Racing: Youth policy pays for Channon

"IT'S ASKING a lot for lightning to strike twice," Mick Channon rather modestly said yesterday as he prepared Rowaasi to follow in the hoofbeats of his late, would-have-been-great filly Bint Allayl in next week's Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot.

It is asking a lot of any trainer to win the same contest at summer's most competitive meeting in consecutive years, but Channon has all the qualifications to do so. With 17 victories by his two-year-olds this season already on the board, at a strike-rate of 25 per cent, he is by far the most successful trainer of juveniles in the country this season. His Royal Ascot record, which includes a win in the 1995 King's Stand Stakes with Piccolo, is rather better than anyone should expect from a man who did not begin training until 1990.

Rowaasi has already matched Bint Allayl by trotting up under Frankie Dettori in the National Stakes at Sandown last week and, as Channon said yesterday: "Frankie was very pleased with Rowaasi and so was I. On all the evidence she looks the one they have to beat in the Queen Mary. Like all of mine she's as fit as a flea and will do her final work on Friday."

Unveiling a typically strong team of two-year-olds for the royal meeting, Channon reported that he may be doubly-represented in some of the juvenile events.

His other highly-rated filly Areydha, who made a winning debut at York last month, could take on the colts in next Tuesday's Coventry Stakes. "She'll be entered for the Queen Mary and the Norfolk Stakes," Channon said. "But I really think she wants six furlongs and it could be that she'll join Cote Soleil in the Coventry. She's taken her York race extremely well and the form is working out."

Other Channon two-year-olds lined up for the meeting include Barringer in the Norfolk stakes and Master Fay and Queen Of The May in the Windsor Castle Stakes.

Channon's Irish 1,000 Guineas second, Golden Silca, will challenge for the Coronation Stakes, with Stephen Drowne keeping the ride in place of the suspended Richard Quinn.

"I respect the fact that Wince [the 1,000 Guineas winner at Newmarket] was injured at the Curragh, and that Henry Cecil can do nothing wrong at present, but as long as the ground isn't firm Golden Silca will give her a good race," Channon said.

The trainer will also run Riverblue in the Britannia Handicap, Abajany in the Royal Hunt Cup Handicap, Inya Lake in the King's Stand Stakes and Levelled and Cauda Equina in the Wokingham Handicap.

Channon's Queen Of The May could face a formidable Windsor Castle Stakes opponent in the shape of Optimate, whose Devon-based trainer, Rod Millman, warmed up for Ascot with a 675-1 double at Salisbury yesterday through Flyover and Water Flower.

Millman has never trained a Royal Ascot winner, but after several near misses he is optimistic that the unbeaten Optimate will put matters right. "We've had a second at the Royal meeting with Royal Seaton in the Royal Hunt Cup and Lord Kintyre was third in the Windsor Castle and the King's Stand," Millman said. "But I think Optimate could be the one to do it for us. He's won at Ascot and we've given him a little break to freshen him up."

n Godolphin's Calando, the French 1,000 Guineas third, is among five British-based acceptors for the Prix de Diane (French Oaks) at Chantilly on Sunday. The John Dunlop pair, Alabaq and Nasheed, plus John Gosden's Apple Of Kent and Peter Chapple-Hyam's String Quartet complete the quintet. A total of 18 fillies stood their ground at the first forfeit stage.

n Gerard Butler is to try the Derby eighth, Compton Admiral, over a mile and a quarter. "I think the horse got the mile and a half but he didn't finish with his normal kick. As he is in the Eclipse we're considering that race for him," he said.

n Aidan O'Brien's Second Empire attempts to redeem his reputation as he tries a distance short of a mile for the first time in tonight's seven- furlong Ballycorus Stakes at Leopardstown. Third in the Irish 2,000 Guineas last year, he pulled very hard when beaten in last month's Tattersalls Gold Cup.

n Yesterday's Redcar card was called off due to waterlogging.