Racing: Felawnah first choice in family affair: A filly who has never won before can take today's Irish 1,000 Guineas

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The Independent Online
THE NEAREST most brothers come to staging a private horserace is as youngsters when the Escalado box comes out of the games cupboard. But there is one family with the resources to play out the real thing, and that in the forum of a European Classic.

When the field goes to post for the Irish 1,000 Guineas at The Curragh this afternoon, six of the 14 runners, including the first four in the betting, will be cheered on by men who used to have the surname Maktoum sewn into the back of their jumpers as boys.

The leading quartet supplied by ownership's leading quartet have already met this season, in the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket last month, when they were packed inside the first seven places behind Sayyedati and Niche.

The lessons of that race suggest that the first two that should be discarded from the Newmarket Four (combined cost about dollars 1.5m as yearlings), are Zarani Sidi Anna and Dayflower. The former was a disappointment without an excuse at Headquarters, while the latter, who was prepared in the warmer climes of Dubai over the winter, may now be surrendering any advantages she gained from racing's Greenhouse Effect.

Ajfan and Felawnah were third and fourth respectively in the first Classic but, as Felawnah was making her seasonal debut, there are grounds to believe John Gosden's filly will improve sufficiently to reverse the form.

History, though, appears to be against Felawnah. She is a maiden, and horses rarely make their first visit to the winners' enclosure in a Classic. The last maiden to win this race was Vincent O'Brien's Lady Capulet in 1977, and she, remarkably, was making her racecourse debut.

Sheikh Ahmed Al Maktoum's filly is certainly bred to be a Guineas winner, however. Her dam was a champion mare in America, while father is just about the most sought after stallion in the world today, Mr Prospector. The lightly raced Felawnah (3.50) may then uphold family tradition and continue the rotten run of the Irish, who have kept this prize at home just twice in the last 10 years.

Ancestral Dancer is a Classic winner already, albeit in the subordinate series provided by Italy, and Michael Bell's filly will be attempting to follow up her victory in the Premio Regina Elena (Italian 1,000 Guineas) at Capannelle last month, when she contests the Oaks d'Italia at San Siro tomorrow. Paul Cole's pairing of Bright Generation and Brightside, plus John Dunlop's Talented, are Britain's other representatives.

The Prix Saint-Alary at Longchamp on the same day does not have any British influence, but may cause movements in the Oaks market if Andre Fabre's Intrepidity, generally a 10-1 chance for Epsom, maintains her unbeaten record.

Domestic racing this afternoon is dominated by a filly who will never again run in a Classic after her effort in the 1,000 Guineas, Lyric Fantasy. Connections have come to realise that the Pocket Rocket could become the pocket emptier if tried over anything other than sprint distances and this realism should pay off as Lyric Fantasy (4.10) returns to Newmarket this afternoon.

Others to consider on this card are Lyphard's Delta (3.10), Stack Rock (4.40) and TROON (nap 3.40), who was third to subsequent winner Castlerea Lad at this course three weeks ago.

At Lingfield, there are chances for Royal Cape (2.00) and Son Pardo (next best 3.00), while the televised handicap should again go to the family who could play tiddly-winks with doubloons if they chose to, via Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum's Dyab (2.30).