Racing: Roberts' desire burns brightly

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BUSINESS as usual. Michael Roberts may have had a quiet week and indulged in the luxury of a day off to ease his aching back on Monday. But he was back to form with a vengeance at Newmarket, rewarding the increasing band of those who back him blind with a 649-1 treble.

This took his score to 162 compared to arch rival Pat Eddery's 135 in the race for the jockeys' title and with Eddery suspended until Wednesday, Roberts ought to be safe even if he is clearly eager again for action following up his six rides at Newmarket with three more at Windsor's evening meeting, bringing to 778 his recorded mounts this season, no less than 234 more than Eddery's book.

Inspired relentlessness might well be a multi-syllabled way of describing the Roberts method, and certainly fitted the photo finish victories on Falsoola in the Philip Cornes Nursery and Inherent Magic in the Ladbroke Handicap yesterday.

Falsoola is a little, nervous chestnut filly with only three previous runs to her credit, and upset enough by the occasion to cause Roberts to try and lessen the stress by dismounting at the start. When it came to the finish with the Wiltshire horse White Shadow still in command on the far rails a hundred yards out, Falsoola found the repayment her new partner wanted.

Inherent Magic also prospered under a switch to Roberts' management, pegging back Sigama in the very last stride. But it was surely the victory of Mamdooh, the middle leg of the treble, which caused Roberts the most pleasure of all.

For Mamdooh was saddled by Alec Stewart, the young Newmarket trainer who brought Roberts over from South Africa six years ago, but whose first claim on his services has been something of an embarrassment this season as Stewart has hardly had a healthy horse for his jockey to ride.

Sometime in the spring Alec's 70-strong string was struck down by an illness so mysterious and debilitating that it was best described as 'equine ME'. For weeks even a canter was too high an ambition, and it was feared that the damage would be permanent. The only cure a new batch of horses next season.

So it's greatly to the team's credit that they seem now to have thrown off the malaise, Mamdooh was their fifth winner in a fortnight and strode up the Newmarket hill the very picture of a healthy thoroughbred. Slow starting or not, this is now an outfit it should pay to follow in the coming months.

Down at Windsor, Michael Roberts was joined by Willie Carson and Ray Cochrane, who had come on from winning Goodwood's big races on Rain Rider and Selkirk respectively. Rain Rider inched out his St Leger rival Allegan in the March Stakes, and Selkirk reasserted his claims to championship class with a smashing win in the Beefeater Gin Mile.

Allegan had not run since 2 May, so many will think that he can turn the tables with Rain Rider at Doncaster on 12 September. The reality may not be so simple. For Rain Rider is only now beginning to use his giant frame and even yesterday Willie Carson sometimes looked a bit of a pea on a drum as he tried to balance the long, lanky athlete beneath him. Doncaster could be a lot more suitable track for him than Goodwood's downland undulations.

Selkirk has already achieved Group One status with his brilliant win in last year's Queen Elizabeth 11 Stakes at Ascot. After yesterday's victory he is set fair for a repeat this October and then for the married life at Lanwades Stud in Newmarket. His racing career was transformed when an operation reduced him to one testicle. His stallion role is clearly also aiming to be a case of one being quite enough.