Racing: Chief leads the British contenders

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The Independent Online
Timing, they say, is everything in life. And here yesterday Peter Chapple-Hyam and Olivier Doleuze were spot on as Chief Contender led a British clean sweep in the Prix du Cadran. A last-minute change of plan enabled the jockey to pounce in the final 50 yards to beat the odds-on favourite, Celeric, by a neck, with the early pacesetter Persian Punch a length and three- quarters back in third.

Chapple-Hyam, held up by a delayed flight and traffic jams en route to the course, arrived just as the runners for France's equivalent of the Gold Cup were leaving the paddock. He said: "I had left instructions with the lads that the horse should make the running, but on reflection I thought with a strong pace likely he would be better coming late. I just had time to call to Olivier to hold him up before he disappeared down the course."

The new tactics worked to perfection. Frankie Dettori brought Celeric, who had been lobbing behind the leaders for most of the two-and-a-half- mile trip, with his customary late swoop, but just as his status as the first horse to complete the Gold Cup-Cadran double since Sagaro 21 years ago seemed assured, Chief Contender quickened past him with Doleuze's whip raised high in triumph.

It was the first time that the son of Sadler's Wells had tackled the extreme distance. "I was a little worried about him staying the trip in a truly run race, hence the change of plan," Chapple-Hyam said. "And early on I wasn't too happy as he had his ears flat back. He's a bit of a character at home and a hard ride, but he's a tough sort of horse and did it well in the end."

The Group One victory was a welcome change of fortune for Chapple-Hyam, who last week lost a clutch of Manton's best juveniles to the ever-open chequebook of Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin operation. And he may yet lose Chief Contender as well, as the colt is scheduled for next month's Newmarket sales.

Celeric's sporting connections took the Gold Cup winner's defeat stoically. His trainer, David Morley, said: "Frankie rode him well and he ran a great race. But the other one ran better."

It was altogether a splendid Arc day warm-up for the British raiders, with a Group race four-timer completed by a Dettori treble on Tulipa and Alhaarth for Godolphin and the appropriately named Three Cheers in Sheikh Mohammed's maroon and white silks. Tulipa, in particular, turned in a sterling performance to make every yard in the Prix de Royallieu, digging deep to hold off the persistent last-furlong challenge of Dame Kiri by a nose.

The filly was returning after a three-month absence, but has been busy on the gallops in the worthy task of leading the stable's Arc hope Swain in his work, and Godolphin's racing manager, Simon Crisford, admitted: "We wondered if we might have left this race at home in Newmarket. But she is very brave."

There was a minor flutter in the dovecotes over Swain yesterday, when the King George winner slightly bruised a heel during his final big-race spin, but Crisford fully expects the horse to be in today's line-up.

Alhaarth clearly has a liking for Longchamp, having taken the Prix du Rond Point here a year ago today. Yesterday's length win in the Prix Dollar was another of the powerful wind-it-up-from-the-front variety, and it should not be forgotten that the four-year-old son of Unfuwain was left for dead by Pilsudski in the Irish Champion Stakes on his previous appearance.

Three Cheers, trained by John Gosden, picked up the specially commissioned Sir Peter O'Sullevan Trophy for his two-length win in the Prix de Lutece.