Racing Commentary: Search for perfection is on

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The Independent Online
The dreadful news as Flat racing at last forces its way from out of the stage shadows is that injury is likely to prevent a superhorse emerging at this week's Craven meeting at Newmarket.

Spring is the time when there is a rise in both the sap and Pat Eddery's level of hyperbole, and there are few times when old Pat has ridden a promising winner at this meeting without calling it "the best horse I've ever sat on", or Pegasus's faster brother.

The shrewd assessment of the champion jockey may be missing from Headquarters this week however as Eddery is struggling with a back injury sustained at Nottingham on Friday. "I'm hoping he'll be back at Newmarket on Tuesday, where he has seven cracking rides [on seven potential world-beaters], but I can't be confident until he comes back from hospital," Eddery's agent, Terry Ellis, said yesterday. "He's got something like a pulled muscle or a muscle spasm.'' Eddery, who saw a doctor at Stoke Mandeville yesterday and visits a London chiropractor today, has ridden 13 winners so far this term, but the Flat in its true essence starts this week.

The period started rather unusually yesterday when there was a race abroad that was not collected by Godolphin. The Dubai team's Annus Mirabilis finished only third in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Sha Tin, thus postponing the moment when we will find out whether Frankie Dettori has developed a new physical catchphrase in victory over the winter. It was perhaps apt that the jockey was riding Annus, as the winner in Hong Kong was a horse Dettori should have ridden in South Africa in January but for developing an abscess on the part of his anatomy that lands on sofas. London News was the first runner from the veldt to race successfully abroad for 39 years.

The other significant result of the weekend may transpire to be Cool Edge's victory for Mark Tompkins in the Gladness Stakes at the Curragh. The gelding performs on the Newmarket gallops with Musical Pursuit, who apparently comes charging past him dragging an anchor, so hopes are high that Flint Cottage can go one better in the 2,000 Guineas this season following Even Top's short-head second to Mark Of Esteem last year.

"You would think this one has as much potential as Even Top, if not a little more, though he has still got to do it yet," Tompkins said yesterday. "One finished second in the Racing Post Trophy and the other was second in the Dewhurst [Musical Pursuit was just behind In Command]. I hope Musical Pursuit is as good as Even Top.''

If the colt wins the 2,000 Guineas there seems little doubt he will be greeted as not only better than his stablemate, but also better than any other horse alive or dead as his rider is, of course, Patrick James John Eddery.

It had been Tompkins's belief that his horses might need the run this spring, which was his reasoning behind putting Musical Pursuit in Thursday's Craven Stakes. Following Cool Edge's victory though, it appears his stablemate will now make his seasonal debut in the first Classic, for which he is a 12-1 shot (from 14-1) with William Hill. Another of the 12 declared runners for the Craven, David Loder's Indiscreet, was knocked out to 10- 1 (from 8-1) by Ladbrokes yesterday and ante-post punters will not have to wait until Thursday to get an idea of their fate.

The third favourite for the Guineas is more likely to make the NGK Spark Plugs Conditions Stakes at Newmarket tomorrow his starting-off point for the season. The second favourite in the list, Revoque, is expected to tackle Saturday's Greenham Stakes at Newbury for Peter Chapple-Hyam.

In the absence of firm clues for the fillies' equivalent, the 1,000 Guineas, William Hill chose to use the soft evidence of the Prix Imprudence at Maisons-Laffitte on Friday. Pas De Reponse won that day from rivals who would struggle to make a race of it with the home side on the Galapagos Islands, but Criquette Head's filly was nevertheless squeezed by Hills to 6-1 (from 7-1) for 4 May. By then there will be a new government, and a new horse which qualifies as the best Pat Eddery has ever ridden.