Racing: Entice has the potential to attract

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The Independent Online
Twelve months ago, as the sun rose on the Dante meeting at York, the Godolphin string which had arrived from Dubai barely a fortnight earlier had already produced the winner of one British Classic and the third runner home in another. Saeed bin Suroor, the man who holds their trainer's licence on Sheikh Mohammed's behalf, was at the head of the prize-money table, just as he was when the season closed six months later.

This time around, the situation is rather different. Yesterday's Racing Post listed the top 49 trainers in Britain so far this season, and while this is sufficient to include several handlers with more experience in sellers than Classics, bin Suroor's name is conspicuously absent. The Turf's Luddite tendency, the old-timers who know only that Dubai is on the wrong side of Dover, are probably enjoying every minute.

But not, perhaps, for much longer. Any punter who is prepared to write off Godolphin's class of '97 on the basis of a handful of disappointing runs is the sort who gets birthday cards from their bookmaker, and the tide may turn as early as this afternoon, when Entice contests the Musidora Stakes, a race which seems sure to be the most significant snippet of form on Oaks morning next month.

The form horse in this race is Reams Of Verse, a shaky ante-post favourite for the Oaks in the absence of anything better, who was sixth behind Sleepytime in the 1,000 Guineas. She has the form trainer, too, in Henry Cecil, who has won the Musidora six times since 1985, but carries 3lb more than her nine rivals and could be vulnerable to an improving, unexposed filly. Noisette, Society Rose and Calypso Grant are among those to consider, but none makes as much appeal as Entice (next best 3.10).

Success for the Godolphin runner today might prompt the regulars at Pontefract to observe how typical it is that, after they had waited for many years to see a potential Classic winner, two came along at once. Form at the West Yorkshire track rarely offers many clues to the following season's best events, but there is every encouragement in Entice's narrow defeat of Fahris - now a 16-1 chance for the Derby following his success in the Feilden Stakes at Newmarket - there last October. Symonds Inn, third that day, had previously run Revoque to two-and-a-half lengths at York, so Entice clearly set off for her winter retreat in the Middle East as a filly of some potential.

"She's doing very nicely at the moment," Simon Crisford, Godolphin's racing manager, said yesterday. "Her form has worked out well, she's progressive, and the thing with her is that she will progress and improve throughout the season. The ground and the trip at York will suit her well."

Nor is there a hint of panic following Godolphin's uncharacteristic start to the campaign. "Ninety per cent of the horses have run to their form," Crisford said, "but the ones which really mattered in the big races have not. We've had excuses, Shamikh was lame and Moonlight Paradise isn't 100 per cent now, but however many excuses you find, it has been a wobbly start, and we're looking to put it back on an even keel this week."

Entice should start that process today, on a day which offers punters any number of interesting contests. Many will look to Angus-G, in the opening handicap, as the soundest bet of the day, but while Mary Reveley's runner has a solid chance on the book, this is a far more competitive event than his odds suggest, and TEMPTRESS (nap 2.05) could be the one to beat him. Mr Bombastique (2.35) must also go well, but as for the sprint handicap, do not even think about it.

Branston Abby, the most prolific winning mare this century, landing 24 races, was put down yesterday because of grass sickness. An eight-year- old, who had been trained by Mark Johnston, she was retired at the end of last season and was in foal to Mark Of Esteem.