Racing: Orpen fills favourite role

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The Independent Online
FOR ALMOST nine months, some punters have been telling themselves that their ante-post bet on Stravinsky for the 2,000 Guineas, struck after his winning debut at York last summer, might yet come good and make them feel awfully clever. Not any more. Stravinsky was an 8-1 chance for the Classic last year, and the same price yesterday morning despite three subsequent defeats, but his name was not among the five-day declarations a few hours later. After all that waiting and hoping, his supporters will not even get a run for their money.

And there are probably a few of them who backed Etizaaz for the 1,000 Guineas, too. They may well be seeking counselling this morning, following the simultaneous scratching of Godolphin's main contender for the fillies' Classic. "Etizaaz worked at the weekend but was not 100 per cent after her work and it is too close to the race to have a problem," Simon Crisford, Godolphin's racing manager, said yesterday. "It's a big disappointment, but we are not anticipating a long-term problem. We would be looking at the Irish or French Guineas."

In Stravinsky's absence, his stable-mate Orpen may now start favourite for the 2,000 Guineas, as Aidan O'Brien sets out to win the race for the second year running. Eleven more horses were also scratched, to the relief of the Newmarket executive, which might otherwise have had to ballot horses out of the season's first Classic. There are now 22 entries left, and the track's safety limit is 23.

O'Brien also declared Lavery and Saffron Waldon, but his challenge may well rest entirely with Orpen. "We are going to try and do the right thing by Stravinsky," the trainer said. "We took him out of Newmarket because we were told it had rained overnight and the ground will probably be good at the very best for the 2,000 Guineas. He could go for the French 2,000, but only if the ground is good or quicker."

Godolphin supplies three of the 22 declarations, with Island Sands apparently their main contender, but there is no decision yet about which of them Frankie Dettori will ride. "Some of the horses have just arrived in this country," Crisford said. "They've had a long journey so we'll have to see how they travelled and make a decision later in the week."

One of the few riding vacancies worth having in the 2,000 Guineas has been handed to Pat Eddery, who will partner Compton Admiral, the Craven Stakes winner, for Gerard Butler. Eddery has won the race three times, on Lomond, El Gran Senor and Zafonic, and takes over from Dettori, who partnered Compton Admiral in his successful trial over the Classic course and distance. "I am delighted to have him," Butler said yesterday, "but not half as delighted as he is to get on the horse."

Gary Carter has also picked up a ride in the race, though he will be more hopeful than confident on Jeremy Noseda's Desaru, a 33-1 chance. In the 1,000 Guineas. Ray Cochrane will fill another space left vacant by Dettori when he rides Valentine Waltz, the Nell Gwyn Stakes winner, for John Gosden. Michael Roberts has been booked to ride Lamzena for Geoff Wragg.

Lamzena finished fifth to Valentine Waltz in the Nell Gwyn Stakes, the same position which On The House filled back in 1982 before going on to win the 1,000 for Wragg's father, Harry. With any encouragement being welcome as the big day approaches, this coincidence has not been lost on Lamzena's trainer. "Though it's something of a long shot I'm hoping that lightning can strike twice," Wragg said.

n Goodwood are to stage a consolation race for the Stewards' Cup. The Stewards' Sprint Stakes will be held on the Friday of Glorious Goodwood, the day before the Stewards' Cup.

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