Racing: Pacemaker Cross beats all

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The Independent Online
THE underdog had his day in the sun here. The unconsidered Cape Cross blazed out of the stalls and led all the way to take the pounds 125,000 Lockinge Stakes in a record time for the straight mile. The four-year- old, the Godolphin second string, was actually in the race to ensure a fast pace for his stablemate Kahal but did so to such effect that neither that one, nor anything else, could peg him back.

It was a first Group One win, on his first ride at that level in England, for 25-year-old Daragh O'Donohoe, who was as surprised as anyone. "I looked round two furlongs out because I couldn't hear the others", he said, "and there was nothing there. I was waiting for them to come and swallow me up, and I couldn't believe how far I was clear. Then I thought I might just win it, so I put my head down and kicked on for the line."

With the two best-fancied horses, Air Express and Among Men, blown away early and Kahal treading water a furlong out, it was left to Poteen to come out of the pack in pursuit in the closing stages, but his spirited late challenge under Walter Swinburn failed by a neck. Two and a half lengths adrift, Centre Stalls caught Kahal for the minor berth, with Almushtarak fifth, Among Men sixth and Air Express seventh.

Cape Cross, who looked burly in the preliminaries, flew into Britain only a week ago with the second wave of Godolphin horses. His form in Dubai during the winter - he had been beaten twice on the dirt at Nad El Sheba - had not hinted in any way of yesterday's glory, though on his previous outing in Britain the four-year-old beat Among Men at Goodwood before losing the race in the stewards' room.

The Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford said: "We did prefer Kahal and Cape Cross was there to make it a true gallop. But we told Daragh that his horse would go well none the less, and to win if he could."

The first three, and possibly Kahal as well, are scheduled for the re- match in the opening race at Royal Ascot, the Queen Anne Stakes. Crisford added: "We will let Cape Cross carry his Group One penalty, and see if he's good enough."

Luca Cumani, the trainer of Poteen, was delighted with his charge's run, saying: "Just what I wanted to see on his comeback run. He will be spot- on for Ascot." There was a possible excuse for the imposing Among Men, who missed three days' work last week with an abscess in his foot, but it is back to the drawing board for the disappointed connections of Air Express.

It was the second time Cape Cross had proved something of a bete noire for Kahal's rider Frankie Dettori, for it was he who was on the colt at Goodwood last year, and received a lengthy ban for his misdemeanours then. But though upstaged yesterday, along with the other senior jockeys, the irrepressible Italian was none the less delighted for his young colleague - a leading apprentice in Ireland when with Dermot Weld and now one of Godolphin's trusted work-riders - giving him a congratulatory slap on the back as the jockeys pulled up.

Like his beloved Arsenal at Wembley, Dettori did get on yesterday's scoresheet, winning the opener on the rather impressive Ian Balding-trained two-year- old Hard Lines, a possible for the Coventry Stakes at the Royal meeting.

Balding later made it a pair with Double Brandy, the Queen Mother's first Flat winner for 40 years.

Balding reported that Border Arrow, third in last week's Dante Stakes, was still on course for Epsom in 20 days' time despite that reverse. "He's done exceptionally well since then," he said. "It was a rough, tough race, but he's a tough horse." The French challenger Croco Rouge, in the same ownership, will miss the Derby in favour of the French version at Chantilly.

Yorkshire, once talked about last year as a Derby contender, lost his way as the season progressed but, having been gelded during the winter, he showed just why he had been held in such high esteem with a four-length rout of his rivals in the Aston Park Stakes, showing a smart turn of foot as he swept from last to first.

His trainer, Paul Cole, said: "He used to spend quite a lot of time on his hind legs last year, but the operation seems to have done the trick. He's not yet entered in anything special, but now we can be a bit bolder. He's a very interesting prospect."

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