Racing: Celeric to put the romantics to Flight

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The Independent Online
The heads of those at Newmarket today will probably be wrapped around the annual problem of which of 40 horses is going to win the nine-furlongs, across-the-track cavalry charge that is the Cambridgeshire Handicap. But 35 minutes after the ritual shredding of the betting slips, the hearts can come into play when the wholly splendid 10-year-old Further Flight attempts to win his sixth consecutive Jockey Club Cup.

If the old campaigner, worshipped by his trainer Barry Hills, owner Simon Wingfield Digby and large numbers of racegoers, should score again, the reception he will get will make that accorded to Frankie Dettori a week ago seem postively Trappist. Five in a row has already smashed all Pattern- race records, six would put him among the immortals, equalling Brown Jack's 1929-34 Queen Alexandra Stakes record, a sequence bettered only by Doctor Syntax, who won the Preston Gold Cup from 1815-21.

Age has done much to whiten Further Flight's coat, and common sense says it must have taken some of the dash from his legs, but two miles across Newmarket Heath on Arc de Triomphe eve is the gallant grey's specialist subject. This time, however, he may have to pass in favour of the younger brigade, Celeric (4.10) and Eva Luna.

There will be more fancies for the Cambridgeshire than for a convention of Chippendales, and a short-list of four - Kammtarra, Crown Court, Missile and Billy Bushwacker, with Clifton Fox added in the event of an overnight deluge - may yet be wide of the mark. Some cynics might say that the surprise declaration of Thursday's listed winner Yeast was a cunning plan by William Haggas to keep the weights from rising, thus helping his other contender Missile, but the trainer insists not. "Yeast was in good form this morning," he said yesterday, "and he loves firm ground. He'll have a fair bit to carry, but he won under 10st at Ascot in July, and it will be his last run of the season."

A year ago Kammtarra was still a secret weapon in the Godolphin armoury as his half-brother Lammtarra headed for Arc glory. Although the Cambridgeshire is perhaps not the feature race Sheikh Mohammed's team had in mind for him 12 months on, it is not a prize they sneeze at and Kammtarra (3.35), with a tidy defeat of Ali-Royal to his credit last time, can follow up Halling's 1994 victory.

The cross-Channel traffic today is one-way, with the exception of Miss Tahiti. The high-class Andre Fabre-trained filly makes the journey for the Sun Chariot Stakes and will not be expected to go home empty handed. But Last Second (2.55) can give Sir Mark Prescott compensation for the loss of his sprint star Pivotal, who has been retired to stud.

A 12-strong British raiding party will be in action in five Group races at Longchamp today, headed by Mark Johnston's golden boy Double Trigger in a splendidly international running of the Prix du Cadran. As well as his compatriots Moonax (Barry Hills), who tried to bite his way to victory last year, and Always Aloof (Michael Stoute), two stayers from Germany oppose the locals in the Group One contest.

John Gosden's soft-ground specialist Flemensfirth goes for an unusual double in the Prix Dollar, not having run since beating Volochine in the race last year, and Clerkenwell, having been thought good enough to run in the St Leger before a sore heel ruled him out, makes a smaller step up in class to the Group Three Prix de la Lutece. Peter Chapple-Hyam sends over three, of whom Camporese, another mud-lover, has a strong chance in the Prix de Royallieu.

Further afield, Further Flight's is not the only Jockey Club Cup being run today. In New York tonight Cigar takes on four rivals in the Group One version at Belmont, his Breeders' Cup prep-race. And on a weekend that offers just about everything on four legs, those who have been counting the days since the Whitbread Gold Cup will be glad to note that the jumpers are back on the box, with three races from Chepstow.

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