Racing: Rose to deflower Superman

Sue Montgomery says the golden boy of Ireland may be denied another classic at home
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The Independent Online
IT WAS only a year ago, with a one-two in the Irish 1,000 Guineas, that mild-mannered bespectacled Aidan O'Brien gave notice that he is the sort of chap who, when push comes to shove, has an affinity with phone booths and a propensity for wearing his underpants outside his trousers.

Classic Park's defeat of her stablemate Strawberry Roan gave O'Brien his first Classic, 24 hours before he made it a pair with Desert King in the colts' equivalent. Now incontrovertibly established as a great young training talent, he fields four of the 13 contenders for today's 77th running of the mile contest, worth pounds 84,250 to the winner.

Though the Ballydoyle stable jockey, Christy Roche, is on Sharp Catch, winner of a Naas maiden last year, the one of the quartet with the best public form is Shahtoush, the runner-up in the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket three weeks ago and reunited with Mick Kinane.

This afternoon's Group One race marks the first testing since that day of the fillies who chased home the brilliant winner, Cape Verdi, who will start among the favourites for the Derby should she take part. About an inch behind Shahtoush, in a fast-finishing fourth place, came Cloud Castle, from Clive Brittain's yard. Of equal significance will be the performance of La Nuit Rose, who was third in the French 1,000 Guineas a fortnight ago but not judged fit to polish Cape Verdi's shoes back home in the Godolphin stables.

Raiders from Britain have marginally the best recent record, with 10 victories in the past 20 years against nine for the home side and one for France. The challenge from Cloud Castle and La Nuit Rose is backed up by Crazee Mental, 10th in the 1,000 Guineas, and rank outsider Silca Key Service.

The O'Brien quartet is completed by Kitza, winner of the Irish 1,000 Trial at Leopardstown, and Mempari, still a maiden after five starts. It is difficult to oppose the O'Brien legions, particularly on home ground, but on this occasion, as was the case yesterday, they may have to settle for a place. One of the sport's other juggernauts, Godolphin, may have the edge: Cloud Castle should reverse Newmarket placings with Shahtoush, but the impeccably-bred La Nuit Rose, by an Arc winner out of a French Oaks winner, can prevail. Tarascon, a very smart juvenile, is given a chance to redeem her reputation after bad behaviour at the start of the Newmarket Guineas, and could run well at a decent price if she remains tantrum-free.

Earlier in the afternoon there is an intriguing clash in the Group Two 10-furlong Tattersalls Gold Cup between three potentially high-class four- year-olds. Daylami, winner of last year's French 2,000 Guineas and since recruited by Godolphin from the Aga Khan, has yet to race at more than a mile and the Irish Oaks heroine, Ebadiyla, who still runs in the green- and-red, is most effective at 12 furlongs plus. Both have shown a preference for easy ground which leaves the page open for last year's Irish Derby runner-up Dr Johnson, proven over the intermediate trip, to have the last word.

On this day last year O'Brien introduced King Of Kings to the world with an eight-length victory in the Glengarrif Maiden. Today's representative in the six-furlong race, Bugatti Reef, has not been subject to the same pre-race rumours, but is likely to be above-average nonetheless.