Racing: Albabilia flies the flag for Brittain in Curragh contest

Click to follow
The Independent Online

When Clive Brittain looks at a glass, it is not merely half-full, but half-full of nectar, with a large jug next to it ready for refills. Decades of involvement in an industry that has a foundation of dreams but walls of reality checks have not dented the 73-year-old's enthusiasm; he remains the optimist's optimist's optimist.

His indefatigable attitude could be regarded as something of a double-edged sword. He is not afraid to tilt at windmills with perceived no-hopers, and has reaped many a long-priced reward with the strategy, but equally his inevitable enthusiasm for his charges can lead to accusations of crying wolf.

The policy is founded in logic, though. "I treat my horses as if they are top class, and give them the opportunity to show they are," he said, "until they show beyond doubt that they are not."

In his 36 years with a licence Brittain, universally respected among his colleagues, has handled some wonderful horses and, in particular, some star fillies. Pebbles, who blossomed as a four-year-old to become the best British-trained female of the post-war era with her victories in the Eclipse Stakes, Champion Stakes and Breeders' Cup Turf, was in a league of her own, but Carlburg Stables also housed such as Sayyedati and User Friendly, Classic winners who also went on to hold their own against colts.

And Brittain reckons he has another of their class in Albabilia, who will be given her chance at the highest level tomorrow in the season's first Group One test for her age and sex, the Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh. Fifteen years ago he won the seven-furlong prize with Sayyedati, afterwards heroine of the Cheveley Park Stakes, 1,000 Guineas, Prix Jacques le Marois and Sussex Stakes.

Albabilia, a daughter of King's Best, goes to the fray with similar credentials to her predecessor. Fourth to very smart Laureldean Gale on her debut, she then had subsequent Lowther Stakes winner Nahoodh back in third in her maiden before stepping up to Group Three success in the Sweet Solera Stakes at Newmarket.

"Right from the start I've thought she was the best and most exciting I've had since Sayyedati," said Brittain. "Nobody should be surprised at the progress she has made and she goes to the Curragh with every chance. "Yes, it is a Group One race and there is a very solid favourite. But I think that she has improved since Newmarket. The ground then would have been fast enough for her, so the easier going this time certainly won't be against her."

Albabilia is the sole British raider in a field of nine. That solid favourite will be the Ballydoyle candidate Listen, another one trying to follow in a certain set of hoofprints, her sister Sequoyah having won seven years ago.

The Sadler's Wells filly, third favourite for the 1,000 Guineas behind Proviso and Laureldean Gale, was highly regarded enough to have been pitched into Listed company on her debut, and duly won. Next time, only initial greenness on bottomless ground deprived her of victory in the Debutante Stakes, a Group Two race over tomorrow's course and distance. Like Albabilia's, her form is right up with the best; throw in Saiorse Abu, who has already beaten colts at the top level, and you have a contest more than likely to impact on next year's Classics.

The same cannot be said for today's domestic two-year-old feature. The Solario Stakes at Sandown has a patchy record in spotlighting future talent, with Where Or When, fourth six years ago, the last to go on to a top-level success after his freshman season. That 2001 running also produced the last winner subsequently to be placed in a Classic, the 2,000 Guineas third Redback.

Three of the 10 runners are defending unbeaten records, with one of them, Raven's Pass (2.35), already nibbled at in the Guineas market on the strength of a five-length success last time out. Other suggestions on a largely routine Saturday programme are Yarqus (3.10) and, at Chester, Hold The Gold (4.35), who has form on the tricky track and will appreciate the step back up in trip.

The weekend's other top-level action is in Germany tomorrow, where Youmzain (Mick Channon) and Mountain High (Sir Michael Stoute) challenge for Britain in the Grosser Preis von Baden. Both produced the best runs of their careers last time out, Youmzain with his four-length second to Dylan Thomas in the King George, and Mountain High with his defeat of Mandesha in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, and will fully test the mettle of the home side's rising star, the German Derby winner Adlerflug.