Racing: Investment in Alborada can add up

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The Independent Online
ONE OF the gambles of the year is due to come to fruition at Goodwood on Saturday. Not in the meeting's most frenetic betting heat, the Stewards' Cup, though. The horse concerned is the top-class filly Alborada, who will make her eagerly awaited seasonal debut in the Nassau Stakes.

You will not see her owner-breeder, Kirsten Rausing, queuing at a Tote window to back her, but the sums involved in the punt of keeping the beautiful little grey in training as a four-year-old would make a winning Scoop6 flutter seem mere pocket money.

After winning the Champion Stakes last year, with Daylami among those trailing in her wake, Alborada could have been retired with honour as a Group One winner and be even now waddling about the paddocks carrying her first foal.

Rausing, owner of Lanwades Stud near Newmarket, is a commercial breeder, and Alborada's produce will be sent to market in due course. Her yearling half-brother by the new stallion Hernando made IR400,000gns at auction a couple of weeks before she showed she could hack it at the highest level; for one of her own foals by a proven sire in today's market you could be talking seven figures.

Rausing dithered between the security of the paddocks and the pleasure of seeing the best racehorse she has bred fulfilling its function with a happy result for those who love to see a good athlete in action. If things go to plan she will not be too much out of pocket, either; the first place prize-money for Alborada's scheduled races - the Nassau, the Irish and English Champion Stakes and one of the top fillies' races in North America en route to a date with a Kentucky stallion - would more than cover costs. A couple more Group One victories would equate to an extra nought in the auction rings of the future.

Alborada's brilliance first burst on the scene in last year's Nassau Stakes, which brings together three-year-old and older distaffers over 10 furlongs. The race has been granted top status for the first time this year, an entirely sensible decision.

Although this year is shaping up to prove an exception, fillies and mares are generally weaker than colts at the highest level and another Group One contest to themselves on the programme is a welcome incentive to keep them in training.

The man with the responsibility of honing Alborada is Sir Mark Prescott, whose horses are running out of their elegant skins. The Newmarket-based baronet is one of life's natural realists - goose upping is not a ritual often enacted at Heath House Stables - and if he expresses even slight optimism about a horse it is the equivalent of Prince Ras Monolulu having a particularly extrovert day.

But for one slight hiccup, Alborada's year has gone entirely to plan. "Last year it worked very well not taking everyone on early," he said. "So she was turned out for the winter and sent back to training deliberately late. We would have run her in the Eclipse but she managed to duck that with a mucky scope just before the race. She did a good gallop on Friday, after a less good gallop earlier in the week and will work again on Tuesday. She's not quite there yet, but I think she might be on Saturday."

Rausing's decision to keep Alborada's close relative Last Second, who won the Nassau three years ago, racing at four did not pay off. "She did not train on, but this one is very different, much sounder mentally and physically," Prescott said. "Where she's been remarkable is that all the other things that stop horses winning races don't worry her. She can make it, she can hold up, she'll go on the firm, she'll go on the soft. If a horse is very adaptable - old Wizard King was the same - you can win a lot of races. The one that may be a bit better than yours might not have the race run to suit or the right ground on the day.

"She may be just an ordinary little filly to look at, and people are always disappointed when I point her out in the string. But she's got an engine and, more importantly, a heart."

The week's other top-level contest, the Sussex Stakes, offers the chance for the normally astute Godolphin team to recover from an early-season misadventure.

On all subsequent evidence Aljabr, diverted to Churchill Downs in the United States in the spring as part of Sheikh Mohammed's ill-starred raid on the Kentucky Derby, would have won his original target, the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket. The Storm Cat colt - like Alborada, a grey - was no match for the French miling star Sendawar at Royal Ascot but should get his European campaign back on tracks with that all-important Group One victory.