Racing: Selkirk to seek Florida fortune

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The Independent Online
THEY SAY the form book does not lie. But in Selkirk's case it tells a series of howlers.

When students look back at the chestnut's career in years to come they will see a racing record of 14 runs in Europe and just one Group One victory, the 1991 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot.

But to judge the horse on these bare statistics would be a gross misrepresentation. In winning the Challenge Stakes here yesterday, Selkirk further proved himself one of the outstanding performers of recent times at around a mile.

The four-year-old, though, has been a stranger to good fortune almost from the moment he made a winning debut at Goodwood as a juvenile. Much of his Classic season was characterised by bow- legged displays which were later attributed to a trapped testicle, while this year the fates have pushed against him in major races.

'He is a fabulous horse, the best colt I've trained since Mill Reef and the best miler in the world at the moment, and I just wish he'd had a little more luck,' Ian Balding, the colt's trainer, said yesterday. 'He's been awfully unlucky this year not to win a Group One race, either the Sussex Stakes or the Queen Elizabeth II.

'He is the sort of a horse who should have won a Guineas, and Ray (Cochrane, the colt's regular jockey) thinks he has so much speed he would have doddled up in the July Cup.'

Cochrane, who has ridden animals of the calibre of Chief Singer and Kahyasi, the 1988 Derby winner, continued the eulogy. 'He is the best horse I've ever ridden,' he said. 'He's got a fantastic amount of pace.'

Cochrane's task in the saddle will be more demanding when Selkirk runs the final race of his life later this month, in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Gulfstream Park. Selkirk will find his devouring movements checked regularly by the four bends of the Florida course, and then little time to make up ground in the straight.

'I think he'll win in America, with a bit of luck, and I certainly won't be riding him any differently,' Cochrane said. 'I will sit on him and just pick him up in the straight because that's the way the horse enjoys being ridden.'

Balding can see beyond this simplicity. 'The race is a lottery and we're going to have to run round a track like Chester, which is not ideal for a long-striding horse like him,' the trainer said.

After America Selkirk embarks on another lottery, the quest to find whether he can pass on his brilliance at stud. Despite the fact that he has had a testicle removed, 40 speculators have been tempted to invest dollars 30,000 each in the horse to syndicate him at dollars 1.2m.

The precedent they will enjoy is that of Seattle Slew, whose impaired endowment did not disrupt his stallion career. Selkirk will stand at the Lanwades Stud at Newmarket, alongside fellow Lotharios Niniski and Nishapour.

He may one day come into contact with another of yesterday's winners, Bashayer, who as a half- sister to Nashwan, would be a valuable broodmare even without her promising debut victory.

Dick Hern's filly won at 10-1 yesterday but is now only two points longer, with Ladbrokes, to take the 1,000 Guineas next spring.

(Photograph omitted)