Racing: Island Sands has Guineas double vision

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The Independent Online
THE FIRST-ROUND, second leg of the three-year-old colts' mile championship takes place this afternoon at the Curragh in the form of the Irish 2,000 Guineas. The first two in the Newmarket original three weeks ago, Island Sands and Enrique, take each other on again with a fair bit of needle in the rematch.

Both sets of connections - Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin team in the case of Island Sands and Henry Cecil and the Niarchos family with Enrique - are well used to treating triumph and disaster magnanimously the same. But well-documented previous circumstances mean that if each can beat the other then victory is that little bit sweeter.

Enrique was the better-fancied of the pair last month and in some eyes was a little unlucky to fail in his task. His best weapon is the blinding burst of acceleration he can produce, but over a mile, which on the evidence so far seems the outer limit of his stamina, its timing must be spot- on. A sore foot earlier in the week is not going to be forwarded as an excuse.

Island Sands is more adaptable, able to cope with making the running and fending off challenges, as he did at Newmarket, or pouncing at the end.

The home side have a dismal recent record in the local Guineas, with only one winner - Desert King two years ago - in the past 10 seasons. The same stable, that of Aidan O'Brien, mounts a four-strong defence this afternoon, notably with Orpen, disappointing when favourite at Newmarket but expected to be better suited by a stronger pace, and Saffron Waldon, who will be putting his Derby credentials on the line.

For Island Sands to complete the English-Irish 2,000 Guineas double would be a rare enough feat - Rodrigo de Triano in 1992 was only the fourth to do so - but a similar achievement in the two 1,000 Guineas would be unique. Wince, victress at Newmarket, has numerically the more daunting task in her attempt but she may find she has an easier awayday than the boys. The merit of her Classic win was underlined when third-placed Valentine Waltz won the French Guineas six days ago.

Four of those behind her at Newmarket reoppose: Capistrano Day (fourth), Hula Angel (sixth), Golden Silca (seventh) and Sunspangled (15th). The last-named should perform to better effect on easy ground and a good showing will put her back in the Oaks picture. Edabiya, one of the best of her age and sex last year, is another with Epsom as a target.

The Group One focus also falls on France and Italy tomorrow. At Longchamp the Prix d'Ispahan marks the European debut of last year's locally-trained Japan Cup winner El Condor Pasa, whose seven rivals include British-based pair Handsome Ridge and Kabool. The sole raider in the Prix Saint-Alary is Mother Of Pearl while Barafamy and Signorina Cattiva travel to Milan in search of lire in the Italian Oaks.

The most interesting aspects of today's domestic fare are the long-awaited debut of impeccably-bred one-time Derby possible Yaralino at Lingfield, the ongoing gloves-off battle for the jump trainers' championship between Paul Nicholls and Martin Pipe being enacted Stratford, and the possible dual appearance of Amington Girl in races two hours apart at Wolverhampton this evening.

When a racehorse is described as depressed it does not usually mean he sits alone in a darkened stable playing old Leonard Cohen records. Godolphin's former No 1 Derby hope and sometime ante-post favourite Adair, to whom the adjective was applied after he missed the Dante Stakes at York last week, will have his own private trial for Epsom on Monday or Tuesday. It will be a fairly searching affair, not so much of the ex-American colts' ability but of his constitution.

"We noticed after he arrived in Newmarket that he did not seem to have the same sort of spirit that he had in Dubai," said Godolphin's racing manager Simon Crisford. "He'd never struck us as a physically frail individual, but some cope with travelling and acclimatisation better than others. The crucial question will be how he copes with it afterwards."

The strains of "Bird On The Wire" at Moulton Paddocks would not be a good sign.