Racing: Myself in a class of her own

RACING: Chapple-Hyam proves his feel for fillies as the Nell Gwyn winner thrusts herself into the centre of 1,000 Guineas attention
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The Independent Online
As a race named after a small-time actress and orange vendor who became the mistress of Charles II, the Nell Gwyn Stakes should always be won by a filly who appears to have risen beyond her station. Myself did not disappoint yesterday.

Peter Chapple-Hyam's runner, who won just once from five outings last season and who was a pre-race 50-1 chance for the 1,000 Guineas, dropped to as low as 6-1 second favourite for next month's Classic after disposing of the better-fancied Epagris and Red Carnival.

At the same time, the chestnut disposed of another chestnut: that her Derby-winning trainer was unable to prepare animals of her gender. "People said I couldn't train fillies, that I was a colts man," Chapple-Hyam, his chest inflated slightly above the norm, said. "I hope that proves something.

"I don't get that many fillies but I know you have to be a bit easier on them. You can get angry with colts, get after them."

Red Carnival had been rumoured to be slightly lame on Saturday, but this bulletin appeared to have little foundation as she glided into the lead a furlong out. A few strides later, however, it was clear that another was travelling even more purposefully.

"I was trying to get behind Wally [Swinburn, Red Carnival's rider] but I couldn't get directly behind him so I was just sitting on his quarters," John Reid, the winning jockey, reported. "He quickened up well and I had to go up with him, but then he came off the bridle and I had the luxury of taking a little pull.

"She has improved since last year. I didn't need to touch her and she quickened up well."

Reid added that Myself virtually nodded off in the opening salvos. This unusual relaxation was the product of maturity and a new bit, which now keeps the filly's abnormally large tongue in place.

What remains is a tendency to use her tail as if she is whipping up a meringue. "That's just her, she's always been like that," Chapple-Hyam said. "I've called her a few names in the past and if she'd been stopping I would have said it was a sign of weakness. But that's her way."

The Manton trainer believes Myself will improve on yesterday's display, but it has to be said that neither Henry Cecil nor Michael Stoute, the trainers of Epagris and Red Carnival, believe the gap between their charges and the winner cannot be bridged.

The Craven meeting had begun as if we had never been away. The wind blew, there were frequent showers and Cecil tilted his head almost to shoulder level, mainly when speaking of Sebastian, his winner of the opening maiden race who received a 50- 1 quote for the Derby, the same price as the last-race winner, the Guy Harwood-trained Burning.

There was the advent of a potential sprint champion when Lake Coniston, flicking his leading hoof as horses who are enjoying the job do, won the Abernant Stakes in race-record time. Geoff Lewis, the colt's trainer, has already mapped out a programme that stretches to November and a Breeders' Cup Sprint challenge in New York. "Belmont Park is going to favour the European horses more," Lewis said. "We'll be going from cold into cold, whereas the Florida and California horses will be coming up from the heat. We should be almost on even terms."

But while Lewis and several trainers of Nell Gwyn Stakes runners dreamed of days of splendour to come, there was a warning of misplaced hope at Wetherby. The Yorkshire track saw a win for a former Cecil inmate called Aljadeer, who in 1992 was favourite for the Derby. He didn't win the Blue Riband but yesterday he did manage to succeed in the Cruckley Animal Farm Novices' Hurdle.

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