Racing: Selkirk to dim image of defeat

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The Independent Online
SELKIRK's gangly legs bounce him a foot or so in front of the younger, smaller filly scraping up the rail on his inside. The Sussex Stakes looks over. Age and size and might will out, and last year's European champion miler is back on his plinth. Remember that? Remember Marling - and not Selkirk - winning on that stuffy day at Goodwood?

A salutary recollection. Races which you have spent hours deciphering are decided on a patch of grass no bigger than a cricket wicket. Jockeyship suddenly tells. Fitness snaps. That training setback - the one you ignored - loops a lasso round your horse's neck and drags it back into the anonymity of a place.

So it was, a supporter of Selkirk could insist, in this year's Sussex Stakes. If you ran that race again 20 times there would be all manner of outcomes. Apart from insisting that Selkirk was one race short of a his peak, you could argue that he hit the front too soon, or that Marling was helped by the rail, or even that unseen to the eye Pat Eddery produced a fork-lift truck and shovelled his filly over the line.

However you recall that race (and the merit of Marling's victory is beyond doubt), it makes it hard to believe that Selkirk (3.10) can be beaten in the Celebration Mile over the same course and distance this afternoon. He could easily be unbeaten this season, had the fight with Marling tipped the other way and an errant lump of mud not found itself down his throat in the Prix d'Ispahan, and on any rational interpretation of form, today's race ought to return him to winning ways before Marling, Second Set and company are encountered again in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot.

Mystiko, last year's 2,000 Guineas winner, is the most eminent of Selkirk's rivals, but as his normally indomitable trainer, Clive Brittain, admits, this one has had an unhappy season. 'When he's been right the ground's been wrong (Mystiko hates it soft), and when he's been wrong the ground's come right,' Brittain says, with something approaching melancholia.

Another horse who has been wrong when his schedule has required that he be right is Allegan, one of half a dozen St Leger candidates on trial at two venues (Anchorite, Shuailaan, Young Freeman and Mack The Knife all run at the season's final evening meeting, at Windsor).

The betting bible relates that Allegan beat Rain Rider as if he were a sheep when both horses made their debuts back in April, but the former has been off with an injury for the past four months while Rain Rider (2.00) has made startling progress since his inconspicuous beginning.

Newmarket's televised races will provide new proof for conspiracy theorists who believe that punters are a punchline in one of the universe's bad jokes. Four impenetrable handicaps are enough to make Saturday shopping seem enticing, although there is a good word for Falsoola (next best 3.20), while Gulf Sailor (3.50) and Arboretum (4.20) have excellent each-way chances.

So Rhythmical (2.30) and Berlin Wall (3.40) are two others for Goodwood, but the outstanding proposition there is LT WELSH (nap 4.10), who, like an infant on their first day at primary school, was given the gentlest possible introduction on this course a month ago. There will be considerably more urgency this afternoon.

Snurge attempts a second consecutive win in the Grand Prix de Deauville tomorrow when the Mohammed Moubarak-trained Fast Manoeuvre will be among six rivals.