Spectrum raises more suspicion

RACING: Bahri's failure to finish better than third at The Curragh further undermines form lines from the Newmarket Guineas

Black Sunday saw the Guineas devalued yesterday. Victory for Spectrum in the Irish 2,000 Guineas suggested the British version may yet go down as the counterfeit contest of the season.

There were few who doubted the Newmarket Classic was a reliable benchmark when Pennekamp and Celtic Swing, the juvenile champions of France and Britain, fought out such a stirring finish just 16 days ago. The excitable were even moved to produce phrases such as "race of the century".

The cold analysis now, however, concerns the nine horses that finished behind the big two. Six have run subsequently and none have won. Indeed, the best performance has been that of Bahri, third at Newmarket and third again yesterday, when he was dismissed with ease by Spectrum. Nwaamis, who was fifth over the Rowley Mile, beat just two home yesterday.

This result will have knocked a shade of cockiness out of those who have ante-post vouchers on Pennekamp and Celtic Swing in their back pockets. It also means the bookmakers now have to take their feet off the table as a previously moribund market is revived.

Ladbrokes brought Spectrum in to 3-1 second-favourite of the confirmed runners, extending Pennekamp from 4-5 to 6-4. Celtic Swing remains at 7-4 with a run, and there is unlikely to be any juggling with his price until 1 June, the deadline by which Peter Savill, the colt's owner, must decided if he is to supplement for the Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby).

Ladbrokes and Coral clearly believe this is a narrow market. They are already betting to more than 100 per cent with the front three.

The result at The Curragh was no less intriguing for the fact that Spectrum's breeding suggests he will be a more potent beast over longer distances. The colt was a recalcitrant figure at the start yesterday, approaching the stalls as joyously as a child going through the dentist's door. Pre- match nerves also got to Bahri, who tore off a shoe on the way to the start and had to be replated.

John Dunlop's colt took the attention of the blacksmith well, but was far less malleable in the race itself, pulling considerably in the hands of Willie Carson and running up several blind alleys. Spectrum, though, who was protecting an unbeaten record, gave no signal that he was contesting a Group race for the first time in his career, and once John Reid sent him to the front two furlongs out all doubt was removed from the race.

For Peter Chapple-Hyam, the Manton trainer, this was a third Irish Guineas in four years following Rodrigo de Triano and Turtle Island. "This is a special horse," he said in the winners' enclosure. "I have always believed in him and I think we'll have to give the Derby a go now. He goes on good ground and, apart from going into the stalls, he behaved very well and ran a smashing race. This is not the first time I have said he is my best three-year-old.''

Reid was similarly upbeat. "This horse has always shown plenty of foot at home," the jockey said. "They went so slowly early on I had to change my pre-race tactics and go for home earlier than we had originally planned. Spectrum moved up readily to the leaders and did everything right from the moment I said go. We're looking forward to plenty more big races with him.''

For those anxious to hear mitigation, Dunlop offered the thoughts that Bahri had been ill-served by the slow pace and the run of the race. There are no plans for the colt, but John Oxx's Adjareli, who beat him by a short-head for second, is already pencilled in for the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Newbury's first Group One race, the elevated Lockinge Stakes, went to Soviet Line, who led from start to finish. "I've never seen a horse improve so much over 10 months," Joe Mercer, the racing manager to the gelding's owner, Maktoum Al Maktoum, said.

Elsewhere, the form of other horses appeared to be deteriorating just as quickly.

CURRAGH (Irish 2,000 Guineas): 1. SPECTRUM (J Reid) 100-30; 2. Adjareli 9-1; 3. Bahri 11-8 fav. 9 ran. 1 length, sht-hd. (P Chapple-Hyam, Manton). Tote: pounds 4.20; pounds 1.80 pounds 1.90 pounds 1.30. Reverse Forecast: pounds 15.90. CSF: pounds 29.99.

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