The 1990 winner of the St Leger (a race he took while still a maiden) was no obvious choice before yesterday's Group Two event, however. A 16-1 chance on the Pari-mutuel, Snurge has been moving little faster this year than the statue that was erected in his honour at Cole's Whatcombe yard earlier this month. He finished last in the Gran Premio di Milano at San Siro in June, and again had only the course ambulance behind him in the Princess Of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot. 'He had a virus earlier this season and we couldn't identify what the problem was,' Cole said.
Any thought that an ailment still lingered disappeared during the course of yesterday's race as Snurge travelled with threatening ease. Taken to the front by his jockey, Richard Quinn, half a furlong from home, the chestnut held on by a short-head from Petit Loup (Walter Swinburn), with Husband (Cash Asmussen) two lengths back in third. 'It was quite a fair pace,' Swinburn reported. 'I was cruising two furlongs out and at one point thought I had it won, but Snurge proved best on the day.'
This was the seventh time that Snurge had proved best, and he has galloped successfully through the atlas over the years, winning at Woodbine, Capannelle, Deauville and San Siro to become the third horse prepared at Whatcombe (Ibn Bey and Generous are the others) to break the pounds 1m earnings barrier.
He would already be the record holder had he not been controversially disqualified from first place in the Criterium de Saint-Cloud of 1989, and the horse may be allowed to answer that injustice back in France in the Group One Prix du Cadran at Longchamp during the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe meeting. An alternative venture is the Irish St Leger at The Curragh in three weeks' time. Success in either will take him past Pebbles.
For Cole, this represented a first winner in France this season. Other British trainers to return from Deauville with a fistful of francs were Ben Hanbury, whose En Attendant was third in the Group Three Prix Quincey on Saturday, and John Dunlop, who saw Talented occupy a similar position in yesterday's Prix de la Nonette.
Talented, the mount of Willie Carson, finished behind two talented fillies in Shemaka, the Prix de Diane (French Oaks) winner, and Baya. The former may take in the Prix Vermeille before an assault on the Arc.
Racing of a more prosaic nature is spread around 11 Bank Holiday cards in Britain today, though there may be two victories for sentimentalists to be found in the compost. At Plumpton, in the seller, Manhattan Boy attempts to add to his career record of 13 wins, all of which have been in Plumpton sellers, while Lanfranco Dettori and Winged Victory will be doubly apt winners of Chepstow's penultimate event. Not only has Dettori just touched down after riding in America over the weekend, but his target here is called the Frankie Dettori Ton-Up Fillies Conditions Stakes, which remembers the 1990 season when the Italian became the youngest rider to reach a century since Lester Piggott.
The only televised card is at Epsom, where the hyphenated names do battle in the Amateurs' Derby. Grasso-Caprioli and Pritchard-Gordon will fill out the plates on the jockeys' board, but the double-barrel to follow here is that of Lady D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, owner of CASTORET (nap 3.10).
This race will at least make sense of the ritual of pre-race briefings. Quite what trainers, some of whom have never thrown a rein in anger, tell senior jockeys about tactics when they meet in the parade ring is a mystery, but at least John Hills, Castoret's trainer, knows what he is about here.
The Lambourn man took this event as a rider on Lumen, and should become the first to prepare a winner as well, as Castoret has been dropped 1lb since finishing fifth in the Ebor.
The race is over the Derby course, a journey that has already been undertaken, albeit slowly, by Canaska Star (2.35) in the real thing on 2 June. The colt, who finished 14th that day, makes his debut for Peter Chapple-Hyam's stable and the fact that he is favourite says more about his rivals than his own qualities.
There are chances too for Ashtina (next best 4.10), who is back on a winning mark, and Northern Bailiwick (3.40), who attempts to add to career win money of pounds 1,725. Snurge need not be worried.
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