Racing: Tabor can fly high at the circus

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The Independent Online
THEY USED the Frankie factor to sell the Ascot Festival last year. Twelve months on, the max factor is the focus.

Douglas Erskine-Crum, the Ascot racecourse director, and his cohorts, have organised a programme for this weekend designed to bring in the masses of the general public as well as the racing aficionado.

Ascot's theme this year is the celebration of the horse, which will involve exhibitions of the various labours devised for the noble beast down the ages to the moment when Anglo Saxon man considered his best use was as a betting medium.

There will be displays of mediaeval jousting, the appearance of Arabs, Exmoors and Cobs, as well as a demonstration by a Lipizzanner stallion trained at the Spanish Riding School.

A police horse will also attempt to jump through a makeshift wall to demonstrate trust with its rider. The Red Devils fly in, red-jowled media tipsters can get their faces painted and there will also be clowns. Amid this circus, horseracing will be taking place.

The Ascot Festival has not really needed much of a selling point since Frankie Dettori toddled into town two years ago. That was the meeting when the great showman recorded his magnificent seven.

The beauty of the achievement was that it was not posted, as Martin Pipe often tries to manage, with a volley of favourites at an uncompetitive up-country meeting. The Italian did it on one of the most eagerly fought cards in the calendar.

If the near-impossible is to happen again it certainly won't be by Dettori - he's not even in the first race. John Reid and Kieren Fallon are the only riders with a mount in each contest.

The centrepiece, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, usually confers the title of champion miler on its winner. That will not be so today as Godolphin's Intikhab does not step down from the throne to put his crown on the line. It remains, however, a compelling contest.

Michael Tabor is greedy for Group One prizes these days following a spectacular outlay and the owner is doubly represented here by Among Men and Second Empire. Confirmation of the latter's participation came only yesterday and continued a worrying pattern from his Ballydoyle yard. Running plans from Aidan O'Brien's stable are increasingly cloudy, which discomforts ante-post bookmakers, the punters who wish to play with them and courses seeking to publicise their four-legged celebrities.

Second Empire became a runner after his daily blow-out yesterday and there will almost certainly be the same encouraging noises from connections about his prospects which have preceded other races this season. The bald, form-book truth, however, is that Second Empire has not been top- class this campaign.

Among Men is different. He has run in the best company this year, including outings against several of this afternoon's challengers. He has not beaten them by much, but he has beaten them consistently, and the sensible wager is for AMONG MEN (nap 3.20) to do so again.

Dettori might still feel warm after the first encounter even though he has no part to play. Rabah (2.00) looks quite good here, particularly as he has good form with the St Leger winner, Nedawi. Victory for John Dunlop's colt would deliver a huge compliment to Sea Wave, Dettori's Arc mount, who humiliated him in the Great Voltigeur at York.

The Diadem Stakes will see lots of fast horses bearing down the Berkshire straight, including one that has not been quite fast enough this year. Averti (next best 2.35) was first past the post at Baden-Baden last time, but was disqualified. His connections were then beaten again, at an appeal, but all funds should be recovered if the seven-year-old maintains his end-of-season form.

And finally, the fluffy pet story to go out with a smile may be carried off by an animal who has not endeared himself greatly to the human species this year. Gaelic Storm (3.55) has been a regular Saturday-morning steamer without any recompense this summer and his consistent followers now probably exist under canvas. Today is the day to get the property back.

Yesterday's results, other cards, page 26