Racing: Millennium to be mile master in the mud

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The Independent Online
THEY HAVE tried to be un-British in their imaginative promotion of racing at Ascot this weekend but the reward has been typically British from the weather. There will, however, still be much to enjoy in the Queen's acres this afternoon if the meeting survives a 7am inspection.

Both today and tomorrow will see a parade of horses including Rough Quest, the Grand National winner, Ebbw Viscount, the Welsh cob who could transport John McCririck round Aintree, and Petite Cheval, the 2'2" Falabella pony which could provide him with a sandwich filling. There will be a Pony Club competition, jousting and an exhibition from stunt horses, and further examples of eohippus in all his guises.

In fact, the only thing that will be lacking is the core product of the British turf, the thoroughbred. The elements have done the dirty on Ascot this week, ruining the fields, both geographical and breathing, and making the competitive entertainment less persuasive than it has been for many years.

This, of course, was the meeting that was branded into the history books three years ago by Frankie Dettori, who greedily kept all seven winners to himself on the Saturday. Frankie goes into the weekend preoccupied by headlines of a different and less flattering nature, but will at least have the pleasant distraction of riding the favourite in the big race, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

Dubai Millennium has three opponents on a card which is rather thin on Group contestants. The preceding Cumberland Lodge Stakes and Fillies' Mile feature 13 runners between them. There were to be a plethora of top- class runners, the promotional material told us, while in the event there is a plethora of top-class non-runners.

This will be of little importance to the eventual winner of the QEII. Balisada, a course-and-distance winner in the Coronation Stakes at the Royal meeting, will have her supporters, though almost certainly not the searing pace that is required to bring her best.

Indeed, there will be much down to tactics as this is the smallest field since Brigadier Gerard was successful in 1972. One horse who should not be affected is Dubai Millennium (3.20) who was last seen, and seen victoriously, on foreign soil. That was in the Prix du Haras de Fresnay-le-Buffard Prix Jacques le Marois, which may sound like an element of the French gurning championships to the uninitiated, but is in fact the Continent's premier all-aged mile race.

Dubai Millennium led all the way for that success, which at least gives him options today. The Fillies' Mile has, in former years, given us the likes of Bosra Sham, Reams Of Verse and Sleepytime, and there is added incentive to be added to their rank today. Any filly (or colt successful in tomorrow's Royal Lodge Stakes) which goes on to add either the St James's Palace Stakes or the Coronation Stakes at next year's Royal meeting followed by the QEII in 12 months' time will attract a pounds 1m bonus. Well, connections will probably need it by then.

The Fillies' Mile winner today has to be Teggiano (nb, 2.35) unless she proves to have an acute allergy to soft going. Clive Brittain's filly is on a roll, and her Newbury victory was stamped by the Listed race win at Ayr last weekend of the well beaten Femme Fatale.

There is definitely racing elsewhere, including Haydock, where they are rather more used to bad weather. Here we see the return of LEGAL LUNCH (nap 3.10), who won over this course in May 1998. The form-book analysis at the time said this would not be his last victory, which may still be true, though Legal Lunch has since gone 17 races without distinction. The ground, the conditions and now, at long last, the time, are right.

At Nottingham there is a similarly confusing handicap and the advice is to follow a trainer who has an admirable record in these mazy affairs. John Gosden's Mutamayyaz (4.00) may look like the Countdown conundrum but he has the form to take this contest.