Racing: Whisper for Zahrat as Adair defects

York May meeting: Maiden filly can land Musidora for Godolphin but top colt bypasses fixture and may miss Derby
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The Independent Online
WHEN YOU train racehorses for a living, your stock can rise and fall faster than a futures market in the Far East. The Musidora Stakes at York this afternoon could illustrate the point perfectly.

The two most obvious winners are Zahrat Dubai, trained by Saaed bin Suroor for Godolphin, and Peter Chapple-Hyam's Mother Of Pearl, whose handlers have started the season in rather different veins of form. Godolphin already have a Classic to their credit, while Chapple-Hyam has sent out an unusually high number of losers, but even one day could make quite a difference. Defeat for Zahrat Dubai could set off whispers this year's Godolphin team is not as strong as we have come to expect. Success for Mother Of Pearl, on the other hand, and perhaps another winner or two for the yard, would suddenly have punters talking about the "in-form" team from Manton.

Such is the fickle nature of the racing tribe, who like to worship a different idol from one week to the next. Those who answer their prayers, meanwhile, simply receive twice as many demands in return, which is why Zahrat Dubai, a filly whose only outing to date saw her finish sixth in a Newmarket maiden will go to post today with the burden of favouritism on her back.

Yet if the reports of her progress in the Emirates this winter are accurate, Zahrat Dubai (3.10) will justify the punters' faith. She did not necessarily head off to Dubai greatly in arrears of today's rivals anyway, since her only race was one of the best maidens of the year. Easaar and Tobruk - one of Chapple-Hyam's two winners this season - and Alrassam, who beat Killer Instinct at Newbury, were all in the field, and while Zahrat Dubai finished sixth, she actually won the race on the stands' side.

"She's a nice filly, she'll be well suited by the distance and she ran very well in our trial in Dubai," Simon Crisford, Godolphin's racing manager, said yesterday. "Obviously we'd have a little more confidence if the two fillies we ran in the Guineas had fared a bit better, but having said that, Pescara ran a very good race and this filly was just beaten by her in the trial. She's improved since then and over this trip, we're hopeful she can get the job done."

Godolphin's main Derby hope, though, the ex-American colt Adair, will not now run at the meeting at all. The Dante Stakes - for which Glamis was yesterday confirmed a runner - and the Glasgow Stakes had been floated as his possible starting points.

"He's taken longer than some of the others to acclimatise," Crisford said. "Hopefully he will still get a run under his belt before the Derby, but if he doesn't he'll go straight there, if we think that's the right thing to do. We're three week away from the Derby and now is the optimum time to be running them. After York it's getting a little close, though obviously there's Goodwood and a few other possibilities."

The remainder of today's televised card comprises three handicaps, but as always seems to be the case at this track, all are strong and intriguing events, none more so that the 10-furlong event which follows the Musidora. Four of the runners have had just the three runs which are required to obtain a handicap mark, all are saddled by leading yards and the three of them who have yet to tackle this trip seem sure to improve for it.

But while National Anthem, trained by Sir Michael Stoute, is a 5-2 chance this morning, Regal Exit (next best 3.40), who stands as much chance on the limited evidence to hand, is 9-1 with Coral, which is surely worth taking. The opening event, meanwhile, includes possibly one of the each- way bets of the year in Montecristo (2.05). Rae Guest's six-year-old has been out of the frame only twice in his last 17 outings, and despite his advancing years and rising handicap mark, his latest reappearance implied that he may still have a pound or two in hand.

Calcutta, who runs in the seven-furlong handicap, will be the only horse on many punters' minds this morning, after an unlucky run in a similar event at the Craven meeting. A better value bet, though, could be NOW LOOK HERE (nap 2.35), who started the season with an entry in the 2,000 Guineas. He did indeed turn up at Newmarket on Guineas day, but finished all of 65 minutes after Island Sands, when fourth in a decent handicap. He showed enough there, however, to suggest that he is the one to beat today.

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