Racing: Enrique to live up to billing

Champions day: Surpassed only by Derby day in the riches it offers, today's card stages one of the great juvenile contests
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The Independent Online
IN THESE times of sporting hyperbole, the sobriquet of Champions Day, which is stapled to today's card at Newmarket, does nothing to arrest the eye.

Yet if ever a racing occasion deserved such a flashy cognomen it comes in the shape of today's two Group One races, a brace of Group Twos and a fiendish Cesarewitch wrapped into a compelling package.

To identify an apex in this offering would not normally be easy, but one contest today will almost certainly establish a champion on Champions Day. The Dewhurst Stakes has long been considered the juvenile championship of Europe, but rarely has it exhibited the sumptuous strength in depth we will see today. The unbeaten Enrique and Lujain locked in combat with Stravinsky, the Irish colt who has already been the 1999 2,000 Guineas favourite, will mean today's race will be an extremely fast one, even faster than when horses usually see the title of this race. Whichever succeeds will be established as the best juvenile of his generation and the market leader for the first colts' Classic in these environs next May.

"It's nice for a punter to back the winner in a 0-70 handicap at Catterick, but this is what it's all about - good horses taking each other on at level weights to see who is the best," Matthew Tester, the BHB's juvenile assessor, said yesterday. "I hate to prejudge, and remember they said last year's King George was the race of the decade and were disappointed when Swain won, as he wasn't the one they expected.

"My ratings reflect only what the horses have achieved, and there is little doubt that by winning the Middle Park by four lengths Lujain has achieved most. He has exceptional ability and if he runs his race and is beaten, the winner would have to be extremely talented."

Lujain's extravagant win here just over two weeks ago does make him the form choice, but, as the small print always tells you, past performance is no indicator to the future. It is a dictum on which the bookmaking trade is established.

David Loder's colt is now attempting to become only the third horse this century to complete a Middle Park and Dewhurst double most recently collected by Diesis in 1982. It is interesting that his Godolphin camp use Lujain - and he had to be supplemented - to take on Stravinsky, who has already finished behind another of their band, Aljabr, when disqualified from second place in the Prix de la Salamandre. As it stands, Stravinsky has just a single success in an ordinary York race to back up a quite fearsome home reputation.

It could well have been that Godolphin were represented in this race by Enrique as well, but their attempts to purchase Henry Cecil's colt were repulsed even though they offered an initial amount of over pounds 1m and then stepped up their offer.

It seemed to matter nought to them that Enrique was originally returned after purchase for Jimmy FitzGerald after the discovery that he was a weaver, a horse prone to violent, unnatural swaying in his box.

The only movements Enrique has made on the racecourse are violently forward. His most recent victory, over course and distance in the Somerville Tattersall Stakes, was the work of a most accomplished animal. The colt's work on the Newmarket gallops on Wednesday did little do douse his camp's enthusiasm.

On the premise that Lujain and Stravinsky are likely to be closely matched, the selection must be ENRIQUE (nap 3.30), who can join Xaar, Alhaarth, Grand Lodge and Zafonic, four of the last six winners of the Dewhurst who became champion two-year-olds.

Even greater names such as Mill Reef and Nijinsky have won the race, though the latter's career also ended in disappointment here when he was beaten in the Champion Stakes.

There have been other surprises in this event, most notably in 1973 when the 33-1 chance Hurry Harriet beat Allez France, and its position at the end of a hard calendar lends itself to an upset.

Godolphin figure largely, yet again, and are represented by Daylami in one of the few British Group One races they have not claimed. The grey is followed in the ante-post betting by Mutamam, who has won his last three races by an aggregate of 14 lengths against relatively popgun opposition.

If the forecast showers are not too strong, however, the one to be on, each-way at least, is One So Wonderful (next best 4.10). Luca Cumani's filly got bogged down in Ireland last time and can sign off here before she is led to Peintre Celebre's bedroom at Coolmore.

For those who like to see their money go a long way, or the two and a quarter miles of the Cesarewitch to be precise, On Call (2.55) looks inviting at a decent price. Sir Mark Prescott's filly was rated just 48 when she got off the mark in a Yarmouth handicap in June and now runs off 91, but would be even higher if her third in the Park Hill Stakes, the fillies' St Leger, could be taken into account.