Racing: Petardia finds the right road

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The virtues of forgiving a horse one bad run were painfully illustrated yesterday when Petardia glided to victory in the Champagne Stakes and regained his prominent place in early Classic betting. At York the time before he had run as if carrying the week's groceries, writes Paul Hayward from Town Moor.

To the credit of the Doncaster stewards an explanation was sought for Petardia's improved form, but the excuse was as plain as it was galling for the punters who allowed him to start at 11-2.

'In the Gimcrack (Stakes at York) he jumped the road and completely lost his action on ground that was a little too fast,' Geoff Wragg, the trainer, said (Petardia finished last of eight). 'I put that down as a non-event.'

That about describes Lord President's run in this reliable test of leading two-year-olds (Rodrigo de Triano won it last year). The favourite was bobbing like a toy boat as Petardia slid past him on the outside, and he has now disappeared from the firmament of Classic contenders as quickly as he rose on the gas of good gallops reports. Petardia, in contrast, is a thoroughly decent price for the 2,000 Guineas (25-1 with Ladbrokes), though the winning time was nothing to tell your friends about.

Six horses have carried Sheikh Mohammed's colours to victory so far at the St Leger meeting, a fact which may reduce his sense of disaffection with the condition of the industry. In terms of major races, this season looks a write-off for the Sheikh but the regularity with which his two-year-olds are winning should generate optimism for the future.

The John Gosden stable has successfully introduced Emperor Jones and Pembroke in recent weeks, and equally promising is the athletic Taos, who won a minor race on his debut here yesterday (the Sheikh's Blush Rambler was also an impressive winner at Goodwood, where the same owner's Knifebox took the Select Stakes ahead of an unplaced Environment Friend).

'Let's see how the horses he beat get on before we say how good he is,' Jeremy Noseda, Gosden's assistant, said. 'This one will be a staying horse for next year.' Gosden's yard remains a hype-free zone.