Racing: Mujahid left in Admiral's wake

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BY THE time he stepped into the stalls before the Craven Stakes here yesterday, Mujahid had been among the favourites for the 2,000 Guineas for almost six months, ever since his victory in the Dewhurst Stakes on the other side of the Heath last October. Just 70 seconds later, all that hype and hope had been torn into very small pieces, this being the time it took Mujahid to reach a spot about three furlongs out where it became clear that not only was he not going to win, he might actually finish stone cold last.

One of the bookie's reps summed it up in two words as he wrote out a new set of Guineas prices in the winners' enclosure afterwards. "Delete Mujahid" he scribbled, and we certainly can, for the time being at least, and possibly for good. It was certainly not what a horse who started at 2-5 could be expected to do, and no one was more baffled than John Dunlop, Mujahid's trainer. "I'm completely nonplussed," he said. "He moved beautifully but there was nothing there three out. Ostensibly, there was no reason why he ran so badly."

But while Mujahid was disappearing from the picture at the speed of sound, a likeable little colt called Compton Admiral was muscling his way in. Though he won only once in four outings as a juvenile, Compton Admiral was gritty and consistent, and when he hit the rising ground at the end of yesterday's race, he quickened readily to beat Brancaster and Debbie's Warning. He is now as low as 9-1 for the 2,000 Guineas, although Ladbrokes and William Hill offer 16-1. He is a 25-1 chance for the Derby.

The only success of Compton Admiral's two-year-old days was a little similar to yesterday's, in that he beat a hot favourite who was being talked up as a Classic prospect. That horse was Killer Instinct, who is now the clear favourite for the Guineas with several bookmakers almost by default, as the bookies struggle to find a horse which has yet to embarrass itself in public. Killer Instinct runs at Newbury tomorrow afternoon, so he too could be history by sunset.

Compton Admiral, on the other hand, is a proven winner, although it is child's play to pick holes in yesterday's form. With Mujahid running so poorly, it may turn out to have been no stronger than a very average Listed race. The unexpected appearance of Debbie's Warning in the frame is also worrying.

But these are mere details as far as Gerard Butler, Compton Admiral's trainer, is concerned. This is just his second season with a licence, and he is a young trainer with a gleam in his eye because he will be going to the first colts' Classics of the season with a serious contender.

"He's always had a professional manner, and wanted to do everything a little better than the others," Butler said. "In the last two weeks he's really got his act together. I think that the Guineas is one of the best trials for the Derby, and the time to find out if he stays the Derby trip is the first Saturday in June."

Golden Snake, who won the Feilden Stakes, might be a similar sort of price for Epsom were it not for the minor obstacle that he is not entered for the Derby. Barry Hills, his trainer, had lots of nice things to say about the colt after he had beaten Gold Academy and Housemaster, but he seemed a little surprised to hear that Golden Snake is not among the Classic entries.

"I thought he was in the Derby, but there's plenty of good races," Hills said. "He's a progressive horse, with a good temperament and a high cruising speed." He has yet to decide on Golden Snake's next assignment, although it will be hard to avoid an obvious Classic trial like the Dante Stakes at York or the Chester Vase.

There is, of course, always the option of a supplementary Derby entry at the end of May, but that would cost the small matter of pounds 75,000. Hills left Newmarket yesterday with a pounds 20,000 race to his credit, but as he studies the long list of unknown quantities at the top of the Derby market, he may feel that he would give away the prize-money in return for an entry at Epsom.

2,000 GUINEAS (1 May): Coral: 4-1 Killer Instinct (from 7-1), 7-1 Enrique, Orpen (from 10-1), 8-1 Commander Collins (from 10-1), 10-1 Compton Admiral (from 33-1), Island Sands, Auction House, 12-1 others. William Hill: 9- 2 Killer Instinct (from 6-1), 11-2 Commander Collins (from 8-1), 6-1 Enrique (from 8-1), 8-1 Orpen, 10-1 Auction House (from 14-1), Stravinsky, 12- 1 Ballet Master, Island Sands, 14-1 Mutahaab (from 33-1), 16-1 Compton Admiral (from 66-1), Iftitah, Saffron Walden, 20-1 others. Ladbrokes: 4- 1 Commander Collins, 6-1 Enrique, Killer Instinct, 8-1 Auction House, 10-1 Orpen, Island Sands, 14-1 Ballet Master, 16-1 Compton Admiral, 20- 1 others.