Stoute draws a fine Line

Sue Montgomery expects a rising star to feature in the big race at Newbury
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The Independent Online
IT MUST be a matter of disappointment to those at Newbury that the course's first Group 1 race - today's Lockinge Stakes - has been reduced to only five runners, but it should none the less provide an interesting centrepiece for the purists on a day that is being promoted as much for its fun-for-all-the-family aspects (bands, sky-divers, trick golfers, Sir Andrew Lloyd-Webber) as for the racing.

The pounds 100,000 Lockinge, granted top-level status for the first time, features the return to action of a horse for whom great things are prophesied in the mile division this season and if he can dispose of his four rivals this afternoon then those hopes may be justified. The rising star is the Michael Stoute-trained Soviet Line, who ended last year's campaign with a splendid victory against decent international opposition in the valuable Hong Kong Bowl and has been putting in some eye-catching work on the Newmarket gallops recently.

The five-year-old Soviet Line improved hand over fist last term, and his trainer, whose horses are running into form, considers him to be still on the upgrade. His last five runs yielded four wins and a badly ridden second, with one of today's rivals, Young Ern, behind him twice on the same terms.

The splendid six-year-old Muhtarram ran in seven Group 1 events last year for one win and six places, but most were over 10 furlongs and even with a pacemaker to ensure an end-to-end gallop he is likely, for all his class, to find a mile too sharp.

Young Ern will strip fit after a cosy Leicester win last month, but has been exposed as below top class and a fast-run race will test his stamina to its limit. Missed Flight, another consistent five-year-old, has excellent claims on his form with Green Tune (beat him a head) and Bigstone (beaten a short-head by him) in France last year and warmed up for today with a comfortable win in a Group 2 at Sandown three weeks ago.

Soviet Line is at his best coming from off the pace and with his favourite jockey, Walter Swinburn (the only one to win on him last year), in the saddle, his finishing speed should give him the edge in his first venture at the top level.

Newbury shares TV and Group 1 billing this afternoon with The Curragh, where the feature is the Irish 2,000 Guineas. British-trained horses have won five of the last six runnings, and once again the home side's defence, headed by Adjareli, looks weak.

The four raiders come from two yards and John Dunlop's first string Bahri, third to Pennekamp and Celtic Swing in the Newmarket Guineas, will start a worthy favourite. This handsome son of Riverman can head a clean sweep for the raiders and confirm his position as a leading three-year-old miler. The performance of Spectrum, sent over by Peter Chapple-Hyam, will be of enormous interest, for the unbeaten Rainbow Quest colt is on trial for the Derby.

Chapple-Hyam, who has won two of the last three Irish Guineas (with Rodrigo de Triano and Turtle Island) rates Spectrum highly and he won impressively on his seasonal reappearance. But he still lacks experience and may want further than a mile in top company and Bahri, with proven form in a Classic, makes more appeal.

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