Racing: Sayyedati starts Classic cast list: Paul Hayward reports from Newmarket

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The Independent Online
ETIQUETTE demands that next year's Classics are not discussed with anything like earnestness until the Newmarket July meeting. After that you can say whatever comes into your bet-addled brain, with 10 months to pass before your fortune-telling finally and painfully separates you from your fortune.

That racing is a contest of opinions more than horses was emphasised here yesterday when Sayyedati narrowly won the Cherry Hinton Stakes from Toocando and Mystic Goddess. While William Hill were unmoved and left her a 33-1 chance for the 1,000 Guineas - Ladbrokes, in contrast, were impressed enough to show 20-1 - Clive Brittain, the trainer, was sufficiently intoxicated by Sayyedati's victory to elevate her above the great Pebbles.

In view of the fact that Pebbles won the 1,000 Guineas, Eclipse Stakes and Breeders' Cup Turf, Brittain's assessment of Sayyedati might be expected to crack under the heat of cross-examination, but however sceptically you receive such pronouncements you cannot question Brittain's ability to find and condition high-class horses - in spite of his position outside the mainstream of Newmarket fashion.

'Very much so,' was Brittain's answer (borrowed from Ron Atkinson) to the question: 'So are you saying she is better than Pebbles?'. 'It's a long time to Guineas day, but we think we've got the quality to go there,' Brittain said, thus making a girder-sized rod for his own back. His task now is to think of 101 variations on this claim.

A trainer who issues bold assertions on behalf of his horses is infinitely preferable to the it's-morning-but-don't-quote-me types who dominate Flat racing, and in fairness Sayyedati has plenty of assets to take towards the Cheveley Park Stakes, her only remaining target this year. Not the least of them are her physical strength and parentage. Dubian, her dam, improved almost daily after finishing third in the 1985 Oaks, and Sayyedati has the same look about her.

For Michael Roberts, the jockey putting the wind up Pat Eddery in the championship, alliances with the foal-bearing gender are providing some of the year's best pay days. Roberts has already won the Queen Mary Stakes with the ludicrously fast Lyric Fantasy, whom he refuses to compare with Sayyedati.

'You can't. It's impossible,' he says. 'Lyric Fantasy is just sheer speed. This one (Sayyedati) is a possible Classic filly for next year.' Brittain is, of course, similarly endowed with good fillies, and says: 'I haven't seen the likes of this since I was with Sir Noel Murless (in the vintage years of Petite Etoile and company).'

Racing's junk heap of youthful promise stretches ever higher, the scrap of all those names providing an equally large pile of reasons for not succumbing to temptation. Not for 20 years has a Cherry Hinton winner progressed to take the 1,000 Guineas, though it continues to be captured by runners of the highest quality, like Forest Flower, Diminuendo and Chimes Of Freedom.

More satisfying to this eye is the sight of older horses like Saddlers' Hall winding up for the top all- aged races of summer and autumn. Though his success in the Princess Of Wales's Stakes here yesterday was less than exhilarating, Saddlers' Hall is among the front two or three candidates for both the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

'His first two races (this season) were quite uncompetitive but he did win them in great style,' Michael Stoute, his trainer, says. 'And at Epsom (in the Coronation Cup), he beat Group One horses (Terimon, Subotica et al), so he's done everything we've asked.'

When Saddlers' Hall faces St Jovite at Ascot on Saturday fortnight, Stoute will ask an awful lot more.

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