Stars 'in great shape' for Breeders

Arc winner recovered well, but trainer Oxx faces moral dilemma of journey to States
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The Independent Online

The world will have to wait a little longer for the answer to the $5m question, whether or not Sea The Stars will run in the Breeders' Cup Classic in California next month. But whether the brilliant Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner will and whether he could are two entirely different concepts and the great colt's trainer, John Oxx, admitted yesterday to being caught in something of a moral maze.

"We won't be making any decision until probably the end of next week," he said. "But I have to say he's come out of Sunday really well, almost surprisingly so. He didn't lose any more weight than you would expect for the race and the travelling – that's about 10 kilos – and he's put it straight back on.

"He'd be perfectly capable of racing again this season. We'd have to clip him, because his coat has gone wintry – that's why he was sweating before the Arc, because it was a warm day and he was getting hairy – but that would be perfectly manageable. Our only concern is whether we ought to demand more, not whether he could give it. He is in such great shape that he probably could carry on but he has already done all we have asked and you have to wonder if it would be fair to ask him again."

Just as the weather gods smiled sunnily on Sea The Stars' Arc venture, they are gathering clouds in favour of Sariska's challenge for the Champion Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday week. Yesterday morning, under a damp, lowering East Anglian sky, the dual Oaks heroine worked under her big-race pilot Kieren Fallon for the first time, striding out enthusiastically upsides her running mate.

The strip of the training grounds chosen for her spin was significant; as its name implies the Watered Gallop, parallel to the Rowley Mile, offers easy conditions underfoot even when the rest of the grass on the historic heath remains parched. It was Sariska's preference for leaving a print that meant she was absent from Longchamp on Sunday.

"We made absolutely the right decision in not going for the Arc," said her trainer Michael Bell. "We would have been fifth or sixth at best under those dry conditions. If the rain comes for us now – and the forecast says it surely will – then it's green for go."

Fallon gets the ride on Sariska, second favourite behind Queen Elizabeth II Stakes runner-up Zacinto for the Champion Stakes, because her regular jockey Jamie Spencer is suspended. The daughter of Pivotal has been off the track since her defeat by Arc fifth Dar Re Mi in the Yorkshire Oaks in August, when neither the firm ground on the Knavesmire nor her biorhythms (she was incipiently in season) were in her favour.

The Champion Stakes will be Sariska's first race against colts; her previous top-level victories came narrowly in the Oaks at Epsom and by a wide margin on heavy ground in the Irish equivalent. "It will be her final shot of the year, so it's a case of nothing ventured," added Bell. "She needs to run as she's been off a long time and will have another piece of work next week. But whatever happens, we won't be tempted into anything abroad. We've got next year to look forward to."

Like that of travelling, much of racing's appeal is in the anticipation and another man relishing the prospect of Newmarket's final Group One fixture is Jim Bolger, with his Dewhurst Stakes candidate Chabal. "He's the best chance I've had of winning the Dewhurst in the last five years," he said. Given that Bolger has won the last three editions, with Teofilo, New Approach and Intense Focus, that must be a fair recommendation.

With most of this season's exploits now in the formbook, the undiscovered country was under scrutiny yesterday as the game's high-rollers continued their expensive search for future talent in blueblooded yearling form. The rarest of the rare, the sole offspring of ill-fated George Washington, is to join Richard Hammon at a cost of 320,000 guineas.

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