Racing: Is Entrepreneur the business?

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The many Conservatives in the world of racing might feel that Entrepreneur will have extra difficulty making his mark in the 2,000 Guineas the day after the 1-6 favourites form the next government, but the market forces of which they are so fond suggest otherwise.

After a week in which the Classic trials launched some highflying, rather than cosmic talent, the horse who attracted most of the attention and nearly all the money was one who will not have his first race of the season until he lines up for the Guineas on 3 May. Entrepreneur, the Michael Stoute-trained stable companion of Thursday's Craven Stakes winner, Desert Story, and Saturday's Greenham Stakes winner, Yalaietanee, is now challenging for 2,000 favouritism at odds as low as 9-2.

David Hood, of William Hill, dispatched a hundredweight of hyperbole which caught the mood: "We have seen lorry-loads of money for Entrepreneur in the last 48 hours," he reported, "and we have had to trim him almost by the hour." From 8-1 to 9-2 during Saturday morning anyway.

"This week's big-race wins from Desert Story and Yalaietanee has led to Entrepreneur being backed off the boards simply by association."

Ian Wassell, of Ladbrokes, was more restrained. "The over-riding feature of the Classic trials has been the strong performance of Michael Stoute's colts and the huge confidence in Entrepreneur. The horse has fallen from 12-1 to 5-1 for the Guineas and 7-1 to 6-1 for the Derby without leaving his box."

Huge confidence is a phrase that Entrepreneur has grown up alongside. The most expensive purchase (jointly with fellow Derby hope Happy Valentine) at 600,000 guineas at the 1995 Tattersalls Houghton Sale, his reputation was such that when he made his racecourse debut last August it was at odds of 4-9. Defeated that day, he was still returned at 1-2 and 1-6 for his two subsequent successes in minor events at Kempton and Chester.

Despite those wins, the enthusiasm that has driven him to such a prominent position in the market for the 2,000 Guineas, just behind another who has achieved little on the racecourse, Shamikh, is based on talk. With that pair, and another trio that are prominent in 2,000 betting, Indiscreet, Musical Pursuit and Putra, all being reserved from racecourse action until the big day, the form book can perform only a perfunctory role in assessing the candidates' merits. What is required is a book of quotations.

The talking really started during Walter Swinburn's charitable walk across Ireland. "There won't be one leg of this walk when I'm not daydreaming about Entrepreneur," the colt's jockey said. "He's very special and has matured into a proper man of a horse. What's more Michael Stoute adores him too."

And Frankie Dettori it seems. "The word coming out of Michael Stoute's stable is that Entrepreneur is the stable's best three-year-old colt since Shergar," Dettori told the Racing Post on 17 March.

Dettori, though, will be the man on board the Godolphin runner, Shamikh, a top-priced 4-1 for Newmarket after the failure of fellow market-leader Revoque to hold Yalaietanee at Newbury on Saturday.

Shamikh's reputation started to soar in the month before the start of the Flat season when his price tumbled from 33-1 to 12-1 for the 2,000, despite having been off course with sore shins since his only, and successful, mission last June in the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot. His position was sealed when Sheikh Mohammed summoned reporters at the Dubai World Cup. "These are the five I will give you to follow," he said, putting Shamikh at the top of the list. "He is the one who has come through; we hope others will follow."

On 7 April, the trials took place in Dubai to decide which horses will be flown to Britain on 28 April. Shamikh worked with Bahamian Bounty, a dual Group One-race winner as a juvenile. "We don't want to start shouting from the rooftops," Simon Crisford, Godolphin's racing manager, said, "but it was a very solid piece of work, it really was."

The Entrepreneur camp struck back this week after their boy cantered at Newmarket. "He's the real thing. He does it so easy," Greville Starkey, the former jockey and now assistant to Stoute, said. "I think he would toy with the horse [Desert Story] that won this afternoon."

So now we know. Based on the compliment count, I calculate that Entrepreneur will have a length and threequarters to spare over Shamikh when they meet on 3 May and the talking stops.