Racing: Tregoning to keep up the Hern tradition

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IT'S BEEN called the News Of The World Stakes, the Leslie & Godwin Spitfire Stakes and, in its modern guise, the Volvo Contracts Globetrotter Stakes. But when the 17 runners go to post for the most valuable race on the card over the Sussex Downs this afternoon we'll all know what we're really watching. It's the Extel.

The sponsorship of the Extel Handicap stretched from 1970 to 1989 and in that time there were some memorable encounters, most notably the three consecutive races in the middle of the 1980s which fell to Luca Cumani's Free Guest, Fish 'N' Chips and Chinoiserie. It is always a contest of much intrigue, largely because of the chicanery that goes into getting a horse here fit, ready and off a handicap mark which bears as little relation as possible to the beast's true ability. For some devotees it is what makes racing magical.

For those who want the obvious selection then Tactful Remark is the answer. He is the representative of Frankie Dettori and John Gosden, both of whom have been in shining form this week, and has been allotted a useful high draw.

Tactful Remark won at Newbury earlier in the month, running away from his field by six lengths. It was a cruel performance assessed most cruelly by the handicapper, who put the chestnut up 12lb for his efforts. He has not been seen at a Gosden barbecue since.

"The handicapper hasn't been particularly kind to him considering he looked to have beaten a lot of tired horses," the Stanley House trainer said yesterday. "We stole that race last time. The others thought he was going to come back to them and, by the time they found out he wasn't, it was too late.

"It was all tactics and we won't be able to do that tomorrow. There will be lots of attention. We'll find out how harsh the handicapper has been."

Another trainer who has been able to throw his Panama in the Sussex air this week is Marcus Tregoning. The Lambourn man, who celebrates his 40th birthday tomorrow, saves his best for this course, much like his mentor, Dick Hern. While the old Major was best known for his achievements in Classics and other Group Ones he was not averse to plotting a valuable handicap along the way. Tregoning will have witnessed some of this craft and attempts to put it into play today with Moutahddee.

The son of Alzao has also been solidly penalised for a recent win, the Hong Kong Jockey Club Trophy at Sandown. He is regarded as Listed or Group Three class. MOUTAHDDEE (nap 2.45) should prove it today.

On the same Esher card as Moutahddee's victory, the opener was taken by Daytime. He was held up for the first time that day and the switch was most significant. Daytime (next best 2.15) will be well supported today and the advice is to get on while the egg is boiling.

The early-morning lines are also likely to be jammed in advance of Victory Day's run in the Molecomb Stakes. This race was made an immediate target after Jeremy Noseda's colt finished runner-up to Warm Heart in the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot. Since then he has been a facile winner at Chester and there is every reason to believe that supporters of Victory Day (3.50) will enjoy the sort of afternoon his name suggests.