Racing: Killer caught in Classic confusion

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The Independent Online
AT THE START of racing here yesterday, both the weather and the 2,000 Guineas picture seemed set fair. Three hours later both had deteriorated into cloudy murk as one Henry Cecil-trained hot-shot, Enrique, won the traditional Classic trial in a manner that aroused distinct reservations and the other, Killer Instinct, was turned over by a 33-1 shot, Alrassaam, in a maiden race. The identity of the horse who was going to sweep majestically to the head of the market for the first colt's Classic after the eclipse of the winter favourite, Mujahid, in the Craven Stakes on Thursday had not, after all, been revealed.

Enrique, on something of a retrieval mission after his Dewhurst Stakes defeat by Mujahid last autumn, was first under scrutiny. The Barathea colt proved that he does possess a classy turn of foot but his narrow victory in the seven-furlong contest raised questions about his stamina.

Kieren Fallon went for home fully two furlongs out and put daylight between himself and his rivals in a matter of strides. However, his two closest pursuers - Exeat and Perugino Bay - were reeling him in throughout the final half-furlong and at the line the distances between them were only half a length and three-quarters.

Enrique's stablemate Killer Instinct, beaten by the Craven Stakes victor, Compton Admiral, on his sole outing last year, once again failed to live up to his glowing home reputation in the Burghclere Maiden Stakes over the full Guineas trip of a mile. The big Zafonic colt was cruising two furlongs out but when Fallon pressed the button there was little response and as he hung towards the rails under pressure not only did Alrassaam pull clear away by two fair and square lengths but Tobruk, a short-head third, was closing him down with every stride.

As far as Enrique was concerned, Cecil was more inclined to attribute the Niarchos-owned colt's apparent short run - his dam Gwydion was a sprinter - to the way yesterday's race panned out rather than lack of reserves. "They didn't really go fast enough and he had to go past them earlier than ideal," he said. "Once he had gone and won his race he perhaps thought he had done enough. With a faster pace Kieren would be able to sit on him and wait a bit longer."

However, the Newmarket maestro was visibly disappointed by Killer Instinct's display. "He is a big horse, and he had been laid up after his first run," he said by way of mitigation. "He just seemed to get tired in the final furlong."

As attention focused on Cecil, Alrassaam's trainer, Michael Jarvis, stood virtually alone in the rain with Sheikh Ahmed's bay, also a son of Zafonic. "You ignore this horse at your peril," he warned. "He has been shaping well over the winter and working like a real good horse. I would have been disappointed had he not run well today."

Another satisfied trainer was John Gosden, who has charge of Exeat, who will take his place in the Guineas field provided the ground is not firm. "We had a very difficult winter with him," Gosden said. "He came home lame after his run in France last year and his preparation has not been the one I would have liked."

After racing, the Barry Hills-trained Auction House, runner-up in the Dewhurst, proved that he had at least come through the winter with four limbs intact in a spin up the straight, in which he was shaded at the end by the filly Valentine Girl.

And just to add another variable to the equation, John Dunlop has not ruled out the possibility of Mujahid being allowed to take his chance in the Guineas. Last season's top two-year-old cantered yesterday morning and showed no ill-effects.

"He was ridden for the first time since Thursday and he seems 100 per cent in every way, which makes what happened all the more confusing," the Arundel trainer said, speaking after the victory of his charge, Sadian, in the John Porter Stakes. "At least when he was beaten in the Gimcrack there was a reason; he came back with sore shins.

"I cannot say that was the first time that I have been surprised by a result, but it was certainly the most dramatic time. Before the race I had never seen a horse look more wonderful in my life."

When the dust had settled the consensus of bookmaker reaction was to make Enrique and last year's runaway Racing Post Trophy winner Commander Collins , who is yet to appear this year and due to work here on Wednesday, their market leaders at around 4-1 with Auction House, Mujahid, the Godolphin candidate Island Sands and the Irish raider Orpen next choices at 8-1. Killer Instinct has been deleted and Alrassaam enters calculations at 33-1.

Tissifer, winner of the Thirsk Classic Trial, is now likely to head for the Italian 2,000 Guineas in Rome next week.