The search for a wonder horse to follow in the hoofprints of Sea The Stars by winning the 2,000 Guineas came to nothing in the Greenham Stakes at Newbury yesterday. True, Canford Cliffs, who had looked an exciting prospect when he ran away with last year's Coventry Stakes, did finish a full seven lengths clear of his old rival Arcano. But he was half a length behind his own Richard Hannon stablemate Dick Turpin, who nicked victory in the final strides.
The pair were in the first two throughout the seven furlongs with Richard Hughes blazing the trail on Canford Cliffs and Ryan Moore holding up Dick Turpin, an 8-1 shot, in his slipstream. As the leader quickened in front he also drifted markedly to his left, allowing Dick Turpin, running straight, to stay on past him.
Bookmaker reaction ahead of the season's first Classic 13 days hence was to cut yesterday's winner (from 40-1 to 12-1) and push out the loser (from the 5-1 second favourite spot to double that). And with another ante-post fancy, Workforce, ruled out yesterday in favour of a Derby preparation over further than a mile, the Guineas market leader St Nicholas Abbey and Thursday's Craven Stakes winner Elusive Pimpernel, now second choice in the lists, were duly trimmed without leaving their boxes.
The Hannon pair may not take each other on at Newmarket next month; both also hold the entry in the Irish Guineas. "I think they're both very good horses," said their trainer, "and I'd quite like to separate them. If Canford Cliffs hadn't run off a line on his own in front he'd probably have won and I think the tactics would be different next time. But I didn't want the trial to be a monkey sort of race so I said to let him run if he hit the gate."
At Ayr, Scotland's most valuable prize, the £114,020 for the local version of the Grand National, stayed north of the border for the first time in 28 years as 18-1 chance Merigo, trained at Lockerbie by Andrew Parker, came home nine lengths ahead of 15-2 favourite Gone To Lunch, also runner-up last year.