Racing: Youthful zest spurs Spirit Of Love

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The Independent Online
TRAFFIC JAMS, bad weather and worse horses are the standard ingredients of a punter's Bank Holiday, but while the first two are simply facts of life, Sandown will at least do something about the third this afternoon. Lochangel and Celeric are two runners at the track who have already proved themselves capable of victory in the very best company. The most stimulating thought for backers, though, is that there may well be another Group One winner somewhere on the card, one that we have yet to find out about.

It would, for instance, be no surprise if the winner of next month's Gold Cup at Ascot turned out to be among the runners for the Henry II Stakes. Five of them are quoted at 12-1 or lower in Coral's ante-post betting on the Royal meeting's showpiece. Two more - Laurentide and Generous Terms - are young stayers who are one good run away from entering calculations.

And in the Temple Stakes, which sees the return to action of Lochangel, last year's Nunthorpe Stakes winner, the field includes Sampower Star, a three-year-old who could prove to be one of the best sprinters of his generation.

It is the stayers' race, though, which demands attention, as the latest proof that after some lean times in the early 1990s, horses with stamina are exciting again. And they will be so for several seasons to come, if horses like Rainbow High and Spirit Of Love, both of them four-year-olds, can fulfill the potential they have already shown in abundance in handicaps.

You do not need a long memory to recall Rainbow High's last run, when he travelled smoothly and then quickened in an instant to win the Chester Cup. Spirit Of Love's most recent success came last season, but that too is difficult to forget, because it takes a special three-year-old to win the Cesarewitch by eight lengths.

Add in Arctic Owl, who can only improve on his third place in the Yorkshire Cup, and the old hands like Canon Can, Celeric and last year's winner, Persian Punch, and this becomes a tantalising race which could go any one of six or seven ways. At the early prices, though, the choice has to be SPIRIT OF LOVE (nap 2.35), in the hope that a good gallop and the stiff uphill finish will bring all his stamina into play.

The Temple Stakes is a difficult first assignment of the season for Lochangel, the half-sister to Lochsong who has already upheld the family honour with her success at York last season. And she did so a year early, too, since Lochsong did not win the Nunthorpe until her five-year-old season, so it will be fascinating to see whether Lochangel now shows more improvement at the same stage of her career.

With a Group One penalty to carry in all but the best races, though, nothing will come easily, while Sandown is not a course which suits her front-running style. With less weight to carry, and a few races under his belt, Sampower Star (next best 3.10) looks a much safer bet.

Neither of these races is particularly straightforward, and there is no respite when it comes to the two televised handicaps. In both, there are good cases to be made for at least half of the runners, particularly the opener for fillies and mares.

Gevity will be a strong fancy after a comfortable success last time out, but she has done most of her racing over a mile, rather than today's seven furlongs. Song Of Skye (2.05) is stepping up a furlong in the opposite direction, but ran very well on her seasonal debut last week, when second at Newbury to a horse who will probably prove to have been a severe blot on the handicap.

The milers will take some sorting out too, although it is not hard to refuse the odds about Pantar, the favourite, who always runs well but is a difficult horse to win with. Take a chance instead with Free Option (3.45), who is a solid 7-1 chance on the form of his win at Kempton earlier this month.

RICHARD EDMONDSON

Nap: First Cut

(Chepstow 4.35)

NB: Canon Can

(Sandown 2.35)

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