Racing: Electrifying Eddery

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THIS IS the weekend of three Derbys: today's Irish Derby at The Curragh, the 'Pitmen's' Derby at Newcastle yesterday, and the greyhound version at Wimbledon last night.

This afternoon's race at The Curragh is the most prestigious and, at Flat racing's headquarters here yesterday, two of the major players warmed up with a win.

Pat Eddery and Henry Cecil - rivals in the Irish Derby (Eddery on Alriffa and with Cecil's King's Theatre, the favourite) - teamed up to take the Dom Ruinart Champagne Handicap with Electrify - perhaps a topical tip in view of the Wagnerian thunderstorm that had hit Newmarket the previous night.

Victory on Alriffa would be especially pleasing for Eddery, financially and emotionally. The Irishman bred the Danehill colt from his mare Sweet Soprano, and sold him for 30,000gns at auction at Doncaster as a yearling. The price, good enough at the time, might now be regarded as a loss leader; bidding will be keener for Eddery's next two in the pipeline, a Great Commotion colt and Alriffa's baby full-sister.

Cecil reported King's Theatre in great heart - his work on the gallops last week showed as much - and the Sadler's Wells colt must have a fine chance of becoming the eighth English-trained winner of the Group 1 race in nine years, and Cecil's third in six after Old Vic in 1989 and Commander In Chief last year.

The Maktoum brothers' joint venture, Godolphin Racing, is represented in Ireland by the Oaks heroine Balanchine, who bids to follow in Salsabil's footsteps by beating the colts.

She has a tough enough task, even on rain-eased ground, but the latest Godolphin recruit, Lovely Millie, was not troubled to take her unbeaten run to three in the Ewar Stud Empress Stakes here yesterday.

The imposing two-year-old, whose next target is the Cherry Hinton Stakes over the same course next month, won as an odds-on favourite should, much to the relief of one punter in Leicester. He put pounds 39,000 on Lochsong at Ascot, and reinvested his stake and winnings, pounds 53,000, on Lovely Millie at 4-9, giving him a profit of pounds 30,000 in eight days.

The heavy overnight rain softened the going at Newmarket less than might have been expected so it was disappointing that the feature race of the day, the Van Geest Criterion Stakes, was reduced to a field of six by the withdrawal of the Jersey Stakes dead-heater Gneiss and two others.

However, with prizes to sixth place, that left one for everyone, with Hill Hopper taking the winner's pounds 15,912. And the weather was a case of an ill wind, for the Danehill filly clearly relished the conditions as she wore down Elrafa Ah.

River North, winner of the Fred Archer Stakes, is another for whom easy ground is the key; indeed, had it not rained, he would not have run. His trainer, Lady Herries, pulled the four-year-old out of the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot because of firm ground, and with conditions in his favour yesterday he ran out a ready two-and-a-half length winner from Mack The Knife, picking up well when the pace quickened in the final two furlongs.

Up at Newcastle, Quick Ransom rescued bookmakers by about an inch, getting up in the last stride to foil a furious ante-post plunge on Hasten To Add in the 'Pitmen's' Derby, the Northumberland Plate. The giant grey 3-1 favourite joined the front rank in the straight and had the best of the battle with Tioman Island and Sarawat in the final two furlongs, only to be thwarted by Jason Weaver's final thrust on the Mark Johnson-trained 25-1 winner.