Racing: Lochsong can rise to Group challenge

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The Independent Online
TWO of racing's most persistent social climbers face the sternest trial of their credentials at Sandown this afternoon - but only one is likely to emerge with an untarnished reputation, writes Greg Wood.

Lochsong and Brier Creek both started last season in handicap company, but defied steep rises in the weights with a string of fine performances, including successes in the Stewards' Cup and Ayr Gold Cup (Lochsong) and second place in the Ebor (Brier Creek). Handicaps are now beneath them, but the rate of improvement will need to be maintained if either is to make a worthwhile transition to Group class.

Lochsong (3.40) will be well suited by the conditions of the Group Two Temple Stakes, but Brier Creek could struggle in the Henry II Stakes. He is not certain to see out the extended two miles and would prefer a faster surface, doubts which are unlikely to be fairly reflected by his starting price. The way could be left open for ALLEGAN (nap 3.05), a thorough stayer who should improve for today's trip.

Marastani (4.10), by contrast, will be better suited by the mile of the Whitsun Cup than the 10-furlong trip of his handicap debut here last month. He was still a promising fifth in a fast-run race then and is entitled to show improvement on that performance.

It is usually safe to assume that Henry Cecil knows what he is doing, but his decision to drop Magique Rond Point, sixth in the Fillies' Mile at Ascot as a two-year-old, back to six furlongs for her latest outing was one of his less penetrable. At a more suitable mile today, she could offer some value against likely hot favourite Polka Dancer, whose debut win was flawed by a steady pace.

No favourite today, and possibly this decade, will start shorter than Docklands Express, winner of the Martell Cup at Aintree last month, who contests an amateurs' event at Fakenham. The strikingly appropriate name of this unfortunate mismatch is the Prince of Wales Cup.