Racing: Sadian can show his toughness

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The Independent Online
WITH SERIOUS racehorses such as Swain and Xaar heading to Leopardstown for the Irish Champion Stakes, the St Leger at Doncaster today was never likely to be the best race of the weekend. It is still a surprise, though, to realise that it is not even the second-best contest, nor even, given the quality of the Arc trials at Longchamp tomorrow, in the top four. It is an ailing institution under attack from all sides. Bill Clinton must know how it feels.

They do not like that sort of talk at Doncaster, where there is a belief that journalists who criticise the St Leger should instead be "pulling together" with the racecourse to persuade the public that it is still a Classic worthy of the name. It would be a futile exercise, though, because a combination of long-term trends in the breeding industry and the close proximity of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe has ensured that the Leger can never regain the status it enjoyed as recently as the 1970s, when Nijinsky became the last horse to win the Triple Crown.

None the less, today's Leger will still be a splendid spectacle for the Town Moor crowd, as nine horses, many of whom have never attempted the trip before, fight their way up the long home straight and hope that the winning post arrives before their spirit or stamina expires. It will take some solving too, for while Nedawi seems sure to start a warm favourite, only Ardleigh Charmer will go to post with no chance at all.

Though he is far from being the best of Godolphin's middle-distance three- year-olds, Nedawi might well be good enough to win. With just three races behind him, however, he may lack the mental toughness to beat off battle-hardened opponents when the going get really tough in the final furlong.

Sadian, who was added to the field at a cost of pounds 20,000, has had an unusual season, leaving Henry Cecil's yard for that of John Dunlop halfway through the campaign. A close second to High-Rise, the Derby winner, in the Lingfield Derby Trial in May, he is arguably the form horse in the race, and it is also encouraging that his stride never faltered on the run to the line. A brave horse who should have no problems seeing out the trip, SADIAN (nap 3.40) should return to Arundel as a Classic winner.

Borromini (4.45) and Abajany (3.05) are others with good prospects at Doncaster, but the race which everyone will want to see is the Irish Champion Stakes, which includes five previous Group One winners, as well as the recent Nassau Stakes winner, Alborada. So strong is the field that when an Irish bookmaker priced it up this week, Shahtoush, the Oaks winner, was a 12-1 chance.

The probable favourite is Swain, the dual King George winner, who has yet to win a race of any sort at under 12 furlongs. This may deter some punters, but it is worth remembering that he started his career in a 14-furlong maiden and has rarely been asked to race at anything other than 12 furlongs plus.

One exception was the Dubai World Cup in March, when Swain (next best 4.00) failed by a nostril to beat Silver Charm. One So Wonderful, the International Stakes winner, will be a stern opponent, but Swain can confirm himself as one of the horses of the decade with a victory at Leopardstown this afternoon.

If so, Godolphin will be well on the way to an extraordinary weekend, even by their high standards. The Arc trials at Longchamp tomorrow see a strong challenge from the royal blue silks, with Sea Wave taking on Dream Well, the French and Irish Derby winner, and Croco Rouge in the Prix Niel, while Predappio goes to post for the Prix Foy. The Group One Prix Vermeille, though, will probably stay at home, as Zainta, Andre Fabre's Prix de Diane winner, has won four times already this season and could still be improving even now.

RICHARD EDMONDSON

Nap: Nedawi

(Doncaster 3.40)

NB: Queens Consul

(Doncaster 2.30)

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