Racing: Moiava a head above the rest

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The Independent Online
WHEN CRIQUETTE HEAD turns her gaze across the Channel towards Newmarket, the locals tend to tremble, and with reason. The Chantilly trainer's strikes into the heartland of British racing are selective, but generally devastatingly effective. And she particularly knows what it takes to win the 1,000 Guineas, having scored on three previous occasions, with Ma Biche in 1983, Ravinella (1987) and Hatoof (1992). She can add to her record with Moiava in this afternoon's 186th renewal of the first fillies' Classic.

The pretty white-faced bay has shot to the head of the market apparently by default, after the death of the winter favourite, Bint Allayl, and setbacks to Bionic and Etizaaz. But she has the right credentials none the less. Although she has not yet competed at the highest level she scored an impressive win against colts in a Group 2 at Maisons-Laffitte on her final appearance last year and has always been regarded as being much better than her stablemate Juvenia, who won France's top juvenile fillies' race.

She is stoutly bred, being by the Arc winner Bering out of a close relative of the Oaks and Arc-placed Dancing Maid, which may be a significant factor this afternoon. The largest field for 19 years, with plenty of outsiders ready for scalded cat impersonations, will place the emphasis on stamina. "It is possible to win a Guineas with a filly that does not truly stay a mile; I did it with Ma Biche," Head said. "But probably not on the July course, which I think is stiffer than the Rowley Mile. But there are no problems with Moiava in that department." The one question mark concerns the filly's build-up. She had to miss her intended prep race because of an outbreak of spots but has pleased in her work since.

The Godolphin challenge is laced with irony, as the Dubai-based operation's first string Pescara was trained by Head last year. But the winter-in- the-sun-effect notwithstanding, she has something to find on the book and Moiava's strongest rival may be the Irish raider Sunspangled, game winner of the Fillies' Mile at Ascot.

The home side's defence appears to be more noted for quantity than quality; Hula Angel and Valentine Waltz could prove the best. Of the rank outsiders, Lamzena could repay each-way support.