Dascombe tilts at 1,000 Guineas glory

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The Independent Online

By their very nature, the major contests on the Flat provide fairytale results far less frequently than their counterparts over jumps. Results at the Group One sharp end impact hugely on the bloodstock business that is the raison d'etre for top-level competition and for every Pam Sly there are twenty Aidan O'Briens. Which, really, is as it should be; if money did not reap overall rewards then there would be no investment and the house of cards would collapse.

But the door always remains ajar to the smaller operator. And in the 1,000 Guineas on Sunday, third-season trainer Tom Dascombe will take on the might of the likes of Ballydoyle, Godolphin and Cheveley Park Stud with cheaply-bought, unfashionably-bred Max One Two Three. It will be his first runner in any Group race, never mind a Group One and a Classic, but the intention is not to merely make up the numbers. "We are not going merely for a day out," he said yesterday. "She may not be good enough, and the race will tell us whether she is or isn't. But she absolutely deserves to be there."

Dascombe, 34, trained his first winner, Principal Witness, two years and four months ago, but had a grounding in the business that spanned 18 years, four continents and some of the best tutors on the planet. He joined Martin Pipe at the age of 16 as a jockey and rode 96 winners. He spent time track-riding in Kentucky, breaking yearlings in Florida and as assistant to Ralph Beckett. In Dubai, he linked up with Mike de Kock in Dubai and worked for him for two years, including in South Africa and had charge of top-class Victory Moon the year he was third in the World Cup.

His first campaign in his own right yielded 12 winners, last year produced 26 and 11 are on the board already in 2008, at a 29 per cent strike-rate. This marked progress has caught a few shrewd eyes, including those of Max One Two Three's owner Andrew Black, best-known as the Betfair betting exchange co-founder. Dascombe started with 12 horses at Oneway Stables in Lambourn and now has 40.

Max One Two Three, by Princely Heir, cost just £16,000 as a yearling. "She is not the prettiest," said Dascombe, "she has two white eyes and a white face, which may have put some off. But she didn't stop bucking, rearing and kicking for a good 45 minutes when she was at the sales, and any horse that can do that has got some spirit."

The filly won two of her three races last year, her maiden in August and a smart-looking defeat of colts in the Rockingham Stakes at York in October, Dascombe's first Listed strike. "She should have won all three," he said, "except the arrogant trainer gave the jockey the wrong instructions at Newbury." Richard Kingscote will be in the saddle again on Sunday, his first ride in a Classic.

Max One Two Three, who can be backed at 40-1, will be trying a mile for the first time but Dascombe does not expect the distance to be a problem, nor the rain that continued to fall sporadically in Newmarket yesterday. "Her dam won eight times over seven and eight furlongs," he said. "and she's already won on good to soft. She's wintered OK – it's been difficult for fillies – and she's in good form at home."

The name of his yard is an indication of Bristol-born Dascombe's intent and ambition, but Sunday's venture is was ahead of schedule. "If you'd asked me when I started if I thought I'd have a runner in a Classic at this stage, the answer would, realistically, have been no," he said. "But here we are. For us, every day at the races is a big day, but this one will be that bit bigger. And it's what we dream about, isn't it?"

Despite a fear of heights, Dascombe volunteered to take part in a charity bungee jump in Lambourn last month, though to his relief bad weather caused it to be cancelled. He is relishing this weekend's high-flying plunge much more.

The Godolphin second string in the 2,000 Guineas, the Dewhurst runner-up Fast Company, was ruled out of Saturday's contest last night after a poor blood count at evening stables. The colt, a best-priced 14-1 shot, may now be redirected to the French or Irish versions. The blues will still field third favourite Ibn Khaldun, the mount of Frankie Dettori, and also have Rio De La Plata, likewise a Group One winner last year, entered.

l On the 2,000 Guineas betting front, Jupiter Pluvius was a big drifter with the race sponsors, Stan James, yesterday. The firm's Laura Stephens said: "Today we shortened New Approach to 15-8 from 2-1, and eased Jupiter Pluvius out to 10-1 from 8-1. Money talks and at this stage it is looking like Aidan O'Brien's team will consist of Henrythenavigator and Plan, with Johnny Murtagh taking the ride on Henrythenavigator." Other firms took similar action – Totesport eased out Jupiter Pluvius to 14-1 from 9-1.

Chris McGrath

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