Racing: Putra puts his case on sacred turf

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The Independent Online
The folk at United Racecourses continue to profess this week that they were unaware that Entrepreneur, the dual Classic favourite, was one of the horses that Michael Stoute wanted to work at Sandown when he asked for grass time on Saturday morning. Their shrewdness is such that if Col Tom Parker told them he could contribute to the Derby entertainment with a musical act who had not been around for a while they would probably fail to check identity then either.

It transpires that Entrepreneur's was not the only persuasive piece of work on Saturday morning from a colt who will be making his seasonal debut in the 2,000 Guineas. In addition, Paul Cole's Putra has much the better juvenile form.

The trial grounds at Whatcombe have reverberated to the sound of some fast-moving hooves down the years. The slopes of Woolley Down and Summerdown at the Wantage yard have been the sites of wondrous work from the likes of "Flying Mumty", Mumtaz Mahal, the brilliant but fragile Blandford (who is interred on the premises) and the Derby-winning trio of Blakeney, Morston and Generous.

Now it is hoped their company may be joined by a chestnut colt with the physique of a high-jumper. Putra is 12-1 for the first Classic, odds which may prove to be laughably generous (an adjective they like at Whatcombe). "He's come along very well indeed and he worked well enough on Saturday to show us he is a serious contender for the Guineas," Cole said yesterday.

If Putra finds horses in front of him at the end of the Rowley Mile it will be a unique experience. He stopped the clock very early on his debut last year at Sandown in beating Benny The Dip, before collecting the Lanson Champagne Stakes at Goodwood in late July. The accomplished quintet of Alhaarth, Eltish, Mister Baileys, Maroof and Dr Devious were the previous five winners of that race.

"He's a big, lean and leggy horse, so I decided we didn't want to run him here, there and everywhere after Goodwood," Cole said. "We targeted him for the Dewhurst but he started coughing two weeks before it."

There has been a sprinkling of problems for the Whatcombe team this spring, but Putra is such an undemanding figure that anyone, well almost anyone, could have supervised his maturing. "Early on the weather wasn't very good for us as it was very cold and then very hot and the gallops got fast," Cole said. "But he's been very straightforward to get ready, though I don't think a member of the press could have ridden him work because he needs someone very experienced and extremely quiet. He's got a tremendous action but he's a slightly highly strung horse with it.

"I didn't want to run him early in a prep because, even though the Guineas may be a fantastic race to win, there are races later these days. To get to the Guineas you have to put your horse under a lot of pressure very early and it can be harmful.

"It's so difficult to know whether we've got a definite miler as well. He's bred for a mile, but, like with all horses, the more you look at home the more detrimental the information you get can be. You need to put them on a race-track. He could be a mile and a quarter horse or even get a mile and a half when the dust settles."

However, it is only if Putra is causing the dustcloud that shrouds the rest of the field on Saturday that Paul Cole will convince himself he has another great horse on his hands. He was champion trainer in 1991 (the third Whatcombe bearer of the crown following Dick Dawson and Arthur Budgett) and virtually 30 years with a licence have tempered his expectations. "You must never anticipate too much," he said. "I might get excited after the race, but definitely not before."

2,000 GUINEAS (Newmarket, Saturday): Ladbrokes: 7-2 Revoque, 4-1 Entrepreneur, 9-2 Shamikh, 7-1 Hidden Meadow, 12-1 Putra, 14-1 Poteen, Yalaietanee & Zamindar, 16-1 Cape Cross, Desert Story & Musical Pursuit, 33-1 Shawaf; William Hill: 7-2 Revoque, 4-1 Entrepreneur, 9-2 Shamikh, 6-1 Hidden Meadow, 10-1 Putra, 14-1 Poteen & Zamindar, 20-1 Cape Cross, Desert Story, Musical Pursuit & Yalaietanee.

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