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Racing: Imperialist to dominate the masses

QUALITY MAY not be its strongest suit but it will not fail for lack of numbers. That is the commentary for both this racing weekend as a whole and its most valuable focal point, the Weatherbys Super Sprint at Newbury this afternoon.

We are now beached in the mid-summer lull, the hammock before the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes meeting at Ascot next week and the subsequent Glorious Goodwood gathering. This does not mean that the bookmakers will let us off lightly. There are nine races available this afternoon via the terrestrials and a further seven beamed down by the Sky from Redcar and Warwick this evening. The twin impostors beckon.

The big money for owners, trainers and jockeys will be earned at Newbury in a juvenile contest which is aimed at the turf's relatively poor. The conditions of the Weatherbys Super Sprint specifically outlaw any runner which cost more than 30,000gns from nominated sales in England and Ireland. The pounds 125,000 on offer is the incentive for small-stake purchase at racing's bargain basement. It is our version of the forefinger hovering over the rooftop.

It might then be argued that the already enriched Aidan O'Brien and Olivier Peslier might be unsuitable winners, but there is no doubt that trainer and jockey are well represented with the Navan winner Barrier Reef.

Richard Hannon, too, does not have to drop his hat on the pavement and he saddles an even more compelling contestant in the shape of IMPERIALIST (nap 2.30). The filly, who is well drawn, showed she could perform in a crowd when third at the Curragh last month. Even more instructive was her previous performance at Salisbury, over today's five-furlong trip. That day she beat Kalindi, who went on to capture the Windsor Castle at Royal Ascot. It is not form to ignore.

O'Brien will also have a strong interest in the preceding race, the Hackwood Stakes, even though there is no Ballydoyle representative. This contest offers the first appearance of one of Stravinsky's victims from the July Cup. Arkadian Hero (next best 2.00) was fourth in the sprint from what was considered an impossible draw, though the No 1 station may not have been as disastrous a penalty as feared at the time. Nevertheless, Luca Cumani's colt, who has not won since taking the Mill Reef Stakes here over course and distance as a two-year-old, should be good enough now.

The Mtoto Donnington Castle Stakes invariably throws up a decent beast, and there would be no more appropriate winner than Wardat Allayl, a Mtoto half-sister to the brilliant but ill-fated Bint Allayl. Mick Channon's filly has more than coincidence on her side. She, too, has ability judged by a good third on her Salisbury debut.

Cumani should also have a local heroine in his Newmarket manor. Innuendo (3.15) may be making her seasonal debut but she is already a Listed winner, having won over the Rowley Mile course last October. She appreciated the step up in distance that day and has wisely been kept to a mile and a half.

Hoh Steamer (4.15) will also go well here as a clever success after encountering traffic at Ascot last time may have disguised his full superiority. Highly Prized (3.45) was fourth but beaten less than a length in a similar race at Kempton last month and should be close.

The French are outnumbered in their own Maisons- Laffitte back yard tomorrow when the Prix Eugene Adam is dominated by the visitors. Godolphin's Dubai Millennium, the beaten Derby favourite, is the most notable of the foreigners. Frankie Dettori's mount is joined by another Epsom failure, David Elsworth's Salford Express, plus another from the busy Cumani stable, Manndar. They have State Shinto, from Andre Fabre's yard, and Elie Lellouche's Sardauka to beat.