Racing Knock for backers of Muhtarram

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The Independent Online


While ante-post punters were scurrying around the nation's corner shops at the weekend trying to back the favourite for the Eclipse, their attention would have been better directed to another, far less smoky, chamber, in Newmarket.

As the name of Muhtarram was going down on betting slips the horse himself was going down with an injury that has removed him from the head of Eclipse calculations. The six-year-old is 100-30 (from 9-4) with William Hill following the revelation that he knocked himself over the weekend and subsequently missed two days exercise. Muhtarram will work this morning and will run if he comes through the examination.

While John Gosden's horse has hardly been advertising his prospects this week, the colt he beat in Royal Ascot's Prince of Wales's Stakes, Eltish, has usurped him at the peak of the market. He was cut to 2-1 (from 3-1) yesterday, joining Red Bishop, Halling, Singspiel and Prince Of Andros as horses on the move up the table.

It was Red Bishop who got the Godolphin ball (which has turned into the Godolphin planet) moving this year when he won the Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Sha Tin. His Dubaian stablemate, Halling, is by far the inferior on form (his best effort was in winning last year's Cambridgeshire), but has earned the label of the most improved horse in the Middle East over the winter. His physical development has been such that no-one now dreams of kicking Emirates sand into his face.

There is, however, plenty to sustain those who fancy the generally unfancied. The supplementary entry for pounds 20,000 of Tryphosa, the German filly, may seem like putting a torch to banknotes, but there is history and form to suggest she is not without a chance.

It is exactly 20 years since another German outsider, Star Appeal, beat the biggest Eclipse field of modern times at odds of 20-1 in the hands of Greville Starkey. Dear old Greville went on to ride a well-judged race on the same, equally unfancied and successful, horse in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in the days before he became known for riding a not particularly well-judged race in another top event.

Tryphosa won the German 1,000 Guineas this spring and was then third to Carling and Matiara in the Prix de Diane (French Oaks), when she progressed from ninth into the straight to reach the frame.

She will be ridden by Andreas Boschert for trainer Andreas Wohler, a young and thrusting figure in Germany's weighing rooms. Wohler may perhaps be happy just to avoid any scandal on his visit, as his horses, including the talented Royal Abjar, returned a series of positive dope tests last year. The 33-year-old trainer himself was so distressed by the spate that he offered a reward in the Post for information on who was getting to his string.

Environment Friend is a 33-1 shot for Saturday but he can take comfort in the fact that a 28-1 chance captured this event four years ago. His name was Environment Friend and he has not won a race since.

Now aged seven, the horse has been in as many pools as Johnny Weismuller and is now splashing around at yet another location following a move from Gary Rimmer to Clive Brittain's Carlburg yard. It will be a quirk on Saturday that the grey has competed in more Group One races than his jockey as Brett Doyle has come in for the ride.

The 22-year-old, who lost his apprentice claim just 12 months ago, rode in the 1,000 Guineas for Brittain earlier this year before scoring for the same trainer with World Premier at Royal Ascot. "Environment Friend is the sort of horse who enjoys a break and the change of scenery seems to have kept him happy," the jockey said yesterday. "He especially seems to have enjoyed all the swimming he has been getting in."

Environment Friend is also among the possibles for the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot on 22 July after yesterday's acceptance stage, but is unlikely to be a powerful factor if previous trends are anything to go by. For eight of the last 10 years the race has been won by three-year-olds, and that age group is again well represented this time with the first three from the Derby in there as well as Winged Love and Definite Article, who fought out the finish of the Irish equivalent at the Curragh on Sunday.

ECLIPSE STAKES (Sandown, Saturday): William Hill: 2-1 Eltish, 100-30 Muhtarram, 9-2 Red Bishop, 11-2 Halling & Singspiel, 8-1 Prince Of Andros, 14-1 Tryphosa, 33-1 Environment Friend. Coral: 5-2 Eltish, 3-1 Muhtarram, 7-2 Red Bishop, 6-1 Halling, 7-1 Singspiel, 8-1 Prince Of Andros, 14- 1 Tryphosa, 33-1 Environment Friend.