Racing: Haami to shine in the Solario

A colt fancied for next year's 2,000 Guineas can restore prestige to today's Group Three event at Sandown. Greg Wood reports.
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The Independent Online
Island Magic, Brave Act and Lovely Millie have two things in common. The first is that all three were winners of the Solario Stakes within the last five years, the second that they slipped back into obscurity almost as rapidly as they had emerged from it.

Despite this conspicuous lack of further success on the part of its winners, however, there are good reasons to believe that the latest renewal of this Group Three contest at Sandown this afternoon could be among the more significant juvenile races we have seen so far this season.

Or rather, not seen, unless you can absent yourself from work in mid- afternoon and find your way to a betting shop, since the Solario has been dropped from the Channel 4 schedule just when it has produced a contest which might pull in the viewers.

In Haami and Almutawakel, the field contains two colts of immense promise, both unbeaten in two starts to date, while Sharp Play, beaten only by Aidan O'Brien's King Of Kings in two starts so far, offers a solid line to the best juvenile form in Ireland. Add in Henry Cecil's Tracking, who is 7lb better off after being beaten a neck by Haami last time out, and one way or another, Haami's latest odds for the 1998 2,000 Guineas are unlikely to be unchanged at around 16-1 by this evening.

Anyone who believes in the power of the pedigree will certainly be rooting for John Dunlop's runner this afternoon. By Nashwan out of Dunlop's Lupe Stakes winner Oumaldaaya, Haami has not let his parents down so far, recording smooth victories at Newmarket and Doncaster, and while a strict reading of the latter form gives Tracking every chance today, Haami's superiority was far greater than the official margin might imply.

It will be a serious disappointment if he cannot find the necessary improvement to confirm that form today, after which attention may turn to the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster, which with Daggers Drawn (the Tote's 5-1 favourite for the 2,000 Guineas), King Of Kings (7-1) and Central Park (12-1) already among its possible runners, could prove to be the juvenile race of the season.

Tracking is one of six rides at Sandown today for Kieren Fallon, who starts the day one winner ahead of Frankie Dettori in the jockey's championship after a single success at Lingfield yesterday. Dettori remains a 2-5 chance with the Tote to finish the season in front, but the Italian must also be long odds-on to lose his unexpected appeal, which will be heard at Portman Square today, against a five-day suspension for irresponsible riding, due to start on Monday.

Dettori had originally decided to accept the punishment, imposed after he forced his way out of a pocket on Cape Cross at Goodwood last Saturday, but apparently now feels he has nothing to lose by lodging an appeal, (bar a pounds 300 deposit, which is hardly going to force his bank manager to start bouncing his cheques).

``On Monday night I went home from Chepstow and looked at the tape,'' Dettori said yesterday. ``My thoughts were a lot stronger and I changed my mind about not appealing.''

The chance that the Jockey Club's disciplinary committee will increase his ban is slight, but the likelihood that they will overturn the local stewards' decision seems equally remote, given that neither John Gosden or Sheikh Mohammed, the trainer and owner of Cape Cross, intend to take the matter any further.

A belated investigation into an altogether more serious matter may soon be underway in Australia, where a former stable lad has finally admitted that he doped Big Philou, who would have started a hot favourite for the Melbourne Cup, the race which stops the nation, in 1969.

Les Lewis, who has a terminal disease, had previously always denied the charge and was cleared by a jury in a court case in 1970, but told an Australian newspaper that he wanted to clear his conscience before he died.

Lewis claims that he was paid US$10,000 to dope Big Philou, who stood to cost bookmakers a huge payout but was scratched from the Cup on the morning of the race. More significantly, Lewis says that the bookie who paid him is still alive, and the police are now investigating his story.