Racing: No stopping Cheveley's Carnival: The precocious Cherry Hinton winner takes a costly investment into the black, via the red

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The Independent Online
TWELVE months ago, Chris Richardson came back from the Keeneland Sales to deliver a three-strong package almost as valuable as the one once transported by camel to a stable at Bethlehem.

The general manager of Cheveley Park Stud returned to base camp at Newmarket with a trio of yearling fillies costing a combined dollars 1.4m ( pounds 900,000), a batch of thoroughbreds that brought with them as much financial nervousness as anticipation.

For once on the Turf, however, high-risk investment had paid off. Three weeks ago, the first runner, Gay Gallanta, captured the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot and, yesterday, Red Carnival collected an even more prestigious prize on the July course, the Cherry Hinton Stakes. Even if the third member of the party, John Gosden's unraced Golden Envoy, proves as slow as a barge, Richardson's mission will have been a success.

Red Carnival was the most expensive of the purchases at dollars 750,000 ( pounds 500,000), mainly because of her breeding. 'She's got a tremendous pedigree (by the top American stallion Mr Prospector out of a Kentucky Oaks winner),' Michael Stoute, the filly's trainer, said yesterday. 'There isn't a better family in the book.'

In the spring, Red Carnival also displayed quality on the home gallops to equal that she possesses on paper. 'She's always been a very natural athlete, a very precocious, talented filly,' Stoute said.

Similar reports have been available from Walter Swinburn, Red Carnival's jockey, and the manner in which he executed yesterday's race indicated he was aware it was not a sloth beneath him. In racing's premier debutantes field - a group of well-bred young ladies out to show their worth - Red Carnival was held up some way behind proven fillies, but improved extravagantly a furlong from home. Only Harayir was able to keep the race a contest and she was overhauled close home.

'I'm sure she can improve again from this,' Swinburn said. 'There's plenty to work on.' If this is true, the 20-1 available for next year's 1,000 Guineas may prove good value.

The day's other Group race, the Princess Of Wales's Stakes, also went to a Newmarket establishment, Alec Stewart's yard on the Bury Road which has been more infirmary than racing stable over the last two years.

Stewart's base has been the confluence for some thoroughly unpleasant bacteria. 'The horses have had rhino virus and herpes virus and a variety of things like an ME,' he said. 'They were very quiet and walking like zombies.'

At the end of last season, Stewart recognised drastic action was needed. So he first changed his horses' feed and then he changed their addresses. 'I took a gamble by taking all of my young horses out to the New England Stud,' he said. 'We steam-cleaned and left the yard empty all winter. I saw no other way of breaking the cycle.'

The wheels are back on Wagon Master for one, as he showed yesterday by hanging on for victory from Bobzao in a tantalising finish. He may now go for the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

Stewart needs horses like Wagon Master to remind people that he is the capable trainer who once nurtured the careers of such as Mtoto and Waajib. In the bad times, owners tend to disappear like food from a hungry dog's bowl, and 90-box Clarehaven is now running at half capacity. 'For two years our horses have looked really awful but now they are well,' Stewart said. 'But it's going to be a tough battle getting back. I hope we make it.'

(Photograph omitted)