Racing: Wannabe makes it to the big time

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The Independent Online
YOU COULD feel the coming winter in the air here yesterday, and you could see it too, in the first traces of dull, woolly coats worn by a few of the runners for the Cheveley Park Stakes. Wannabe Grand was not one of them, though, and for her the seasons all seem to come as one. "An iron filly," Jeremy Noseda called her after she had beaten off Imperial Beauty by half a length, and only a fool would argue.

This was Wannabe Grand's eighth race of the season, which would be a fair campaign for a four-year-old handicapper. For a well-regarded juvenile, it is almost unheard of, but Wannabe Grand is a generous horse who thrives on hard work. "She's incredibly tough," Noseda said. "There could be more talented horses, but her attribute is toughness. She's danced every dance this season, and still come back for more."

Noseda himself has been around the ballroom a few times for a trainer in his mid- thirties. An assistant to John Dunlop and John Gosden, and then an important backroom boy for Godolphin, he left to train in America for a season and a half before returning to Britain last year.

He now has a Group One winner among the 40-odd horses he prepares in Paul Kelleway's old yard on the Bury Road, which is all the more commendable given that neither his former employer at Godolphin, Sheikh Mohammed, nor any of the Maktoum brothers figures among his list of owners.

For the moment at least, he is doing very well without them, although yesterday's race could well be as good as it gets for Wannabe Grand. Noseda, like Mark Johnston, seems to have the rare ability to keep horses at their peak for races and months on end, often teasing out a little more improvement with each new trip to the track.

Even he, though, cannot alter the basic blueprint, and when Wannabe Grand ran over seven furlongs in Ireland earlier this month, her stamina failed her. The ground was soft that day, and the wind in her face, but still the omens were not good if Noseda has Classics in mind.

"It would have to be a big question mark," Noseda said, "but we've got a lot of time to think about it now, and to me, today was her 1,000 Guineas." In other words, Ladbrokes were right to leave her unchanged at 33-1 for next year's Classic, although it was interesting to hear that Noseda feels he has a better juvenile - an unraced colt - at home. His name remains a secret, but presumably only until the 2,000 Guineas entries are published.

The final field for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe is rather closer to hand, although the 17 names which remained after yesterday's five-day declaration stage do not tell the whole story. Two of the first six horses in Coral's latest betting - Sea Wave and Limpid - are not yet in the race, but will almost certainly be supplemented tomorrow, along with the Prix Vermeille winner, Leggera.

Another leading contender, Dream Well, worked over 10 furlongs at Chantilly yesterday, and convinced Pascal Bary, his trainer, that he will improve significantly on his disappointing third in the Prix Niel. "There is no doubt that Dream Well has made a lot of progress and in any case the ground was awful at Longchamp that day," Bary said.

And if Dream Well disappoints, there is always the possibility that Croco Rouge, Bary's other runner, will spare his blushes. "I just prefer Croco Rouge," Bary said. "I thought that he was the strongest before the French Derby, but Dream Well proved me wrong that day. On Sunday however, I think Croco Rouge may gain his revenge."

Coral agree with him, although only just. Croco Rouge is a 5-1 chance for Sunday's race, with Dream Well half a point longer (from 6-1). The main mover in their market yesterday, though, was Sea Wave, the horse who dumped Lanfranco Dettori after a couple of strides in the Prix Niel. He is now an 11-2 chance, from 8-1, so someone must have been backing him. Perhaps it was his psychotherapist.

Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe: Ladbrokes: 9-2 Dream Well, High-Rise, 5-1 Croco Rouge, Sagamix, 6-1 Sea Wave, 8-1 Limpid, 16-1 others. 1,000 Guineas: Ladbrokes: 5-1 Bionic, 7-1 Bint Allayl, 14-1 Kareymah, 16-1 Etiaaz, 20- 1 Calando, Ebadiya, Starspangled, 33-1 others. Cambridgeshire Handicap: Ladbrokes: 8-1 Dokos, Pasternak, 9-1 Supply And Demand, 12-1 Almond Rock, 14-1 Silk St John, 16-1 others.