Racing: Cup lies at Rainbow's end

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The Independent Online
BY THE time they went to post for the Chester Cup here yesterday, every one of the eight favourites at the May meeting had been beaten. In their time of need, though, the thousands in the Chester grandstands know that they can always bank on Barry. The money piled up on Rainbow High, Barry Hills's runner in the main event, and after a dizzying four- minute gallop around the circumference of the Roodeye, he did not let them down.

Two lengths and one and three-quarters separated him from Generosity and the brave Invermark, who was still running on under 9st 10lb, at the end of their long journey. It was the stopwatch, though, which offered the strongest evidence of the merit of his achievement. In the 106-year history of the Chester Cup, no horse has ever covered its 18 furlongs as quickly as Rainbow High did yesterday, which could mean one of two things. Either the ground yesterday was significantly faster than the official estimate of good to firm, or Hills has a young stayer who is on his way to even better things.

We will find out soon enough. The Ascot Gold Cup, over another two furlongs, was Hills's immediate choice as Rainbow High's next race. Coral will lay 14-1 against him - Kayf Tara, last year's winner, is their 5-1 favourite - but may not do so for long. The only worry, perhaps, is whether his stamina will carry him the extra distance, yet he travelled so sweetly yesterday, and quickened so readily, that it is easy to picture him arriving with an irresistible late challenge at the end of the Ascot straight.

Invermark, a 16-1 chance for the Gold Cup, could be another to remember next month. He was giving 10lb to Rainbow High yesterday, a task which may be beyond any stayer in training. The long-distance slogs have been some of the best races of recent years, and while Double Trigger is now a memory, these are two more names to add to the rich cast.

It was hardly worth Hills's while to walk from the winners' enclosure to the trainers' stand, because half-an-hour later he was back on the podium after a performance by Valentine Girl in the Cheshire Oaks which was almost as gritty as that of Rainbow High. She flew from the stalls and was always there to be aimed at, but while most of her rivals lined up to challenge her in the last two furlongs, none could pass.

Her courage has earned her a place in a Classic, and though the bookies were not impressed, offering 25-1 for the Oaks, Pat Eddery feels that her four-race career should already include a Group One success. "She'll improve, there's no doubt about that, and she stays really well," Eddery said. "She should have won the Marcel Boussac [at Longchamp last October] but I couldn't get out. I went past the winning post on the bridle."

It is also intriguing that Valentine Girl's sole success before yesterday, in a Listed race at Newbury on her debut, came at the expense of a filly called Claxon. That one is now the 8-1 second-favourite for the Oaks, which does not, on the face of it, make a great deal of sense. Certainly, whatever gets past Valentine Girl at Epsom will need to work to do so.

It took a serious effort to win the fifth race yesterday too - rather too serious, according to the stewards. Musical Treat was a 5-4 chance to be Robert Sangster's first winner of the meeting and only Peter Chapple- Hyam's second of the entire season, and Jimmy Fortune seemed to realise what was at stake as he turned into the straight with several horses still to overtake. He threw everything at Musical Treat, and got her home in the last stride, but the stewards felt that his use of the whip was excessive, and banned him for four days from next Friday.

But it is not just Musical Treat's rump which may feel a little sore this morning. Her neck too could be very tender, where Chapple-Hyam was patting his returning heroine as if she had just won the Derby.