Racing: Tumbleweed to breeze Trophy

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FIRST BLOOD of the weekend - just - went to Peter Chapple-Hyam at Newbury yesterday, when Brancaster's black nose landed on the line about a centimetre in front of the white one of Sicnee, from David Loder's yard, at the end of the Horris Hill Stakes. Brancaster needed every ounce of Kieren Fallon's strength and expertise to get him home in the Group Three contest after his inexperience had him yawing through the final furlong like a rudderless dinghy in the heavy ground, and Sicnee had some traffic problems before Frankie Dettori launched him on his all-but-successful run up the rail.

The two trainers oppose each other again in the two-year-old division this afternoon, when the stakes are raised a couple of notches with the Group One Racing Post Trophy and possible winter favouritism for the Derby at stake. They field two of the leading candidates for the pounds 150,000 race: Chapple-Hyam relies on Commander Collins and Loder on Timahs.

Both colts come to the mile contest, which will provide the penultimate piece of the season's elite juvenile jigsaw - the Criterium de Saint-Cloud a week today is the last - with perfectly credible credentials. Commander Collins, a half-brother by Sadler's Wells to 2,000 Guineas and Derby third Colonel Collins, won a Listed race at Newmarket on his debut and then, after some time off to recover from a bout of 'flu, went under narrowly to Auction House, who did nothing to devalue the form with his second spot in the Dewhurst Stakes a week ago, in last month's Champagne Stakes over seven furlongs of today's course.

Timahs, a full brother to 1996 Derby hero Shaamit, looked a youngster of considerable potential when he romped home 25 days ago in a hot Newmarket maiden over today's distance. He is scheduled to join the mane drain to Godolphin headquarters in Dubai after this afternoon's effort.

Commander Collins, who exhibited a rather awkward high head carriage last time out, is the favourite and Timahs a strong second choice. Better value may be found in the rangy shape of Brian Meehan's candidate Tumbleweed Quartet (3.40).

This strong, scopey colt was two lengths third in the Champagne Stakes after interference early in the race. But a good case can be made for him reversing the form with Commander Collins and providing his stable with a second Group One prize in seven days, after Tomba's Prix de la Foret last Sunday.

Over to his trainer. ``I think we can make up the distance. We did not have the best of runs last time and at the end of the race Commander Collins was all out and we were finishing. There's an extra furlong to go and that could make all the difference.

``When Pat [Eddery] got off he told me I had a Dewhurst horse. I told him he was in the Racing Post Trophy and he said that was even better as it's a mile. The horse has done absolutely nothing wrong since - he worked very well indeed earlier in the week. I'm as confident as you can be going to a Group One race.''

The preceding Racing Post Conditions Stakes can give Al Muallim (3.10) a belated opportunity to get off the mark for the season. The lightly- raced four-year-old, from Pip Payne's Newmarket yard, has put up some decent efforts in defeat and can turn the tables on his Redcar conquerer Late Night Out as he thwarts Ho Leng.

The feature at Newbury today is the Group Three St Simon Stakes, in which two of the season's best staying fillies renew rivalry. Silver Rhapsody (2.30) created an excellent impression at Ascot two weeks ago when, on only her fourth start, she revelled in the easy ground and can once again see off Delilah, who is running for the last time before going off the the sales in Kentucky.

Whatever happens to Commander Collins at Doncaster his stablemate and contemporary Mother Of Pearl (1.30) can underline her Classic potential for next year in the opening Radley Stakes at the Berkshire track.