Racing: Napoleon's end to Elsworth exile

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The Independent Online
THERE were several spectacular crashes in the late Eighties and early Nineties but none more unexpected than David Elsworth's descent from racing's pinnacle. One minute Elzie was winning every jumps race worth collecting while also shearing off his fair share of Flat prizes when he fancied a bit of sport in the summer. Then, it seemed, he could not train rabbits to procreate.

In The Groove's Coronation Cup in 1991 stands as Elsworth's last major Flat success, but for those who would like to see this most instinctive of trainers back to his former greatness there was rather pleasant viewing here yesterday.

The Lupe Stakes may not be the most prestigious contest to have flowed Elsworth's way, but it could well be that his Napoleon's Sister is a filly capable of graduating to greater glory. She may run next in the Oaks (for which 33-1 is available) though a more likely port is the Irish equivalent, in the homeland of her owners, Sean and Anne Coughlan.

It was the Coughlans who supplied Elsworth with his first winner (the jumper Fortune's Cookie) and they would have given him another if he had let them. It was a passage which led to the naming of yesterday's winner. "Sean wouldn't let me train Ridgewood Ben [John Oxx's Group winner] but he offered me the chance to train Ridgewood Pearl," Elsworth said. "I refused, which was probably the biggest mistake of my life [the filly later won the Breeders' Cup Mile]. He couldn't believe that I didn't want to train a full sister to Ridgewood Ben. I said to him at the time: `who has ever heard of Napoleon's sister?' "

Elsworth is back at his old hall of excellence at Whitsbury after a period at Whitcombe in Dorset. The two places may be next to each other in the gazetteer but they could not be further apart in the relative success they brought their tenant.

Napoleon's Sister has been bustled along on the Hampshire gallops this spring in preparation for summer prizes. "I started her off earlier than I wanted because we had made the Oaks entry and I pushed her uphill today running her in this," Elsworth said. "If you work with her she gives you a wonderful feeling of confidence. She works like a good one."

The filly started, however, like a green one yesterday, recreating the pose of the Ferrari emblem as she left the stalls. Kieren Fallon let her regain composure. Up front, Pat Eddery, on Mondschein, adopted the front- running tactics that had secured the previous day's feature race. At the furlong marker, though, the Irishman found he had gone too fast on Benny "Abba" Andersson's filly. And if he had to do the same again, I don't think he would do that my friend, Fernando.

Enchant had been travelling so effortlessly in behind for Walter Swinburn that it then appeared she must win. But just at the moment her challenge faltered Napoleon's Sister swept convincingly down the outside.

Her trainer enjoyed both being back in the middle of the media huddle and the sensation of judgement vindicated. He paid 160,000gns for Napoleon's Sister as a yearling, the most he has ever laid out for a horse. "I think she was cheap," Elsworth said. "She may have cost the most, but she's not the most expensive horse I've ever had. There is a difference."

Expensive horses were further detailed yesterday when 27 runners were declared for the Derby two weeks on Saturday. Of the nine which were added to the field for pounds 8,000 at the 9 April second entry stage, just one, Godolphin's Mudeer, remains. Among those to defect are Xaar, Dr Fong and Anytime.

There is an even more extravagant occasion at the end of next week. If Godolphin supplement the 1,000 Guineas winner, Cape Verdi, at that stage they must produce pounds 75,000.

Derby acceptors: Border Arrow, Chateau Royal, City Honours, Cloclo, Courteous, Croco Rouge, Dream Well, Fa-Eq, Greek Dance, Gulland, Haami, High-Rise, King Of Kings, Make No Mistake, Mudeer, Mutamam, Pegnitz, Rabah, Sadian, Saratoga Springs, Second Empire, Sunshine Street, The Glow-Worm, Tornado Prince, Two-Twenty-Two, Uranus Quercus, Wild Tempo.