Racing: Roberts' happy return

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THE modest allocation of credit where it is due is part and parcel of post-race inquests, but Clive Brittain took the practice to fresh heights at Newbury yesterday. 'The race was planned over a crispy duck last night,' the trainer explained, as Shambo was led into the winner's enclosure, and even the most effusive Oscar winners stop short of thanking their dinner.

The next time Brittain visits his favourite restaurant he may find several of his Newmarket colleagues at the adjoining tables, for Shambo's success was far from expected. In a field of four for the Geoffrey Freer Stakes, Shambo was reckoned a 9-1 shot behind the strong favourite Rock Hopper and his perennial opponent, Sapience, but an upset was on the cards from the moment the runners covered the first four furlongs like farm horses after a hard day in front of the plough.

Shambo's jockey Michael Roberts, returning to the saddle after a four-day absence through injury, decided to keep his three rivals where he could see them, as Sapience and Rock Hopper chased up Michelozzo. Ray Cochrane sent Sapience on entering the straight, but Shambo was edging ever nearer and when the whip went up on Rock Hopper, drawing only a minimal response, these two clearly had it between them. Few jockeys are stronger in a finish than Cochrane, but Roberts found the greater assistance from below and quickened on to win by half a length.

'People say he hasn't got a turn of foot, but he has,' Brittain said. 'Everything went perfectly, we wanted to sit in behind and let him use it.' However, with York's Ebor meeting beckoning, 'It's great to have Muis (Roberts) rolling again' was perhaps his most heartfelt comment.

Pat Eddery, Roberts's sole challenger for the jockeys' title, could only watch from Rock Hopper as the South African extended his already rudely healthy lead, and then completed a double on Cradle Days. The exertions took their toll, however, as Roberts later decided to give up his ride on Sikeston in today's Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville, but no further problems are anticipated tomorrow.

The day's snappiest observation was provided by Jack Berry, whose Palacegate Episode took the Listed St Hugh's Stakes which opened the card. 'It must be like sitting on an electric shock,' he said, and few witnesses would disagree. Quickly into the lead, the race was over at half-way but Gary Carter saw no point in letting his rivals off lightly and increased his advantage all the way to the line.

The most striking feature of the Eurolink Silver Trophy Handicap was the route taken by the winner, Louisville Belle. After starting her run on the far side of the course, she ended up one off the stands' rails, but the stewards saw more to dislike about Chris Rutter's riding of Laundry Maid, the runner-up. She was demoted one place, while Rutter gets a four-day suspension.