Racing: Distant can make music

AS RACEGOERS in shirt sleeves swigged ice-cold champagne at Doncaster yesterday, it was hard to believe that in a few weeks the horses they were backing will have grown woolly coats and retired to winter quarters. Despite appearances, though, the Flat season is three-quarters gone, and by tomorrow evening, the next English Classic will be the millennium Guineas at Newmarket.

These days the build-up to the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas begins as soon as the last one has been run, and the 2,000 Guineas has long since found itself a durable 6-1 favourite in Aidan O'Brien's Fasliyev. When you burst clear of the pack, though, you become a target, too. The wheel of autumn two-year-old races starts to turn today, with the Champagne Stakes, and at least three of the runners could overtake Fasliyev in the time it takes to run seven furlongs on Town Moor.

Ekraar, Distant Music and Rossini are the colts who may fancy their chances, although nothing less than a repeat of Fasliyev's four-length winning margin in the Prix Morny will get them into single-figure odds from their quotes of 20-1 with Coral. Indeed, if Rossini proves the best of them, it may only cause Fasliyev's price to shrink further. Like the ante-post favourite, not to mention two more of the first eight in the betting, Rossini is trained at Ballydoyle, where the belief is that he is several pounds inferior to Fasliyev, and possibly the lightly-raced Bernstein, too.

Rossini will need to be beaten today if British trainers are to go into the winter with any serious expectation of turning over Team O'Brien next spring. His form is solid, although he did refuse to enter the stalls before the Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot, but no more so than that of DISTANT MUSIC (nap 3.05), who could go off the outsider of the three main contenders. He won his only race, over today's course and distance, by four lengths, and Best Of The Bests, behind him there, won the Solario Stakes at Sandown next time out.

The Mallard Handicap is a consolation race for Ebor Handicap also-rans, of whom Red Ramona (2.35), who suffered from the disadvantage of a wide draw at York, would be the most deserving winner.

Goombayland (2.05), banned for 30 days earlier in the season for not trying hard enough, will not need to overexert himself to complete a hat- trick in the second, but several races in a short space of time may catch up with Algunnaas. Azouz Pasha (3.40) can exploit any leg-weariness from the probable favourite, while at Goodwood, Sarafan (2.45), second to Best Of The Bests in the Solario, should make short work of four rivals in the Stardom Stakes.