Racing: King to join the Champions' party

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The Independent Online
Punters were left reeling by wins for six rank outsiders at Newmarket yesterday.

But Desert King looks primed to join the top contenders expected to dominate tomorrow's Champion Stakes, reports Richard Edmondson

The shape of tomorrow's Champions Day card at Newmarket remained as constant as the contents of a lava lamp yesterday as connections of two leading players stumbled over participation. If you want to place a shrewd guess on these matters, the essence seems to be that both Desert King and Xaar will augment already compelling fields in the Champion Stakes and Dewhurst Stakes respectively.

Aidan O'Brien, Ireland's leading trainer, would be non-committal when discussing an extra pint with the milkman, so his words yesterday about Desert King were as authoritative as we can expect from Ballydoyle. "It looks as though Desert King will be running in the Champion Stakes," he said. "I will have to confirm that later tonight when I speak to owners Michael Tabor and John Magnier. If he runs, Kieren Fallon will ride."

Tabor, though, is unlikely to see his dual Classic winner steaming across the Suffolk flatlands. He is expected to be in New York at Belmont Park, witnessing the Breeders' Cup auditions of his juveniles with D Wayne Lukas. Santa Anita Park in California is another venue for the partnership's Cup aspirants this weekend. Desert King himself might still run in the Breeders' Cup Turf, especially as Tabor's Arlington Million winner, Marlin, has suffered a career-terminating injury.

Those behind Xaar are getting a bit twitchy about the Falklands weather that has somehow found its way up to East Anglia. The chirpy little Nick Lees, clerk of the course, assures us the ground will be good all round come the big day. There is even a forecast for fine, warm weather tomorrow, which will be news to those who were fighting to keep their gaberdines on yesterday.

Nevertheless a grave caveat was issued from Camp Xaar. "In view of the uncertain weather forecast and the present description of good to soft going at Newmarket, we feel it is only fair to warn punters that Xaar will not run if there is any reference to "soft" in the going description on Saturday morning," Grant Pritchard-Gordon, the racing manager to the colt's owner, Khalid Abdullah, said.

Soft was also the description of punters' resolve at close of play at Newmarket yesterday following victories for a 33-1 shot, three at 20-1 and two at 16-1. Santillana, at 6-1, was the relative hotpot in the Severals Conditions Stakes.

John Gosden's colt had not run since hurting himself in victory at Sandown early last year and the relief of his team was evidenced by a flying dismount from Frankie Dettori.

A superficial examination of this afternoon's card might have backers searching for the cutthroat, though it may transpire that the 28-runner nursery handicap is not as complex as it seems. The dead ground and winds at Headquarters mean that whatever wins today will have to possess the capacity to come back and take a Cesarewitch later in their career. GENEROSITY (nap 3.45) has already proved that he could get a job with the pony express.

In the televised opener, Gosden starts off Louis Philippe, like Santillana a son of El Gran Senor, and there is another interesting entrant in the San Siro debut winner Sottvus. The best option, though, looks to be Abreeze (2.05), who is considered to be one of Godolphin's best juveniles.

Fahris, who did not stay in the Cumberland Lodge Stakes last time, is back to a proven distance in the Darley Stakes, but it is informative that animals that have finished behind him before reform to take on the penalised topweight. Of these, Green Card (next best 2.35) is the most persuasive.

Bollin Joanne will be fancied in the Listed Bentinck Stakes but the one to follow here is Snow Kid (3.10), who has been assessed as Group Three standard by his jockeys. We find out today what sort of judges they are.

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