Racing: Rodrigo primed for rare double

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The Independent Online
IT IS 24 years since Sir Ivor, with Lester Piggott in the plate, became the first horse to win the 2,000 Guineas and the Champion Stakes in the same season. The colours will be different at Newmarket on Saturday, but the gaunt figure wearing them will be the same as Rodrigo De Triano attempts to emulate that achievement in what could be his final race in Europe.

Brigadier Gerard is the only other horse to have completed the double, which serves to emphasise the near impossibility of keeping a top-class thoroughbred at the peak of its form throughout the year. Peter Chapple-Hyam, Rodrigo De Triano's trainer, appears to have adopted a European approach by giving the colt a holiday since his success in the International Stakes in mid-August, and was in typically optimistic mood yesterday despite admitting to a minor training setback.

'He threw a splint in his off-fore leg which put us in a bit of a panic but he is perfectly sound now,' Chapple-Hyam said. 'He swam last week, cantered this morning and will work tomorrow. He is in very good form and I expect him to win, in fact he looks better than he has done all season.'

It did not take long for that assessment to reach the ears of the bookmakers, and 13-8 with William Hill is the healthiest price on offer. Most firms see the race as little more than a match between Rodrigo De Triano and Lahib, winner of the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot. Hills go 15-8 about John Dunlop's colt, 12-1 Seattle Rhyme, 14-1 Masad, Shuailaan, Steinbeck & Zaahi, 20-1 others.

While the betting exchanges began on the Champion, Saturday's other major attraction, the Cesarewitch Handicap, was reduced to relative torpor by the declaration of Barry Hills's Supreme Choice. The four-year-old is top weight, and if Hills decides to let him take his chance it will force almost half the entries to run from out of the handicap, including the ante-post favourite, Daru, currently on 7st 6lb. Daru sidled out to 7-1 from 6-1 with Ladbrokes as a result, while that firm also cut his stable companion, Specificity, to 16-1 from 25-1.

Uncanny echoes from Lester Piggott's past seem to be the theme of the weekend, and they will begin to reverberate on Friday when the jockey partners Vincent O'Brien's unbeaten colt Fatherland in the Dewhurst Stakes, a race the pair won with, among others, Sir Ivor. Ladbrokes were offering 7-1 against Fatherland yesterday morning, but cut him to 4-1 after considerable interest from nostalgics. Zafonic is their 4-6 favourite, with Inchinor and Petardia at 7-1 from 6-1.

CESAREWITCH HANDICAP (Saturday): Best prices: 7-1 Daru (Ladbrokes), 9-1 Vintage Crop (Tote), 10-1 Quick Ransom (Ladbrokes), 12-1 Star Player (Hills), 12-1 Cabochon (Tote), 16-1 Bardolph (Hills), 12-1 Majestic Image (Hills, Tote), 20-1 Aude La Belle (general), 20-1 Specificity (Tote), 25-1 Supreme Choice (Coral, Hills, Ladbrokes), 33-1 Farat (Hills), 33-1 Go South (Hills, Ladbrokes), 33-1 Jack Button (Coral), 25-1 Mull House (Hills, Tote), 25-1 Muse (Coral, Tote), 25-1 Three Wells (Tote), 33-1 others.