Racing: Sprinter group on attack

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The Independent Online
IT IS NOT too hard to imagine the head-shaking and hand-wringing there would be if runners from abroad were to outnumber the home team in a top-level race on British soil. The accusation that the chronic underfunding caused by parasitic bookmakers had finally bled the sport to its deathbed would not be far from many lips. Yet, yesterday when the 17 acceptors were published for the first Group One race of the Deauville season, Sunday's Prix Maurice de Gheest, just three were from French stables with the other 14 hailing from Britain or Ireland.

While it is true that the raiding party is sure to dwindle once John Gosden and, as usual, Aidan O'Brien have got round to pruning their entries, it nevertheless represents an extraordinarily powerful team, headed by the Saeed bin Suroor-trained Diktat and Luca Cumani's recent Newbury winner, Arkadian Hero.

Richard Hannon has left in Andreyev, Bold Edge and Sampower Star, while Gosden has Russian Revival, who holds an alternative option in the Tote International Handicap at Ascot 24 hours earlier, and Bertolini. O'Brien is also double-handed with Bianconi and the course winner, last year's Prix Morny victor, Orpen.

Numbers do not always count, though. In June, the French could come up with only four runners worthy of contesting their premier Classic, the Prix du Jockey Club, while the British and Irish fielded the same number. The captain of the French team, though, was called Montjeu.

France's other top colt this season, Sendawar, and Aljabr, his victim in the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, could renew rivalry and settle the miling championship of Europe, in the pounds 320,000 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes over the same track and trip on 25 September. The pair were among 34 entries announced yesterday for the Group One race.

Far from the glamour of the Group-race circuit, John Reid makes his return to the track after injury at Chepstow today where he rides Single Shot in the Salmon Stakes for Luca Cumani. Reid, 44 tomorrow, has spent a frustrating season on the sidelines since breaking his leg at Kempton on Easter Monday. He was replaced by Jimmy Fortune as jockey at Peter Chapple-Hyam's Manton stable at the end of last season and the Ulsterman has lost a valuable period in which he could have established himself on the freelance circuit, which became rather more crowded last week with the arrival of Kieren Fallon.

Starting a period on the treatment table is Charlie Swan who had his right arm re-set and pinned at Navan Hospital yesterday afternoon after a fall at Roscommon on Tuesday night in which both his arms were fractured. Swan's mount slipped up on a bend and the jockey was kicked by other horses while on the ground.

Although his left arm sustained a clean break, his right arm was broken in two places and required pinning to speed up the healing process. Swan is expected to be out of the saddle for two months but aims to be back in time for the return of the champion hurdler, Istabraq.