Racing: Tedburrow to dig deep in Abernant

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BLEAK, SOULLESS, depressing. These are all perfectly fair descriptions of the Rowley Mile racecourse at Newmarket, and today they will be more true than ever, because the Craven meeting, the first of the season at Flat racing's headquarters, will take place at the far more agreeable July course, about a mile down the road. So too will the rest of Newmarket's 1999 programme, including the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas in little more than a fortnight's time.

The only shame about this arrangement is that it is temporary, to allow the Rowley Mile to be redeveloped at a cost of millions. Even a Tesco superstore or a Drive-Thru McDonalds would be a better use of that particular patch of Newmarket Heath.

The great attraction of this meeting is the atmosphere of blind, irrepressible optimism which grips punters, trainers and jockeys alike. The horses, the great majority of whom are making either their seasonal or career debuts, could turn out to be absolutely anything, and the Nell Gwyn Stakes, the feature race of the first day, is the perfect example.

The 11 fillies declared for the race yesterday are not an outstanding bunch. Circle Of Gold is the one who figures most prominently in the 1,000 Guineas betting, and she is 33-1. There is little way of knowing, though, what effect another winter will have had on Amazing Dream, who won a valuable contest at The Curragh last season, or Enemy Action, who was less than two lengths behind the ill-fated Bint Allayl in the Lowther Stakes at York last August.

Nor does it matter that Wannabe Grand, last year's Cheveley Park Stakes winner, was taken out of the race at the overnight stage. Jeremy Noseda, her trainer, said yesterday. "She is in good form and will go straight for the Guineas, that is the only race that matters."

Hints for the Guineas and other Classics later in the season are the only reason anyone should watch the Nell Gwyn. A bet is out of the question, because the form is imponderable after six months in which all of the runners will have matured significantly. A better bet is TEDBURROW (nap 2.35). Now seven, he is the exception who proves the rule that good Flat horses come and go before you can become fond of them, and he seemed to run as well as he ever has when winning the Cammidge Trophy at Doncaster's Lincoln meeting.

The other good bet is Franco Mina (next best 3.40), although the world will be trying to back him after an eye-catching run last time out. He started favourite for every race he ran in as a two-year-old, and will probably do so again today.

Classic news yesterday concerned Commander Collins, last season's Racing Post Trophy winner, who will go straight to the 2,000 Guineas on 1 May without a prep race, and Moiava, the ante-post favourite for the 1,000 Guineas. Olivier Delouze, her regular rider, will miss the Classic after picking up a 15-day ban at Longchamp on Sunday, and Criquette Head, the filly's trainer, said yesterday that she has offered the ride on Moiava to Kieron Fallon.

Fallon, though, will not be able to accept unless Henry Cecil, who retains him, does not have a runner in the race. "Henry Cecil is likely to have a live one in the race and if he has I will not be able to ride the French filly," Fallon said at Windsor yesterday.

There were entries too yesterday for the Greenham Stakes at Newbury on Saturday, headed by Auction House, runner-up to Mujahid in last October's Dewhurst Stakes. Enrique, 8-1 for the 2,000 Guineas, is also expected to run. Mick Channon's Golden Silca, successful four times at Newbury last season including in the Group Two Mill Reef Stakes, is set to reappear at the Berkshire track in the Dubai Duty Free Stakes - formerly the Fred Darling Stakes - over seven furlongs and 64 yards on Friday. However, Peter Makin's Imperial Beauty will not now run until the 1,000 Guineas.


Nap: Ambleside

(Exeter 3.30)

NB: Bahamian Bandit

(Newmarket 4.45)