Racing: Orpen leads O'Brien team

ORPEN BECAME Aidan O'Brien's leading candidate for the 2,000 Guineas with a pleasing piece of work yesterday and was cut to 6-1 (from 8-1) by William Hill for next Saturday's Classic. O'Brien, winner of the 2,000 a year ago with King Of Kings, may also run Stravinsky and Lavery depending on the state of the ground and confirmed that Sunspangled will carry his hopes in the 1,000 Guineas the following day.

"We'll leave it until later in the week to decide about Stravinsky and Lavery. But both must have good or faster ground," O'Brien said. Stravinsky has been withdrawn from the Tetrarch Stakes at the Curragh tomorrow and should he miss Newmarket he may take in the French 2,000. Michael Kinane will be on Orpen and Sunspangled in the Classics.

At Sandown yesterday the shortcomings of another Guineas aspirant were exposed as Ballet Master finished fourth in the opening race to Little Rock. Ballet Master began the day as a 12-1 shot for the Guineas but has now been withdrawn from betting on the Classic.

The chestnut travelled easily until a furlong out where Kieren Fallon, his rider, began to show signs of anxiety. His mount found little response, leaving Little Rock, trained by Michael Stoute, to beat Grand Sonnet by two and a half lengths. The winner received a quote of 25-1 for the Derby.

Cecil refused to write off Ballet Master, the 4-9 favourite. "He was cantering one and a half furlongs out and just got tired," he said.

The favourite for the 1,000, Moiava, will now be ridden by Richard Quinn. The filly's trainer, Criquette Head, was forced to look elsewhere for a rider for Moiava after her stable jockey, Olivier Doleuze, incurred a riding ban. "Instead of a top-class French rider we will have a top- class British rider," Head said.

Way Of Light attempts to boost his French 2,000 Guineas claims in the Group Three Prix de Fontainebleau over a mile at Longchamp tomorrow. Last season's French champion juvenile is opposed by the Andre Fabre-trained trio, Grazalema, Pinkaral and Indian Danehill, plus Iridanos, Prince Powhatan and Le Roi Chic. Montjeu, entered for the Derby at the second entry stage, runs in the Group Two Prix Greffulhe.

Peter Chapple-Hyam's World Alert, second to Bahamian Bandit at the Craven Meeting, tackles the Italian 2,000 Guineas in Rome tomorrow. Jimmy Fortune's mount may have most to fear from Frankie Dettori's ride, Strawberry Fields.

Ripon's card today hinges on a 7.30am inspection.

Yesterday's results & Ripon and Wolverhampton cards, p24

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