Racing: Showboat to overcome old Hero

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The Independent Online
WHEN HE wakes up this morning, John Gosden could be excused for thinking he is back in California.

Warm sunshine will be streaming through the windows and the trainer will look forward to running a Group horse in an immensely valuable handicap. For a moment, he might consider that his last 10 years in Newmarket as Sheikh Mohammed's principal trainer have been nothing but a dream.

The Tote International Handicap at Ascot this afternoon fills a void that does not exist either in Gosden's old hunting ground of the United States, or other racing nations for that matter. Its pounds 150,000 prize-money and conditions mean that Group horses, and those on the fringes of pattern class, can come together for a meaningful handicap pot. It should be interesting.

The likes of Plan-B and Pasternak are missing from action today, despite having been considerations, but the participation of Gosden's Decorated Hero goes a long way to distancing their loss.

For those who thought the old boy was ready for the wheelchair and tartan blanket at the age of six there was some disturbing evidence at Newcastle recently. Decorated Hero added another medal to his breast pocket by beating the much-heralded Diktat in the Beeswing Stakes.

Decorated Hero is a likeable horse, which may be why he has been backed into favouritism this week. He wins all over the place and seldom runs badly (he has finished out of the first three just six times in 26 starts). By far the biggest contribution to his earnings is the pounds 78,000 he collected for coming third to Spinning World in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Hollywood Park last November. Old pros always seem to turn it on when the cameras are there.

It would not send the crowd home weeping if Decorated Hero won again this afternoon, yet the suspicion must be that a younger horse will come along to take advantage of the great slabs of weight being given away by the favourite. With that in mind, it is worth studying the form of several of these that ran in the Bunbury Cup. A little analysis suggests that SHOWBOAT (nap 3.50), who was hampered at a vital stage at Newmarket, possesses value credentials.

Ascot's first televised race offers another appearance from Alex Ferguson's Queensland Star. Now, the Manchester United manager may consider he has been having problems with Yorke, but it is Epsom and Newbury that have been troubling his gelding. Queensland Star (2.45) again has weight to give away here but the opposition is less daunting.

Haydock and Newmarket are also televised and the star turn at the former is Mutamam (next best 4.20), who was still getting up in the middle of the night with a wet nappy when he ran in the Derby. He is a more mature horse now.

At Headquarters, the most impressive animal is likely to be another owned by Hamdan Al Maktoum, the John Dunlop-trained Etizaaz (3.30). She won by six lengths on her York debut last month to take high rank in the 1,000 Guineas ante-post market and now has David Loder's Kareymah to beat.

There is also entertainment to enjoy in Great Britain tomorrow when Lady Rockstar goes for her ninth victory of the campaign at Yarmouth. In addition, better quality animals will be stretching their limbs over the water.

Five British sprinters contest the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville, while Neville Callaghan's Black Amber is the best of the travellers in Europe's first Group One juvenile contest of the year, the Heinz 57 Phoenix Stakes at Leopardstown.

Results, page 23

RICHARD EDMONDSON

Nap: Showboat

(Ascot 3.50)

NB: Mutamam

(Haydock 4.20)

Hyperion's tips and cards for tomorrow's three meetings will appear in the Independent on Sunday

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