Racing: Rodrigo finds his feet on dirt

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NO EUROPEAN runner has won the world's premier horse race, but if the evidence of Rodrigo De Triano's workout at Gulfstream yesterday is reliable, then the Breeders' Cup Classic is within reach of Lester Piggott here tomorrow, writes Paul Hayward.

Echoes of Dayjur at Belmont Park in 1990 were audible as Rodrigo De Triano hugged the rail in a six-and-a-half furlong workout and appeared to enjoy galloping on the dirt track, which is so gentle in substance that a running horse makes no noise on it. Ladbrokes had 'no hesitation' in shunting Rodrigo De Triano to the head of the market and now make him 3-1 favourite ahead of America's main hope, Pleasant Tap at 7-2.

Peter Chapple-Hyam, his trainer, believes that Rodrigo De Triano's small feet are helping him adapt to racing on dirt because they enable him to 'take a grab'. Feminine Wiles, a stable companion, provided the educational sandstorm by leading Rodrigo De Triano past an admiring but bleary-eyed audience (they worked at 6.15am to avoid the heat).

Confidence holds firm also in Sheikh Albadou and Mr Brooks ahead of the Sprint. The former raced medication-free when winning the race last year but this time will compete on the anti-inflammatory drug, Butazolidin (Bute). This is Sheikh Albadou's last race before he goes to stud, and as his trainer, Alex Scott, said: 'We've got nothing to lose by using Bute. We need all the help we can get.'

Yet another positive: Selkirk, who disputes favouritism for the Mile, was in spanking condition for a six-furlong gallop on the grass. Ian Balding, who trains him, said the horse had lost only six kilos in transit and admitted that Gulfstream is 'less tight than I thought it was going to be'. He must have been expecting a Scalextric track.

Both Balding and Ray Cochrane, Selkirk's jockey, believe they have the 'perfect' draw in stall seven, though Cochrane was noticeably tentative in steering Selkirk's gangly frame round the turn. Still, he did say afterwards: 'If you start making excuses about the track you shouldn't be here.'

Three cheers for that.