As any even vaguely promising juvenile performance will at this time of year, Sri Putra's in outstaying his rivals to take yesterday's Solario Stakes at Sandown in a bunch finish put him in the lists for next year's 2,000 Guineas at a token 33-1. Such reaction from bookmakers is of the kneejerk variety, but in fairness to the Michael Jarvis-trained colt, he defied a near three-month absence to take the Group Three contest and will surely progress.
Philip Robinson, in the saddle, certainly thinks so. The 47-year-old, an excellent tactician, held the son of Oasis Dream just off a strong enough gallop set by Frankie Dettori on the favourite, Cry Of Freedom, and pounced on The Cheka, who had taken over halfway down the straight, inside the final furlong to score by half a length.
"He was doing all his best work at the end," Robinson said. "He'll certainly come on for the race, and in due course another furlong will suit him well."
Sri Putra's next target will be the most valuable one for his age in Britain, the inaugural running of the Tattersalls Million at his local track, Newmarket, in Oct-ober. The seven-furlong race, with a first prize of £550,000 from its eponymous purse, has a limited catchment, being open only to yearlings from the promoting auction house's premier catalogue last autumn, an occasion on which Sri Putra cost his owner, the Malaysian sultan Ahmad Shah, 240,000 guineas.
"The horse had always worked well in the spring," said Jarvis, "but after he won at Newbury in June he got sick with a virus. His layoff might have been a blessing in disguise, because he started growing, and it was just as well he wasn't working or racing during that phase. The Million race is tempting; there are a lot of noughts involved. I'm not sure if it would make much difference to his highness, but it certainly would to me."
The sultan, an all-round sports fan, is also the 77-year-old head of state of Pahang, one of the13 states in federal Malaysia, a background in contrast to the upbringing and trade of The Cheka's owner, who grew up above his father's bookmaker'sshop in Chiswick. That is the comedian, actor and film director Mel Smith, who would have been an appropriate winner on the 50th Variety Club fund-raising day at the Esher track.
The Solario Stakes has a patchy record in spotlighting future talent. The last runner to go on to a top-level success after his freshman season was Where Or When, fourth seven years ago, though last year's victor, Raven's Pass, fourth in the 2,000 Guineas and since runner-up in three Group Ones, has come close. Ireland's top contest for juvenile fillies, today's Moyglare Stud Stakes, has had a greater impact on future Classics and the two perceived as the most likely to win today's renewal, Again and Shimah, are prominent in the 1,000 Guineas lists. Again, trained by David Wachman, will start favourite to give the owning Coolmore partnership their 20th Group One prize of the campaign.
Seb Sanders, last year's joint champion jockey, was taken to hospital with a suspected broken leg after a three-horse pile-up at Chester. Sir Duke, who was fatally injured, fell and brought down Sanders' mount, Speed Gifted, and Cheshire Prince. Sir Duke's jockey, Pat Dobbs, and Dean Heslop, rider of Cheshire Prince, escaped injury.