Racing: Rain check for User Friendly

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DARK SKIES and dark warnings at Town Moor yesterday as the threatened rain did not arrive and Clive Brittain, the trainer of the St Leger favourite, User Friendly, said his filly might not either.

After walking the course, the Newmarket trainer reported that User Friendly would miss tomorrow's Classic unless substantial amounts of water were deposited on the course. This will have to happen naturally as John Sanderson, the clerk of the course, will not employ the track's watering mechanism in the belief that showers are imminent.

'It's a shame because she is in such good form,' Brittain said. 'This horse is a real machine and she did an amazing piece of work the other day.'

With User Friendly's participation now in doubt, the world's oldest Classic is rapidly losing its lustre. Luca Cumani's Bonny Scot is the new favourite and is down to as low as 7-4 with Ladbrokes.

And with the weather pattern the same over France, User Friendly is also unlikely to take in the Prix Vermeille at Longchamp on Sunday, and her next race may transpire to be the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on 4 October.

Anyone wanting to see the latter race as it happens discovered yesterday that they will have to travel to Paris to do so. Channel 4's commitment to Italian football has pushed aside live coverage of Europe's premier contest, and British racing fans will now be forced to make do with condensed highlights of one of the richest cards of the year. It is a decision that only the French Tourist Board is expected to welcome.

There was considerably more reliability in evidence at Doncaster yesterday as two of the staunchest horses in training, Further Flight and Pursuit Of Love, captured the card's Group races.

The former's victory in the Doncaster Cup was the 13th of a career which has seen him amass almost pounds 300,000 in prizemoney. Michael Hills once again found the grey the most compliant of partners as he forced him home in the dying moments.

'This has got to be my most favourite horse of all time,' he said. 'He is so brave and runs his races like no other horse can do.'

The jockey's trainer-father, Barry, his hand soaked in blood after attending a cut on the horse's near fore as evidence, also emphasised the gelding's courage. He believes Further Flight's flame to remain so fierce that he is already planning a campaign for him as a seven-year-old, when the Gold Cup will head the agenda.

Hills has had to exhibit sturdiness of his own this year as his stable has suffered a season of rare turbulence. A virus at South Bank has fazed the trainer and finished some of his horses.

'It's been going on for five months and it's the worst one I've had as a trainer,' he said. 'The two-year-olds are starting to run better each week, but they aren't coming right in five seconds and will need time to get match fit.

'Something deep down in the bottom of them has been the problem and most of them have been violently ill. Some of the three-year-old fillies will never come back.'

Pursuit Of Love has been returning solid displays for two seasons now. The colt's win in the Kiveton Park Stakes was the fourth of a career which has a maximum of two races to run.

Henry Cecil's three-year-old next runs in the Prix de la Foret before a possible stab at the Breeders' Cup Mile. After that he will enjoy the fruits of his labours at Newmarket's Plantation Stud, where he will stand as a stallion alongside his owner Lord Howard de Walden's 1985 Derby winner, Slip Anchor.

(Photograph omitted)