Racing: Empereur ready to reign in the dry

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IF NOAH had turned to the racing page in the Ararat Post on leaving the Ark, he might have found that the meetings at Sinai and Babel had fallen victim to waterlogging - but that Newmarket reported no problems.

Torrents of rain have fallen on East Anglia, rivers have burst their banks, but this morning the going on the Rowley Mile is good and drying all the time. What little moisture remains is trickling down the cheeks of punters who backed soft-ground horses earlier in the week.

Irish Stamp and Aahsaylad were gambled with rare confidence for the Cesarewitch. Meanwhile, John Gosden was peering from his office window, less than a mile from the course, and making glum forecasts for Muhtarram, favourite for the Champion Stakes. Gosden's second-string, Knifebox, was strongly supported.

Now, two days of strong, drying wind over Newmarket's light soil have left the ground perfect for Muhtarram, and Gosden will hope to finally discover just how good the four- year-old is. It might seem a strange enigma, as Muhtarram is in his third season with Gosden, but for much of that time injuries have kept his true merit hidden.

His jockey, Willie Carson, shares Gosden's uncertainty, but remains optimistic. 'He's a horse with lots of ability, a horse we thought we were going to win the Derby with,' he said this week, 'and he ran fourth in the Derby even with his problems. We still don't know how good he is. I'm hoping he's the best horse in Europe and he's still got a chance of proving he is.'

Muhtarram's defeat of Opera House in the Irish Champion Stakes appeared convincing, but Lord Of The Field's presence in third makes the form look suspect. Alflora was on offer at generous odds earlier in the week but his chance may have dried up with the going and Dernier Empereur (3.40) can continue the good recent run of French-trained horses in the Champion.

BARDOLPH (nap 3.00), refreshed by a mid-season holiday, is the best value bet in the Cesarewitch (the 25-1 with Ladbrokes this morning may not last long). Marina Park (1.50) and Gone Savage (next best 2.20) will also run close.

Kempton & Stratford cards, page 21