Racing: Leisure and pleasure on hold for High-Rise

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The Independent Online
WHEN A young colt wins the Derby these days his fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. Victory in the Blue Riband usually means that our hero is quickly transported to the equine version of a bachelor's bedroom. A quick squirt of cologne from the atomizer later, a rap on the door announces a queue of some of the best-bred fillies in existence.

If this is a tableau that High-Rise, this year's Derby victor, has in mind, he is in for a bit of a start. There will be no silk dressing gowns, no long afternoons of pleasure for Luca Cumani's colt in 1999. Instead, he will be thrashing himself round some of the most competitive races on the planet. For God's sake, don't tell him.

Unless a telegram bearing lots of zeroes arrives on the mat of High-Rise's owner, Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum, the colt is likely to become only the second Derby winner of the 1990s to compete as a four-year-old. The example of Quest For Fame, the 1990 winner, is not a stirring one. His career continued with limited success in the United States.

In recent times the Epsom winners' enclosure has been a holding bay on the way to the Far East. Five of the last seven Blue Riband victors have gone to Japan. This one is staying, for the time being, "unless we get a very large offer".

"The bottom line is that he is a horse that ran only once at two, and he's not going to have that many races at three," Anthony Stroud, the racing manager to Sheikh Obaid, added yesterday. "The owner has never really had a top horse and he's got one here. And racing is all about racing your top horses.

"It's so hard to get a good horse that I think owners are becoming more sporting. If you look at the prices at Keeneland recently, things are hotting up, but it's a question of balancing enjoyment and finance. Some people are lucky enough to be able to afford a horse in training as a four-year-old.

"From a stallion point of view too, you've got to say he'll only enhance his reputation if he does well at four."

High-Rise has certainly not done badly at all at two and three, even if he has yet to become the magnetic figure of some of his predecessors. The garlands will surely come though if he can collect the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, his next race, in October. That will almost necessarily mean revenge over his King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes conqueror, Swain, as well as the disposal of Dream Well, the season's other outstanding three-year-old.

After that, the plan makes itself. "I just wish there were more mile and a half races for him because effectively there are only four," Stroud said. "Next year it will be the Coronation Cup, King George, the Arc and the Breeders' Cup."

The breeding shed's loss is now Cumani's gain and it can be argued the Italian deserves a change of luck with his better horses. The Newmarket trainer, as much as anyone, suffered when the Americans and the Aga Khan withdrew their good blood in the late 1980s. Now he's back. And this time he means business.

While Derby horses have been regularly whisked away, the overall pattern recently has been for more quality animals to stay in training. "I think the trend has been bucked," Stroud added. "Peintre Celebre, Swain, Singspiel and Pilsudksi have shown that. It was different in the days of El Gran Senor and The Minstrel, but now it's changed."

Sheikh Obaid himself will hardly have been put off by his great good fortune this year. He has an interest in just three horses a season and, this campaign, has been represented by High-Rise and the filly Zomaradah, who won the Group One Oaks d'Italia at Milan in May. He has earned over pounds 1m in prize money. He's also probably very good at Trifectas.

Perhaps the Sheikh's only disappointment of the season was when High- Rise surrendered his unbeaten record at Ascot. "Looking back on the King George, he was a bit unlucky," Stroud said. "Olivier [Peslier] got himself into a pocket, running up horses, and Swain went at that vital time.

"We lost half a length and, though we might not have won, we would have finished closer. We lost impetus, but Swain is a battler and if the two had got down to running head-to-head it would have been an interesting contest.

"But we didn't lose anything in defeat. It doesn't undervalue him to lose to a champion. He's a horse to look forward to. It's good to have heroes."

RICHARD EDMONDSON

Nap: Fnan

(Kempton 6.30)

NB: Elbarree

(Kempton 7.30)

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