Racing: Franco's form too good for Mighty

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The Independent Online
By Sue Montgomery

ALVIN STARDUST, Bert Weedon, Bernard Cribbins, Bob Holness, where are you now? This afternoon, at least, they will be among the great and the good of the entertainment world at Sandown, which hosts the 40th annual charity race meeting in aid of the excellent Variety Club. Some 60 stars of stage and screen, plus facsimiles of three queens - Elizabeth II, Julian Clary and Lily Savage - will be there mingling with the crowd and joining in the fun and games, which include a parachute jump and a clown with an exploding car. How Del-Boy and the Channel 4 team will laugh!

In fact, the pre-race jollility may have the edge on the real thing, in which no pantomime horses (except perhaps in the seller) will be taking part but farcically-sized fields are presented as alleged entertainment. Just 51 horses have been declared, no doubt partially due to the firmish ground, and only three of the seven races offer each-way opportunities.

For many punters it will be a case of "I'll have a D, please, Bob". Frankie Dettori will be among those on chatting-and-signing duty and, despite his bit-part as villain on the Knavesmire earlier this week, he will no doubt charm the numbers 5, 4, 4, 5 and 2 on to many a Tote Jackpot slip.

The Italian was one of three high-profile riders handed a ban - in his case four days - for whip misuse during the closing stages of the week's feature race, Tuesday's Juddmonte International. And a further unwelcome spotlight focussed on the other two, Kieren Fallon and Pat Eddery, on Thursday. Both incurred unwelcome two-day holidays for careless riding (on two-year-olds Enemy Action and Seige respectively) which took Fallon's score to five for the meeting and Eddery's to double that. Fallon and Dettori, the leading riders at York, clash four times today; Eddery is on duty at Deauville.

Of the Italian's mounts I go along with Ace Of Trumps (2.00) and Jayannpee (3.05). The pair will offer markedly different tests of their jockey's skills: Ace Of Trumps, who won a similar moderate contest to today's at Newmarket 16 days ago by five lengths, can be a bit of a lad in both the preliminaries and the race; Jayannpee, at seven no longer the force of old but with conditons to suit and from Ian Balding's currently flying stable, is often used as a safe conveyance for apprentices.

The Trifecta race is the eight-runner Sunley Handicap over a mile and three-quarters, in which the increasingly disappointing High And Mighty - a beaten favourite on his last three runs - may again find one or two too quick for him, despite the application of a visor. Highly Prized and Veronica Franco (4.10) appeal more; the mare's third to Rokeby Bowl at Epsom last time out looks even better since her conqueror's follow-up at York.

The five-runner Sun Stakes is probably one to watch with the future in mind rather than bet on, featuring as it does a selection of well-bred young middle-distance types. The pick may be Adnaan (2.35), a Nashwan half-brother to French Derby winner Hernando whose yearling cost of 900,000 guineas is just about the same sum as the Variety Club has raised for disadvantaged children over the past decade at Sandown.

Kilimanjaro went into a good few notebooks after winning last year 's renewal, but subsequently disappeared almost without trace. The same, however, cannot be said for the 1997 Atalanta Stakes heroine, One So Wonderful, and although her young relative Kissogram (3.40) may not subsequently scale the same Group Oneheights she should have enough improvement in her to keep the Listed race in the family.

Tomorrow's Prix Morny at Deauville, the second leg of France's so-called juvenile "quadruple crown", has attracted a five-strong British challenge, headed by the Paul Cole-trained Coventry Stakes winner Red Sea (Richard Quinn) and backed up by Clive Brittain's Caballero (Darryll Holland), John Gosden's Exeat (Frankie Dettori), Brian Meehan's Indiana Legend (Pat Eddery) and Mick Channon's Golden Silca (John Reid). The Irish challenge with the Aidan O'Brien trio Hunan, Coralita and Orpen.

The home side's defence is led by the Andre Fabre-trained filly Danzari, a daughter of 1991 wnner Arazi who was so impressive when she made a winning debut at the seaside track on Wednesday that she was immediately supplemented for this Group One contest.