Racing: Good ground for taking Grand value: Island returns as conditions come right for a true decider between some evenly matched milers

IT might seem unfair that a horse which has won a Classic by 15 lengths can have something left to prove, but while Turtle Island's victory in the Irish 2,000 Guineas was breathtaking, his timing was anything but.

Since that stroll at The Curragh in May, he has appeared only once, when third to Grand Lodge on unsuitably fast ground in the St James's Palace Stakes at Ascot, and in his absence other milers, particularly East Of The Moon and Distant View, have muscled him aside in the memory. If Turtle Island is to receive the credit he deserves when the season closes, he will need to assert himself once again this autumn.

That campaign begins at Goodwood today, when Turtle Island runs for the first time in 75 days in the Celebration Mile. Grand Lodge is again among his opponents, as are Mehthaaf, the Irish 1,000 Guineas winner, and Swing Low, who won the Milelast year, but the bookmakers have shown little hesitation in making Peter Chapple-Hyam's colt the favourite today, at around 2-1.

It is a price which says as much about the esteem in which Turtle Island's trainer is held as the perceived merit of that run in Ireland. After all, though Grand Lodge was almost 20 lengths behind him on the heavy going at The Curragh, on the fast ground of summer which has frustrated Chapple-Hyam's plans for Turtle Island, Grand Lodge has performed with distinction.

Today's good going should offer no advantage to either side, but with September almost upon us, it is not a situation which is likely to arise again. This may prove to be the definitive meeting between these two excellent colts, and while Grand Lodge might prefer a stiffer mile, at the odds on offer he must be the selection for punters seeking value (with only seven runners, an each-way bet makes no appeal).

Expect a much shorter price about Midnight Legend, who is ante-post second favourite for the St Leger two weeks today despite the fact that this afternoon's appearance in the March Stakes is his first step beyond handicap company. The precedent on which his long-range supporters are relying is Commanche Run, who was also steered through handicaps by Luca Cumani prior to his success in the final Classic.

Yet placing great emphasis on handicap form when assessing a Pattern contest is risky at best. While Midnight Legend is certainly a useful and improving three-year-old, his prominence in the Leger betting may reflect little more than the desperation of bookies (and punters) to find an alternative to Red Route, the Henry Cecil-trained 2-1 favourite.

Opposition to Midnight Legend today appears thin, but one horse who might upset him is Golden Ball. Michael Stoute's colt won for the first time at Ascot recently, but backers with good memories will recall him running seventh behind Erhaab in the Derby, and Michael Stoute's colt has long seemed likely to show his best form when sent beyond 12 furlongs.

Stoute's string is in excellent form at present, and yesterday the trainer picked up Group Three wins in both Britain and Germany. Cezanne took the Spreti-Rennen at Baden-Baden, while Pure Grain outstayed Tajannub, the favourite, to take the Prestige Stakes at Goodwood.

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