Racing: Friendly exposes Classic colt's flaws: The reputation of the current crop of three-year-olds was further eclipsed by defeats at the weekend

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The Independent Online
IF THE standing of the current crop of three-year-olds looked shaky after Tenby and Barathea failed to make any impression on Opera House in Saturday's Eclipse Stakes, it had sagged to its knees after yesterday's Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud in which the Derby third, Blues Traveller, was easily outpointed by another more seasoned runner, User Friendly.

With the Classic crop looking so vulnerable, Commander In Chief may now have a real fight to maintain his unbeaten record in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot on 24 July. Both Opera House and User Friendly will be there to test him and the bookmakers' appraisal of his chances is likely to be available after tomorrow's forfeit stage whittles down the field.

Clive Brittain was in typically forthright form after User Friendly had recaptured the form which brought her the Oaks and St Leger last year. 'She will definitely come on again for this race,' the Newmarket trainer said. 'She will now go for the King George and then the Arc and perhaps another attempt at the Japan Cup.' User Friendly finished second and sixth respectively in those last two races in 1992.

A change of tactics yesterday helped User Friendly to a comfortable 1 1/2 -length success over Apple Tree. 'It was the first time I was instructed to make the running to make the most of her stamina, because we were worried there wouldn't be any pace,' George Duffield, her rider, said. 'She was never in any danger today.'

Blues Traveller was beaten a total of three lengths in fourth, but never really looked like threatening the winner. 'He ran very well and was going as well as anything entering the straight but was one-paced in the final two furlongs,' Barry Hills, his trainer, said, before revealing the extent of his ambition for a horse that has been placed in what is supposedly the premier Classic. 'He will next run in the Group Three BMW Europachampionat (at Hoppegarten on 15 August),' Hills said.

Luca Cumani was meanwhile showing rather more belief in Barathea, despite the colt's fifth placing in the Eclipse, for which he started favourite but appeared not to stay the 10-furlong trip. 'Barathea will be returned to a mile for now, but I'm confident that he can be successful over a mile and a quarter,' Cumani said. 'He needs a break and we will leave it until September for him to come back, in either the Prix du Moulin or Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (both Group One events). He's still a Classic winner.'

That Classic win, in the Irish 2,000 Guineas, is one of only two successes recorded by any of the 14 runners in Zafonic's 2,000 Guineas in 20 subsequent runs between them over what is now a two-month period. Hardly inspiring, and the Derby form looks no sharper. Eight of the 16 runners at Epsom have taken the field since and only Commander In Chief, in the Irish Derby, has won. Redenham, seventh in the Derby, finished 18th of 19 in the German version in Hamburg yesterday.

Jockeys will, from today, have one less option as they try to elicit some sort of speed from this disappointing band. The time has come for the more stringent rules governing whip use, announced earlier this year, to come into effect.

Stewards will now consider taking action against any jockey that hits his mount more than five times. The previous trigger was 10 hits. Jockeys are also liable for punishment if raising the whip above their shoulder and if hitting the horse's shoulder in the forearm position. As transgressions rose by 70 per cent when the rules were tightened last year, a fresh spate of suspensions and fines seems likely.

(Photograph omitted)

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