Montgomery expects a filly from the sunshine to complete a set at Newmarket today
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The Independent Online
A SMALL but significant gap on the shelves of the trophy cabinet at Godolphin headquarters in Al Quoz may be filled with the running of this afternoon's 184th 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket. Horses representing Sheikh Mohammed's Dubai-based team have captured all the other four English Classics, the 2,000 Guineas, Derby, Oaks and St Leger. Today Cape Verdi will be trying to make it a full set.

The 1,000 Guineas is the only one of the five races in which Godolphin has had a runner every year since its foundation in 1993. Dayflower, fifth that year, was the operation's pathfinder; the following season Balanchine went under by a whisker. She was succeeded by Moonshell and Bint Shadayid, both third, and 12 months ago, Ocean Ridge ran fifth and Moonlight Paradise 10th.

Cape Verdi has the best of credentials for her task. She was one of the best of her age and sex last year, and showed she owned two of the qualities associated with a high-class horse, the ability to both quicken and battle, when she won the Lowther Stakes at York. That day she was still part of Robert Sangster's squad, but her victim was Sheikh Mohammed's perceived best filly, Embassy, and she swiftly made the transfer from Wiltshire to Godolphin's summer quarters in Newmarket.

Memories of her subsequent disappointing fourth place behind her new team-mate in the Cheveley Park Stakes have, by all accounts, been erased by the progress she has made during her sojourn in the winter sunshine. She is entitled to have improved; her top-notch pedigree is very much that of a middle- distance performer and it must be considered a bonus that she has already shown such speed and precocity. Her sire, the late Caerleon, is best-known for winners at 10 furlongs plus, though he had a top-class miling filly, Shake The Yoke, two years ago, and her dam's brother Arcangues won a Breeders' Cup Classic.

Since Cape Verdi arrived from Dubai on Monday, the weather has been unrelentingly foul, although the sun did make a belated reappearance in Newmarket yesterday. The dramatic change in climate is not a worry for the Godolphin personnel; the easy underfoot conditions may be more of a cause for concern.

The racing manager, Simon Crisford, said: "It is much easier for a horse to travel from warmth to cold than the other way round. And even if there was any acclimatisation effect, it would not have kicked in yet. Cape Verdi is undoubtedly more effective on fast ground, but if it does come up soft we feel her class will get her through it."

Two who have already shown they can cope with cut are Cloud Castle and Daunting Lady, winners of the two recognised trials. Cloud Castle's surprise, but apparently fluke-free, win in the Nell Gwyn may have been the better performance with a highly regarded trio in Ashraakat, Jibe and Exclusive behind her.

Both Ashraakat and Jibe are daughters of Danzig, whose stock are best- known for their prowess as sprinters, though Jibe - bidding to give her trainer, Henry Cecil, the first 1,000 Guineas hat-trick since George Lambton's 80 years ago - is a half-sister to the 1993 Derby winner Commander In Chief. Exclusive's half-brother Entrepreneur won last year's 2,000 and all three will improve for their debuts, but then so will Cloud Castle and she can confirm the Nell Gwyn form over a furlong further.

The challenge from France comes in the shape of Loving Claim. Her trainer, Criquette Head, is one of three trainers represented (the others are Cecil and Ashraakat's handler John Dunlop), who have won the race twice in the last 10 runnings, and the improvement in the ground will benefit Loving Claim, winner of last year's Prix Marcel Boussac. The best of the Irish pair may be Shahtoush, who comes from the stable of Aidan O'Brien.

But the vote goes to Cape Verdi, who will be suited by the step up to a mile, particularly the Rowley version, with its uphill finish. She can break not only the Godolphin duck in the race (though Sheikh Mohammed has won with bearers of his original maroon-and-white) but also that of Frankie Dettori.

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