Racing: Lahib fit for Champion

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ROBERT SANGSTER has just one task left for Rodrigo De Triano. The owner wants his dual Classic winner to become the world champion racehorse in Florida at the end of this month.

The chestnut colt will earn this accolade, which is based on the rather spurious grounds of a single, 10-furlong event, if he collects the dollars 3m Breeders' Cup Classic, the richest horse race anywhere, at Gulfstream Park.

The Classic has proved a slippery challenge for European horses - Ibn Bey's second to Unbridled two years ago is this continent's best performance - and Rodrigo De Triano will have to be at his peak if he is to succeed. Which is why he is unlikely to be at that stage today for the Champion Stakes at Newmarket, especially as he has been struggling to reach fitness in the run-up to the race.

Peter Chapple-Hyam, his trainer, is never short of conviction, but his words yesterday were not of a man who expects to be on the victory rostrum today.

'He's been lame all week and we've been working round the clock to get him right,' he said. 'He'll need the run because I've got to be honest and say he's just a couple of gallops short.'

Chapple-Hyam, who would prefer Rodrigo De Triano to run in the Breeders' Cup Mile in America, will not have spent last night preparing a victory speech. The man who was probably putting pen to paper is John Dunlop, whose Lahib (4.15) goes into the race with a clean bill of health.

Well-being was on the mind of Walter Swinburn yesterday as he considered his chances on Dermot Weld's Vintage Crop (next best 3.00) in the Cesarewitch. 'I've not sat on the horse but I do know that Mr Weld will not be sending him here just for the good of his health,' he said. 'On his Irish Leger form (fifth to Mashaallah) he must have a great chance.'

Swinburn, who won the 1984 Lincoln for Weld on Saving Mercy, is continuing a fruitful family alliance with the Rosewell House yard. The rider's father, Wally, was stable jockey to Weld for many years, during which time he became the first man in Ireland to ride 100 winners in a season.

The card's first televised race looks a match between horses who made their debuts in divisions of a maiden on this course 16 days ago, Barathea and Storm Canyon (2.20), who should benefit from both the 7lb he receives from his main rival and the sympathetic ride he was given by Steve Cauthen on his intial outing. 'The horse reared in the stalls and by the time he got to the leaders he was tired,' John Gosden, the colt's trainer, reported yesterday. 'He should improve for that run.'

CALEMAN (nap 3.35) should play a significant part in the sprint handicap, while Garah (4.45) can reverse form with Blyton Lad on their running here last month, as that was her first outing since May.