Head-Maarek sees Guineas déjà vu in Special Duty

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The Independent Online

The French are being cast as little more than stage hands in the main drama of Arc weekend, but they topped the bill here yesterday when Special Duty gave Criquette Head-Maarek her fourth success in the Electrolux Cheveley Park Stakes.

Two of her three previous winners, Ma Biche and Ravinella, returned the following spring to win the 1,000 Guineas and Special Duty is now no better than 8-1 with Ladbrokes to do the same. Moreover, anyone heeding her trainer's endorsement afterwards might consider that a perfectly fair price. "She has the heart of Ravinella," Head-Maarek said, "the class of Ma Biche and the physique of Pas De Reponse."

Special Duty had last been seen dividing two of the season's outstanding young colts, Arcano and Canford Cliff, in a photo finish for the Group One Prix Morny at Deauville in August, having set off so fast that all three of them broke the track record. Restored to her own sex here, she again showed terrific pace under Stéphane Pasquier, but rallied impressively when challenged by Lady Of The Desert. In the end she had surged nearly three lengths clear, with Misheer wearing down the favourite for second.

"I told Stéphane to ride her the same way today, but to wait as long as possible," Head-Maarek said. "She has always shown a lot of speed – in my yard nothing can go with her, colt or filly – but today she won with stamina."

Certainly, the way Special Duty powered out of the Dip augured well for the extra two furlongs in the Guineas. But she might not even be the best prospect for the race to have run here yesterday, Tabassum having outclassed her rivals for the Sakhee Oh So Sharp Stakes. As a daughter of Nayef, after all, she is entitled to make a better filly still next year.

It was another good day, then, for Tabassum's owner, Sheikh Hamdan, and his retained jockey, Richard Hills, as Awzaan would go on to extend his unbeaten run to four in the Middle Park Stakes – a race sponsored by the sheikh's own Shadwell Stud. Admittedly, he veered a little in front, allowing Radiohead to reduce the winning margin to three-quarters of a length, but this had looked a strong race and Awzaan was widely quoted at 12-1 for the Stan James 2,000 Guineas. There is plenty of speed in his maternal genes, so a mile may take him to the margin. "But he doesn't waste energy," Mark Johnston, his trainer, said. "And when he goes, he goes."

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