O’Brien goes for glory in Newmarket showpiece

Irish Derby winner Fame and Glory will take part in Saturday’s Champion Stakes
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The Independent Online

Lady Fingers herself could not have shuffled and reshuffled the market for Saturday's Champion Stakes more adroitly yesterday. No sooner had Oaks heroine Sariska taken over at the head of the betting for the 10-furlong Newmarket feature after erstwhile favourite Zacinto was rerouted to the Breeders' Cup Mile than she was usurped by Fame And Glory, announced as a likely starter by Aidan O'Brien.

Fame And Glory, runner-up in the Derby and winner of the Irish version, finished sixth behind his Epsom conqueror Sea The Stars in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe eight days ago and has taken his exertions at Longchamp in his considerable stride.

"Things didn't work out for him in Paris," said O'Brien yesterday, "but he's come out of the race really well and we've been happy with him since and we're looking forward to running again at the weekend." William Hill have installed Fame And Glory as 4-6 favourite.

The Montjeu colt, who chased Sea The Stars home in the Irish Champion Stakes on his most recent try over 10 furlongs, was unsuited by the slow early pace that resulted at Longchamp when most of the field ignored the two Ballydoyle pacemakers, one of whom, Set Sail, may be deployed to blaze a trail again on Saturday. Although Nijinsky, famously, failed in the Champion Stakes after failing in the Arc, three recent Arc losers did gain compensation at Newmarket. Both Pride (2006) and Pilsudski (1997) did so after finishing second in Paris and In The Groove (1991) after coming in sixth.

Zacinto, runner-up to Fame And Glory's stablemate Rip van Winkle in the Sussex Stakes, heads for California next month on the judgement of his trainer Sir Michael Stoute. He is as short at 5-1 for the Santa Anita race, with last year's winner Goldikova – who suffered a shock defeat at Longchamp on Arc weekend – still odds-on favourite.

"The Mile does look a good race for him – he's a handy horse and the course should suit – and Sir Michael was keen to have a shot at it," said Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to the Dansili colt's owner Khaled Abdullah, who will still be represented in the Champion Stakes by Zacinto's stablemate Doctor Fremantle and Henry Cecil-trained Twice Over.

The span from a Class Three contest at Wolverhampton to Grade One glory in a Breeders' Cup trial might have seemed a bridge too far, but unconsidered Gitano Hernando, from one of Newmarket's smaller yards and making his US debut, coped with the gulf, just. His perfectly-timed late flourish under Kieren Fallon in the Goodwood Stakes at Santa Anita on Saturday night gave the jockey his first top-level success since the Arc on Dylan Thomas two years ago.

Gitano Hernando, a three-year-old trained by Marco Botti, had broken the track record at the West Midlands venue and thrived in the build-up to Saturday night's test. But his neck 18-1 defeat of 5-2 favourite Colonel John, a dual Grade One winner, with this year's Kentucky Derby hero Mine That Bird further back, was something of a slap in the face to the home side's hopes for the Breeders' Cup Classic. Measured against the possible European raiders for next month's $5 million showpiece on the same track, he could not be considered worthy to polish either Rip van Winkle's shoes or the nails in those of Sea The Stars.

On the same card, America's favourite California girl Zenyatta took her unbeaten record to 13 in the Lady's Secret Stakes. Her next assignment may be her first against colts; she is the shortest-priced of the Classic home defence.

Fallon, who returned to competitive action last month after a prolonged ban, heads the jockey bookings on Saturday at Newmarket; having already replaced suspended Jamie Spencer on Sariska, the five-times added Fair Along in the Cesarewitch to his list.

Former riding champion Pat Eddery notched his first Group One success as a trainer yesterday when Hearts Of Fire led home a British clean sweep in Italy's top juvenile event, the Gran Criterium in Milan. The colt wore down Godolphin's Vale Of York by a neck, with Paul Cole's charge Mata Keranjang third.

And in the Czech Republic yesterday, the evergreen 57-year-old Josef Vana won the gruelling Velka Pardubika steeplechase on Tiumen, his sixth victory as a jockey and seventh as a trainer. Of the four British challengers, Graham Smith-trained Super Lord did best in seventh place.

Turf account: Sue Montgomery


Thrill (2.40 Salisbury)

Did best of the newcomers in a decent Newmarket maiden and should build on that. By Pivotal, she should cope with the forecast underfoot conditions.

Next best

Howdigo (5.00 Kempton)

Worth another chance over his best distance after being outpaced in a sprint finish over further at Warwick and then outclassed in the Cambridgeshire over a shorter trip.

One to watch

Six-year-old Gullible Gordon (P Nicholls) produced a textbook round of jumping when making a winning chasing debut at Chepstow on Saturday and has set the standard in the novice staying division.

Where the money's going

Hills report support for Sweetheart (J Poulton) for Saturday's Cesarewitch, trimming the mare from 16-1 to 14-1.

Chris McGrath's Nap

Dvinsky (6.00 Kempton)