Racing: Hills makes waves on troubled water: Taps are turned on to ease the Guineas going but the move attracts criticism from a top trainer

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The Independent Online
WHILE the rest of England was reaching for its sunglasses yesterday, a quarter of an inch of water arrived on the Rowley Mile at Newmarket to increase the chance that Turtle Island, one of the favourites for Saturday's 2,000 Guineas, will go to post as planned. Punters seeking signs, however, should be aware that the 'rain' owed nothing to divine intervention, and everything to the hand of Nick Lees, the clerk of the course, on the tap controlling Newmarket's watering system.

It is an unfortunate fact of Lees's lot that he can never please everyone, but artificial going alterations tend to attract particular criticism. Though a surprising number of the entries for this year's 2,000 Guineas have winning form on good or good to soft ground, Lees's action will irritate punters holding ante-post slips for Redoubtable or Colonel Collins.

Their feelings were summed up by Barry Hills, trainer of 50-1 outsider Torch Rouge. 'It's an absolute disgrace,' Hills said. 'The racecourse is in a bad enough condition anyway. They've only had two dry days and then they've decided to water.'

Their was a definite hint of weary resignation about Lees's defence. 'My job is to get the best and safest racing ground possible,' he said yesterday. 'All we're doing is putting on a quarter of an inch which will restore the moisture in the top part of the soil. I'm hoping to start the meeting with reasonably good ground, but the 2,000 Guineas is Saturday, and by then it could be good to firm anyway.'

Such an outcome would perhaps be the worst possible for Peter Chapple-Hyam, who trains both Turtle Island and Colonel Collins for Robert Sangster.

Chapple-Hyam would run Turtle Island on good ground, and scratch him if it is firm, but he will face a very difficult choice if the going is somewhere between the two. The trainer will walk the course before coming to a decision, and consult John Reid after the jockey has ridden Chapple- Hyam's Delta One there tomorrow.

'I can leave it right up until Friday morning,' the trainer said yesterday. 'Turtle Island doesn't have to have soft ground, but it's a long season and I don't want to risk jarring him up.' In any event, only one of Sangster's pair will take part.

Turtle Island's drift in the ante-post betting continued yesterday. The colt was 3-1 favourite for the Classic after winning the Greenham Stakes at Newbury 11 days ago, but is now an 11-2 chance with William Hill.

Backers have turned instead to another of Chapple-Hyam's runners, Golden Nashwan, who is now 8-1 from 10-1 with Hills. At the insistence of the owners, the colt will be partnered by Michael Roberts, the former champion jockey, rather than Brent Thomson, who had been linked with the ride earlier this week, while Simon Whitworth is expected to be aboard the yard's fourth runner, Canaska Star.

Thomson could yet find an opening in the Classic, however. With an unusually large number of runners expected, the supply of experienced jockeys has dried up even faster than the ground, but Richard Hannon's Redoubtable, a well- regarded 16-1 chance, is one of several without a definite partner. Bruce Raymond is a leading candidate here, but may be required to ride Green Green Desert or Just Happy for Michael Stoute.

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