The platters laid out for tomorrow are full. Ireland offers the 2,000 Guineas and the Tattersalls Gold Cup, France delivers its 1,000 Guineas and premier Derby trial, the Prix Lupin, while a single race in Tokyo will make the winning owner a half-millionaire.
Britain today, in comparison, is bookmaker-driven, spam-sandwich stuff. There are handicaps everywhere at seven meetings, with the centrepiece (a loose use of the word this) being the five-runner Aston Park Stakes (Listed) at Newbury.
The television companies have decided that the Cup Final should take precedence to racing. Considering the menu in front of them, they are right.
Ireland, nevertheless, offers an intriguing 2,000 Guineas, with Turtle Island representing the form of the equivalent French race, Grand Lodge the British, and Manntari the home worth. Manntari, the flamboyant winner of last year's National Stakes, lost some lustre when less impressive on his reappearance. Yet he is unbeaten and if he manages to maintain that record tomorrow, the legal team employed by his owner, the Aga Khan, may be called upon to work overtime to reach agreement with the Jockey Club on returning to British racing.
However, statistics stand like guardsmen in front of Manntari. Neither his trainer, John Oxx, nor his jockey, John Murtagh have won this race and Ireland has not kept the trophy since Prince Of Birds in 1988. Since then the prize has gone to Britain four times and, in 1991, it took the potato famine route when Fourstars Allstar was victorious for the United States.
There are also physical doubts over Manntari. Though his work over six furlongs on Tuesday suggested he was over a leg infection, there is a spreading sickness in Oxx's yard.
Turtle Island was second to Green Tune in the Poule d'Essai des Poulains (French 2,000 Guineas) last Sunday. According to Peter Chapple-Hyam, his trainer, the colt was beaten by the draw. No such excuses can be produced reasonably today.
The other British horses in the line-up are Gneiss, Indhar and Grand Lodge, the 2,000 Guineas runner-up, who appears to be the value bet.
Also on the card at The Curragh is the Tattersalls Gold Cup, in which the hardy perennials come out. Ezzoud will be the most fancied, but the one with the biggest smile will be Environment Friend, who has his first run of the campaign following the onerous task of getting 25 mares in foal. Bill Gredley, the grey's owner, reports that his horse seems on good terms with himself. I bet he does.
The home side should have a greater impact at Longchamp in the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches (French 1,000 Guineas), in which the finish is expected to be between Flagbird and East Of The Moon. If the spanner is to come out of the toolbox it may be produced by Paul Cole's Velvet Moon, who was fifth in the 1,000 Guineas.
The Prix Lupin shows that Britain does not own the monopoly on unconvincing Derby prep races. The main protagonists are expected to be Gunboat Diplomacy, who ran in claimers last year, and Signe Divin, who was 19th in the 2,000 Guineas.
In Tokyo, Ski Paradise, Dolphin Street and Zieten take on Clive Brittain's Sayyedati in the Yasuda Kinen. This quartet locked horns in the Keio- Hai Spring Cup three weeks ago, when Ski Paradise proved victorious, but the draw this time favours Sayyedati.
Paul Cole's Snurge may not be the filly's most vociferous supporter as he rests in his box at Whatcombe. Having hauled his body around the world for six seasons and 29 races, the seven-year-old set a British earnings record of pounds 1,185,491 (and 35p) at Cologne last Sunday. But if Sayyedati wins tomorrow she will be less than pounds 60,000 behind.
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