Racing: Littmoden's Gift horse

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The Independent Online
THE end-of-summer Group sprint they run near Newton-le-Willows has been called more names than the Congo. The Vernons, the Haydock Park Sprint Cup and now the Stanley Leisure Sprint Cup has also pulled some lofty names into the winners' enclosure to collect the trophy for the six-furlong event.

We're talking Herns, Stoutes and Dunlops here, we're talking horses such as Habibti, Green Desert and Dayjur. What we are not talking is Littmodens and Cretan Gift, although it is not entirely impossible that Nick Littmoden, who is positively virginal for a trainer at 35, should be successful tomorrow in Lancashire with the slightly more grizzled Cretan Gift, a seven-year-old chestnut gelding with 78 starts in his manifest. It would certainly make a change.

Littmoden may not yet be a big name, but he is no fool of the same size either. He has done his time with several trainers after embarking with the recently departed and permanently colourful Mick Masson at Lewes. Littmoden's first licence of his own was used at Southwell, though he now trains out of the racecourse stables at Wolverhampton's Dunstall Park.

Now, though, may not last very much longer. Such has been Littmoden's progression (he is up to 29 winners for this season) that it is believed he will soon be on the lookout for roomier premises for the 40 plus horses in his care.

One of the more celebrated of these is the enigmatic Tertium, who is probably not an animal to trust with your last 10p. Such is the old boy's inconsistency that the bard of the former Sporting Life, Mark Winstanley, was once moved to tell the nation he "would not back 'im with counterfeit. E's a bigger dog than Digby". Winstanley himself was probably not surprised when Tertium threw this assessment in his face and won his next outing. Still, it was the thought that counted and Tertium is now know as Digby around his yard.

Cretan Gift, however, is the horse which counts now. He won the Group Three Phoenix Sprint Stakes in Ireland last year to provide Littmoden with his first Pattern-race success. At Royal Ascot this season he was fourth to Tomba in the Cork & Orrery Stakes, a race in which he did not get the best of runs.

"He should have won that," Littmoden said yesterday. "We were the unlucky horse in the race. Kieren Fallon said he would have won if he'd been able to get himself out of the pocket he was in.

"When Elnadim won the July Cup we thought he would go on to show himself a champion but he hasn't done that. It's a very open year for sprinters and no horse has really stuck out. We're not a social runner on Saturday and he'll run a big race."

One animal that was never placed to challenge yesterday was High-Rise, the Derby winner. Luca Cumani's colt was given permission to sleep over at his friend's place for the first time on Wednesday evening in the York racecourse stables. That was as energetic as it got.

High-Rise was brought out of his box only before the 4.30 race on the Knavesmire and walked round the pre-parade ring. The objective to get him used to an overnight stay away from his Newmarket digs seemed to have worked as the colt appeared gleaming and relaxed. "We just thought an outing away from home would do him good and Yorkshire is not a bad place to come to," Cumani said. "He's never before stayed away overnight. In all his previous races he's gone there on the day, but when he goes to Paris for the Arc he'll be staying there overnight we thought this would be good experience for him."

Longchamp at the beginning of next month will be High-Rise's first run since he surrendered his unbeaten record to Swain in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot. The evidence seems to be that he has benefited from the break. "He's certainly done well since Ascot and I just hope I've done the right thing in giving him time," Cumani said. "He's getting bigger and stronger all the time.

"There's certainly plenty to look forward to with him and it's great news that the owner [Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum] has decided to keep him in training next season."

Britain's challenge for this weekend's big event at Longchamp, the Prix du Moulin, was reduced to two yesterday by the withdrawal of the Coronation Stakes winner Exclusive.

The David Loder-trained Desert Prince (to be ridden by Olivier Peslier) and Kamil Mahdi's Almushtarak (Ray Cochrane) remain among nine acceptors for Sunday's Group One one-mile race.

The Japanese filly Seeking The Pearl (Yutaka Take), who won last month's Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville, was also declared along with the Aidan O'Brien-trained Second Empire, who will be ridden by John Reid as Michael Kinane is unavailable.

RICHARD EDMONDSON

Nap: Faraway Lass

(Haydock 3.00)

NB: Rainbow Rain

(Epsom 4.50)

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