Racing: Island Sands glitters

2,000 Guineas: Godolphin have the last laugh again as Desert raider prevails for Dettori
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The Independent Online
ISLAND SANDS once again proved the devastating efficiency of the Dubai-based Godolphin team as he led virtually all the way to win the 181th running of the 2,000 Guineas here yesterday. The colt, plucked from obscurity by Sheikh Mohammed's head-hunters last year to join his elite squad, blazed down the Summer Mile under Frankie Dettori to beat Enrique a neck with Mujahid third and Brancaster fourth.

It was not until relatively recently that Island Sands revealed the measure of his talent. Sure, when he left the care of David Elsworth to spend his winter in the sun he was unbeaten in two runs, but was no more than promising. It was not until he won the Godolphin trial at Nad Al Sheba last month that he took top spot in the pecking order.

A most attractive brown, with four matching white socks and the faintest of stars on his forehead, he was just about the most purposeful of the field of 16 as he strode round the parade ring, muscles on his considerable backside bulging. They say a good walker is a good galloper and so it proved.

It was not Dettori's Plan A to make all the running but such is the Italian's sleight of brain that when he did not get the lead he expected he instantly adopted Plan B. "I expected Auction House and my stablemate Easaar to go on," he said, "but when mine jumped so well, pricked his ears and launched himself into his stride - and what a stride he has - I thought I may as well let him get on with it."

Because of building work on the Rowley Mile, yesterday was the first time the July course has hosted a Classic since the wartime races of 1945. Island Sands led the charge on the far side with only Desaru (ultimately ninth) and Commander Collins (11th) on the stands rails. A furlong out the broad white face of Mujahid sluiced through the pack and, for a moment, it seemed he would redeem his reputation, lost so mysteriously in the Craven Stakes three weeks ago, in glorious style. But Island Sands kept going and it was left to Enrique, who produced a storming finish but was always just second best, to chase him home.

"Mujahid may just have headed me for a stride or two but once Island Sands got into his rhythm again he was always going to beat him. Then out of the corner of my eye I saw the Niarchos colours [on Enrique] and I thought 'Jesus, this is going to be tight' but my fellow ran on really well again."

Island Sands, a son of the Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Turtle Island, cost just 18,000 guineas as a yearling and was owned in partnership by Elsworth and the Meredith family, in whose colours he ran last year. It is probably fair to say they did not lose by the transaction when approached by Sheikh Mohammed and made the traditional unrefusable offer.

Yesterday's victory was Godolphin's second in the 2,000 Guineas after Mark Of Esteem, also ridden by Dettori, three years ago. Mohammed, his racing manager Simon Crisford and trainer Saeed bin Suroor were absent from yesterday's proceedings, supervising their inaugural challenge for the Kentucky Derby.

His brother Hamdan, the owner of Mujahid, was seconded as spokesman and pointed to the value of the Dubai trials, conducted as a full-scale race, as a shakedown. "We get to know pretty accurately which ones are our best," he said. "But of course, we do not know about other stables."

Mukhalif, third in the trial, finished a good second here on Friday over a distance a tad too far for him. And such is the respect in which Godolphin is held, the colt who split him and Island Sands, Adair, is now favourite for the Derby.

Dettori added: "The horse never put a foot wrong all winter. He gave me a great feel when I first sat on him, but I have to admit it was a surprise when he won the trial so impressively. But today he has shown that was no fluke."

The connections of the horses who took the minor placings were as happy as professionals who do not win can be. Henry Cecil, responsible for Enrique, said: "He has got tremendous speed and came there to win his race but the winner just kept pulling that bit more out. But I think he proved he stayed the mile and we may go to the French Guineas. But we will be able to formulate plans better after Killer Instinct has run at Nottingham this week."

John Dunlop was possibly the most relieved man on the course after Mujahid's fine display. "I was completely flummoxed by his run in the Craven, but this has vindicated our belief in him," he said.

The 7-2 favourite Orpen was a grave disappointment, beating only one of his rivals, the fancied Auction House.