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Farraaj figures on fine day for talent-spotting


Despite inane tampering with its elite tier, the everyday autumn programme continues to guarantee a pleasing shift in momentum. The maiden at Sandown yesterday, for instance, was won last year by an unraced colt by Montjeu. His name was Masked Marvel, and only last Saturday he consummated his Classic potential in the St Leger.

If there was a star in the making on yesterday's card, it might well have been Farraaj, who made all in a novice race over seven furlongs. But Roger Varian, in an impressive first season, is far too sober to foster extravagant expectations himself. The colt had only three rivals, after all. Even so, the way he has improved with each of his three starts is encouragingly reminiscent of the way Varian's mentor, Michael Jarvis, would tend to bring on his juveniles.

"This horse has always been a bit of a baby," Varian said. "Even today, he was a little bit inquisitive. So I'm really pleased with the way he went away, without Richard [Hills] having to get stuck into him. He wouldn't be one to overdo it in front. He's a good-moving horse, from a good family."

Where things can unravel at this time of year, of course, is when the ground turns, and Varian suspects Farraaj will be less comfortable on the soft. So, despite his colt's Racing Post Trophy entry, he may instead consider the Autumn Stakes, nowadays run at Newmarket.

As for the maiden won by Masked Marvel, a good-looking field produced a narrow winner in Open Water, likewise from a young trainer having a fine season. Andrew Balding proceeded to win a Listed prize with Lay Time, a lightly raced daughter of Galileo, whose finish up the hill promised better still when she goes beyond a mile.

A similar event at Yarmouth was won in emphatic style by Principal Role, who continues to hint that she could yet improve sufficiently to make her podium finish in the Nassau Stakes rather more than a flash in the pan.

For some, however, autumn means jumping, and these will salute a remarkable achievement by Alfa Beat yesterday in winning a steeplechase as valuable and competitive as the Guinness Kerry National for the second year running. He was allowed to go off at 20-1 for his new trainer, Shark Hanlon, and beat a former stablemate in the well- backed favourite, Bideford Legend.

Turf account

Chris McGrath's Nap

Bowdler's Magic (4.10 Yarmouth) Having slipped down the weights, looked set to cash in at Chester last week when closing strongly in the short straight.

Next best

Mirrored (4.20 Ayr) Visit to Doncaster was a non-event but still dangerously treated on the strength of previous surge into second at Ripon.

One to watch

York Glory (Kevin Ryan) Hit heavy traffic before finishing best into fifth place in last Saturday's Portland. On his way up.

Where the money's going

Mac's Power is 11-1 from 12-1 with the sponsors for Saturday's William Hill Ayr Gold Cup, with Croisultan 20-1 from 33s.