Sue Montgomery: Cliffs out to shine beside the seaside

Inside Track
Click to follow
The Independent Online

If your racing bag is down-the-alphabet-list celebrities, charidee fund-raising, a heaving crowd and clowns on assorted sides of a microphone, then Sandown is the place for you today. If, on the other hand, you prefer to concentrate on horses and relish the opportunity to confine star-spotting to those with four legs, then the Esher track might also be the place to be.

The focus this weekend here, in Ireland and in France, is firmly on the youngest generation. And although it should be remembered that two-year-olds are no more than teenagers, their three feature contests today and tomorrow – the Solario Stakes at Sandown, the Futurity Stakes at Fairyhouse and the Prix Morny at Deauville – have an impressive roll-call of alumni who have gone on to make it as more mature athletes. Raven's Pass, New Approach, Mastercraftsman and Excellent Art are but four to have won or taken part in the past two years.

In the past, the Godolphin headhunters have kept their eyes on winners of the Solario Stakes, subsequently taking (with varying degrees of success) Opera Cape, Windsor Knot and Best Of The Bests into the royal blue ranks. Today, Saeed bin Suroor will saddle a home-grown candidate for the first time in Buzzword (2.40), winner of one of his three races to date.

The son of Pivotal got off the mark in efficient style at Windsor but his most recent effort in defeat was even more taking, and may look even better later this afternoon. In the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood, he beat all bar one despite a dodgems session with another runner and looks sure to appreciate the step up to seven furlongs.

The winner at Goodwood, who had flown by the time Buzzword regained his momentum, was Dick Turpin, who heads to Fairyhouse not for the Group Two glory of the Fururity Stakes, but for the cash – more than £250,000 is on offer – of the Tattersalls Sale Stakes. The colt's trainer, Richard Hannon, is a dab hand at targeting the inflated pots offered by races restricted to the graduates of given yearling auctions and Dick Turpin, who cost a shade over £23,000 and is unbeaten in three runs, looks likely to add to his collection.

The Futurity Stakes had become something of an Aidan O'Brien benefit – he sent out six winners in nine years, including Giant's Causeway, Hawk Wing, Oratorio and Horatio Nelson – before defeats in the last three renewals for Eagle Mountain, Henrythenavigator and Mastercraftsman.

This afternoon the Ballydoyle candidate is the highly touted Cape Blanco, already prominent in the market for next year's Derby. The Galileo colt, who cost the Coolmore axis 330,000 guineas last year, comes to the fray two from two.

The one two-year-old who has already acquired a shimmering aura, Canford Cliffs, struts his stuff tomorrow, in the Group One finale to the seaside season in Normandy. This is another impressive young athlete trained by Hannon but, while the strength of the two-year-old division at East Eversleigh traditionally tends to be a stream of speed and precocity, this one has more the durable, hand-crafted look of a one-off about him. The Tagula colt produced a startling performance to win the Coventry Stakes by six lengths from Xtension, who followed up with an easy Group Two success at Goodwood.

The reputation of Canford Cliffs, current ante-post favourite for the 2,000 Guineas, will be fully tested tomorrow, though. His four rivals include another British raider, the Brian Meehan-trained Arcano, likewise on a perfect hat-trick with earlier form franked by one of his victims, in his case this week's York winner Showcasing. The best of the French defence is perceived as the flying filly Special Duty.

The Royal Ascot rout impressed no one more than the man who enjoyed it from closest quarters, Richard Hughes, who immediately nominated Canford Cliffs as the best horse he had ridden. Hannon, though, has been around for long enough to be phlegmatic about the bright promise of youth. "It's either going to be exciting times ahead," he said, "or a burst bubble."

Borderlescott brings sprint honours home to Yorkshire

Sprint honours born of grit and determination came home to Yorkshire yesterday as the hard-working seven-year-old Borderlescott took his second successive Nunthorpe Stakes. Twelve months ago the bay gelding, trained by equally durable Robin Bastiman, took the Group One dash at Newmarket after the abandonment of the waterlogged York meeting. This time round he was on home turf; his stable is just eight miles from the Knavesmire.

On the fast ground he loves, the 9-1 chance Borderlescott, running for the 43rd time, edged ahead through the final furlong under Neil Callan to deny another local, Benbaun, by a neck for the £136,000 first prize. A strong-finishing third went to the sole juvenile in the five-furlong contest, Radiohead.

"This is my home ground and where I want to win races," said 59-year-old Bastiman, likely to hand over his stables at Cowthorpe, near Wetherby, to his daughter Rebecca before next season. "Racing has such a following in Yorkshire. There is one girl who sends this horse packets of Polo mints every month."

Callan, who bounced back from a crashing fall on the track 24 hours earlier, was riding the gelding for the first time, replacing Pat Cosgrave. "It's no reflection on Pat," added Bastiman, "and he'll be cursing me today. But sometimes a new pair of hands on the reins can freshen up an old, worldly-wise horse."

Borderlescott, the first to take more than one Nunthorpe since the triple winner Sharpo in 1982, now has 12 wins on his CV, and has won more than £600,000 for his owners, Scots businessmen William Donaldson and James Edgar. Borderlescott's next target is the Prix de l'Abbaye at Longchamp in October.

Turf account: Sue Montgomery


Bab At The Bowster (4.55 Sandown) One of the least exposed in a competitive contest. Her debut third has worked out particularly well and she looked very much at home when stepped up to seven furlongs two weeks ago.

*Next best

Atlantis Star (4.05 Chester) Well-bred 200,000gns purchase who quickened up impressively when winning by six lengths on his debut and, although his pedigree says he will want further in time, can take this en route to better things.

*One to watch

Bonfire Knight (J J Quinn) lacked the pace to cope with the drop to six when going for a big juvenile pot at York but stayed on well at the finish.

*Chris Mcgrath's Nap

Buzzword (2.40 Sandown).