Racing: Killer's next mission is at the Curragh

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THE AUDITIONS of the past week have clarified the Classic picture like a herd of hippopotamuses cleanse creek water. Too many of our supposed Flat superstars have run like the river horse himself this season. There have not been test-runs as such, more trials and tribulations.

The largest jolts so far have been caused by Mujahid and Killer Instinct. It is a measure of the paucity of talent in the 2,000 Guineas that while these horses seem to have told us they are not up to the job both were still quoted in the betting for the first Classic, a week on Saturday, after their failure.

Mujahib's quarters at Arundel's Castle Stables resembles the night of the living dead. Stable lads and connections wander around like zombies wondering how the animal which annihilates every horse in the yard could not beat scrawny contemporaries at Newmarket on Thursday.

John Dunlop, the colt's trainer, has too much of an aristocratic crust to do anything so proletarian as sob or moan, but he has already told us he has never been so crushed by a horse's performance. Mujahid looked marvellous before the Craven Stakes, but the pretty canvas was stretched over a troubled core. They have subsequently done every test bar IQ and pregnancy on the horse and still no answer emerges.

Killer Instinct looks easier to unravel. He again appeared soft in succumbing at Newbury on Saturday and the horse looks appallingly named. He has as much of the predator about him as a koala bear.

Henry Cecil's colt clearly excels in the three-quarter speed of the gallops - if the armour-plated vans full of punting money which accompany him to the racecourse are any guide. However, when the tap is fully turned on he starts to dribble. The French say "jamais deux sans trois" and it would take a punter of some vision to continue backing the beast.

That facility is next likely to be available at the Curragh rather than Newmarket. "He is more likely to go for the Irish Guineas," Willie Carson, the spokesman for the colt's owners, the Thoroughbred Corporation, said yesterday. "With just two weeks to go, race to race, the 2,000 Guineas in England will come a bit quick."

Killer Instinct's stablemate Enrique showed a pleasing turn of foot to distance himself from his field in the Greenham Stakes at Newbury, but then, just as we were about to pick up the phone and dial accounts, the colt started messing around in front. You can bet 5-1 (with William Hill) if you believe this was caused by lack of fitness rather than stamina deficiency.

It may be that we expect too much from these brilliant but brittle animals. Spring is the hardest time of a racehorse's career, when the work is cranked up to test their suitability. Like cadets sent for officer training, young horses are put through the mangle to make sure they can stand a proper career. Quite a few do not make it. The horse ambulance in Newmarket almost breaks down in this period as it tends to those who actually have broken down.

We have certainly learned not to expect too much from many of our leading Flat protagonists (human). There have been reminders this past week why the Flat is less fun than the jumps, the whole edifice built not on the great stanchions of endeavour and honesty, but rather the depressingly masterful big buck. There have been shocking displays from tall names, but just a single victory will be enough to see a fast taxi arrive and send them on the way to the breeding sheds.

In the winter horses do not earn their reputations on the gallops, the leading trainers (generally) do not think a press question is an opportunity to be evasive and unfurl what they presumably consider to be a massive intellect.

It is not that men on the Flat are without charm, just that they would like to reserve their allocation for either the television camera, men in long flowing robes with long flowing bank accounts or others who might propel them forward. Anyone else is a nuisance.

A merciful release from Jonny Clever-Cloggs is Peter Chapple-Hyam, who has smoothly ridden to the top of the 2,000 Guineas ante-post list by the simple expedient of keeping Commander Collins' stable door well and truly bolted on racedays. The Racing Post Trophy winner cantered yesterday morning and will be out again today. He may also work at Newbury towards the end of the week, but he will not contest a race again until they shove his bottom into the July course stalls on May day. "Not running them seems the way to be at the moment," Chapple-Hyam said yesterday. "If the bubble is going to burst let's do it in the Guineas.

"He was never going to run anywhere else before the Guineas. Hopefully he's a Derby horse and hopefully he's going to have a hard year. The season doesn't finish tomorrow."

The season did not start ideally at Manton either. "We started cantering in mid-February, but with all that rain in March we had to go steady," Chapple-Hyam added. "And then we heard about Bint Allayl [Mick Channon's talented filly which died on the gallops] going wrong and the more stories like that you hear the steadier you go. You just wait for the decent ground. These aren't machines and they have to be looked after.

"I think everyone else has been in the same boat and all these big horses are just blowing up. They'll improve and a lot of them might just be right on Guineas day. Mujahid might have wanted it and Killer Instinct is a big horse so it's possible that he is another that might have needed the run. They all run fresh first time as well. They'll come on and I wouldn't write them off. If they want to write them off and send to me they're most welcome."

n The Aidan O'Brien-trained Saffron Waldon remains a potential Classic contender after a narrow success in the 2,000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown yesterday. Saffron Waldon swooped late to justify odds-on favouritism in a race in which the runner-up, the Dermot Weld-trained Mus-If, conceding 7lb, looked the likely scorer for much of the race. "He is going the right way and he is still a possible for the Newmarket Guineas along with Stravinsky and Orpen," O'Brien said. "We will be trying out the Newmarket possibles next Friday. Orpen could go straight to the Classic without a run, Stravinsky has got a lot fitter since he was beaten on the Curragh last month and Saffron Waldon is still there. We might even run more than one of them at Newmarket." Weld gained some compensation for Mus-If's defeat when Tarry Flynn won the following Fitzers Handicap.