Racing: Fabre rules as Empereur swoops

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The Independent Online
DERNIER EMPEREUR got up in the last stride to foil Grand Lodge in the Champion Stakes here yesterday. It was a tremendous effort from the French- trained, Japanese-owned colt but heartbreaking for the runner-up, who was suffering his second short-head defeat in a Group 1 race on the course.

The early pace was verging on the farcical, with the favourite Hatoof, last year's winner, forced into the lead. Pat Eddery allowed the keen-running Grand Lodge to race up level with her and made a brave effort to steal the race when he kicked clear running down into the dip.

It was the 2,000 Guineas in reverse, with Grand Lodge the target this time, not the challenger. And Eddery's tactic so nearly succeeded, for only Dernier Empereur, handled to perfection by the young Sylvain Guillot on his first ride in England, could get to him.

Barely two lengths covered the first five home. Muhtarram, visored first time, finished well once he saw daylight to deprive Mehthaaf of third place, with Hatoof, entirely unsuited by the run of the race, close up in fifth.

Grand Lodge now retires to Coolmore Stud, but Dernier Empereur heads for the Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs next month. His trainer, Andre Fabre, has made a habit of sending out Group 1 winners recently, and he said: 'My horses were not well during the spring, so I was hopeful for the autumn.'

Dernier Empereur has been practising on dirt tracks at Chantilly, so the Classic, like the Champion over 10 furlongs, is his likely target. He runs for Gary Tanaka, who bought him recently from Paul Moussac to add to a collection that includes Colonel Collins, User Friendly and Bluegrass Prince. 'I prefer to buy proven horses; it eliminates so many risks, ' Mr Tanaka said:

Punters had reason to be grateful for the giant viewing screen in front of the stands. For most of the day only the last two furlongs of action were visible through the fog that shrouded the course, so the Tote Cesarewitch runners had already run for two miles before they hove into live view. At that point Captain's Guest had gone past his better-fancied Guy Harwood stablemate Transom and powered home in some style under his 9st 9lb burden.

Only two horses, John Cherry (9st 13lb in 1976) and Double Dutch (9st 10lb in 1989), have ever carried more to victory than the four-year-old, who was giving more than two stone to the runner-up Argyle Cavalier. The favourite, Admiral's Well, finished 14th.