Racing: Lochsong maintains Britain's Abbaye habit: Ian Balding's mare leaves Europe's top sprinters standing as the favourite for the 1,000 Guineas flounders in the Longchamp mud

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The Independent Online
A MUDDY jockey on a six- length winner: it could have been Ludlow, not Longchamp. After just five furlongs of unequal competition in yesterday's Prix de l'Abbaye, Lochsong crossed the line in isolation to confirm that no sprinter in Europe can live with her.

'I've never been so fast in my life,' her jockey, Lanfranco Dettori, said after a ride which tested only his ability to hang on. Lochsong was ahead after a couple of strides, clear after a furlong and beyond recall at halfway. Only Dayjur in recent memory has stamped such authority on the Abbaye, a race which has eluded a French- trained horse for 15 years.

Lochsong's success in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York completed her ascent from weak, unraceable immaturity through handicaps to a place with the best. Yesterday's win showed that reaching the top is no reason to stop climbing.

The problem is, where to? Dayjur went on to glorious failure in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, a race to which Lochsong's quick-start, front-running style might seem ideally suited. But amid Dettori's lavish praise there were words which counselled caution.

'She is one of the all-time greats,' he said. 'She is a true five-furlong horse who loves the soft.' But at Santa Anita in California next month they will race over six, and beneath the dirt, the track will be cooked solid. A more probable schedule will give Ian Balding's mare a winter break before she attempts to reinforce her predominance next season.

While Jeff Smith, Lochsong's owner, matched Dettori compliment for compliment - 'she's absolutely fabulous, unbelievable' - next door in the runner-up's enclosure Eric Alston was more than holding his own. Alston's Stack Rock was the unlikely second ahead of Monde Bleu, and increased the Lancashire trainer's prize- money total by pounds 33,000. The John Gosden-trained Wolfhound, who beat Lochsong comfortably at Haydock last month, found the pace too hot and finished seventh.

Lochsong's was the only success which required the winning owner to find a Bureau de Change. French- trained horses defended the remaining purses, with Elie Lellouche sending out Verveine to add the Prix de l'Opera to a big-race double on Saturday and Sierra Madre taking the big juvenile fillies' event, the Prix Marcel Boussac.

Struggling behind the latter was Coup De Genie, who showed nothing of the form which had made her ante-post favourite for the 1,000 Guineas. The heavy going, and a body-clock which told her winter was coming, were offered as excuses for her poor performance, and the bookmakers appear to have been persuaded. Ladbrokes' price of 6-1 for next spring's Classic is still the best available.

Before the weekend, Sheikh Mohammed's prospects in both that contest and the 2,000 Guineas were looking frail, but a smart price of horse trading has strengthened them considerably.

The Sheikh has purchased four juveniles - Royal Ascot winner State Performer, the unbeaten filly Balanchine, Escarpment and Shepton Mallet - from Robert Sangster, and plans to race them in Dubai during the winter before repatriating them for the 1994 campaign.

(Photograph omitted)