Racing: Sheikh to strengthen status: Paul Hayward expects a global reputation to be sustained when the season's top sprinters take off in today's July Cup

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The Independent Online
TAKE your pick: the world's foremost sprinter versus the most improved short-yardage runner in racing. One safe conclusion - as the former's trainer, Alex Scott, said yesterday - is that 'a lot of people get a buzz about this race'. Eyes peeled for the July Cup.

The meeting of Sheikh Albadou and Shalford provides a focus for a race arguably lacking its normal quality, and while Scott's horse is assured of his place in the pantheon for that win in the Breeders' Cup Sprint last November, Shalford will join him today if he graduates from blowing aside lesser horses the way he did in the Cork and Orrery Stakes at Royal Ascot.

There lies the crux. 'Shalford has put in two good performances over six furlongs - the times were certainly good - but we've run against him only once and we've beaten him fair and square,' Scott says. 'I would have thought we've achieved a bit more.'

The statistics prove that. Sheikh Albadou's prize-money collection has reached pounds 514,000 while Shalford's has climbed to a respectable but hardly comparable pounds 180,000. Those victories in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York and at Churchill Downs have established Sheikh Albadou as a runner of global importance, so his name would sit more comfortably alongside those of Royal Academy, Soviet Star, Ajdal and Green Desert, four of the last six July Cup winners.

'The boss, Sheikh Maktoum (Al Maktoum), likes to win this race,' Scott says, and the fact that 'the boss' has taken it with Cadeaux Genereux and Green Desert bears that out. Sheikh Albadou is owned by Hilal Salem, a relative of Sheikh Maktoum.

'This is the time of year when horses really start coming together,' Scott says to explain the fact that the July Cup produces such reliable form lines. 'At face value we've got three lengths to make up on Shalford (on Ascot running), but Sheikh Albadou's performance to win (the King's Stand Stakes) says a lot for him. That's hard to do on your first run of the season, and against sharp horses.' Scott also reminds us that Sheikh Albadou was lame 36 hours before that race 'which didn't help'.

'I'm surprised he wasn't favourite when they put out prices (for today's race),' Scott says. If Shalford holds that status this afternoon, it will be all the better for those who believe Sheikh Albadou (3.40) has more solid credentials.

The eye returns to evidence submitted at Royal Ascot, and GOLDSMITHS' HALL (nap 2.35) is one who ought to be remembered for his efforts there. Superbrave (4.10) ran at the less prestigious Gosforth Park, Newcastle, last time, but that should not reduce his chance in the Bunbury Cup (after all Silver Wisp, third in the Derby, steps down from Epsom to Chepstow this evening).

Timothy Casey (next best 2.00) ought to file an advertisment for smaller Newmarket stables, while Grand Vitesse (3.05) has a name to encapsulate the day.