Racing: Mujahid triumph boosts Aljabr

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The Independent Online
WE TRAVELLED to Newmarket on Saturday to see the revelation of a champion on Champions Day. We got it, but the great titan did not emerge from stalls at the top of the Rowley Mile. It came rather from the mouth of Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum.

Does this horse excite you? I inquired of the Sheikh after his Mujahid had shredded some fancy reputations in the Dewhurst Stakes. "No, but there is another who does," he replied. "Aljabr is the best. He is a super horse."

The bookmakers do not think the Prix de la Salamandre winner is that bad either. The Godolphin grey, whom Sheikh Hamdan will be able to monitor most closely as he spends this winter in Dubai, sits astride all lists.

Some potential champions of Saturday morning are not even contenders 48 hours on. Lujain folded horribly in the Dewhurst and looks a sprinter, while the bold souls at William Hill have been moved to discard Stravinsky also with the notion that he too will be kept to dragster distances next year.

Enrique remains in contention on paper at least, but on Saturday he moved the short distance in the dictionary from omnipotent to ordinary.

Team Ballydoyle may think William Hill are somewhat awry as Aidan O'Brien maintained the Guineas was still the spring target for his colt. The bay, like Enrique, was said to have been hugely inconvenienced by the sloppy terrain. Stravinsky did indeed look shattered on his return, but then again so did his connections and they hadn't done any running. Racing people lose more often that they win and become inured to the raft of reverses, but there were telling signs that the men behind Stravinsky had considered no other option but victory on Saturday. They looked hurt.

It may well be, as they were happy to repeat, that the son of Nureyev will be more effective on faster ground, but, as William Hill may have noted, Stravinsky possesses the sort of massive, turbo hindquarters you associate with sprinters. The Irish colt reminds of a bad welding job. The front end is neat and correct, but from the saddle back lies this great bank of muscle that appears to have been borrowed from another animal.

Mujahid himself was an impressive figure, a bruiser who could already masquerade in three-year-old company. He left John Dunlop as another shocked figure in the unsaddling enclosure, but the man from Arundel was the only one pleasantly surprised.

Sheikh Hamdan, who seems to change his expression every time a different Ice Age comes along, was unusually expressive and jovial. He made Dunlop a little happier as well by immediately informing his trainer that Mujahid would not be part of the consignment going to the warmth of the east this winter, but would rather stay in Britain's blast. Mujahid himself, it seems, cannot have been consulted.

"He's a big, strong horse and we take only the weak horses," Sheikh Hamdan said. "I hope he will stay the mile [next year]. The mare was best over six furlongs and though Danzig was bred to get a mile and a quarter very few of his get a mile.''

It appears Mujahid will be accorded a rating of about 123, which will mean Saturday's Dewhurst was merely an ordinary renewal of the juvenile prize. That would have been hard to imagine over Saturday's cereal, just as was Simon Crisford's assertion on The Morning Line that Mujahid, then a 40-1 shot, had a decent chance. The Godolphin racing manager may soon be contactable only on an 0891 number.

The official assessment will not matter greatly to those behind Mujahid. They now know their colt's disturbing performance in the Gimcrack was an error, and that he has fulfilled the promise of his youth.

"I always thought he was good but the trainer said he was carrying his head on one side [on the gallops] and he was not that good on the all- weather," Sheikh Hamdan said. "I told him I was disappointed. But we changed on to the grass and then he liked him very much." It's amazing what that grass can do to make you jollier.

1999 2,000 GUINEAS (Newmarket): Coral: 5-1 Aljabr, 8-1 Mujahid, 10-1 Stravinsky, 12-1 Enrique, 14-1 Auction House, Black Rock Desert, Josr Algarhoud, Orpen. William Hill: 5-1 Aljabr, 6-1 Mujahid, 10-1 Enrique, 12-1 Auction House, Black Rock Desert, 14-1 Commander Collins, Josr Algarhoud, Orpen.

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