The Cecil juggernaut powers on

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The Independent Online
When Henry Cecil was bidding in the Keeneland Sales ring in Kentucky yesterday he could have been forgiven if he had used his middle finger to attract the auctioneer's attention.

It is the Newmarket man's overpowering wish that he should win the trainers' championship in Britain this year and so frustrate the Godolphin operation of Sheikh Mohammed from whom he parted so acrimoniously almost a year ago. Yesterday, as he enjoyed the relative balm of the Blue Grass State, Cecil leapfrogged Godolphin at the top of the table with a double at the less salubrious setting of Town Moor.

Corradini kick-started the success, but Cecil will have gained greater satisfaction from the Park Hill Stakes victory of Eva Luna, who can almost be regarded as a "store" horse. The filly, the property of Prince Khalid Abdullah, did not run at either two or three, but showed enough on the gallops to persuade her trainer that she deserved to be kept on the roster. "Henry always thought she was very useful, but at the end of last season, when she was about to hit the track, she had a little crack in a cannon bone," Grant Pritchard-Gordon, the winning owner's racing manager, said yesterday. "Henry begged Prince Khalid to keep her in training. Now I can see why."

The daughter of Alleged exemplifies one of the absurdities of modern racing in that horses can be given the same name as long as a different nation of breeding in parentheses follows. This Eva Luna (USA) is not to be confused with Jim Bolger's nippy sprinter Eva Luna (IRE), principally because she is a big clumsy beast who needs all of a mile and a half to get up to her top gear.

Even though Eva Luna may have the accelerating capacity of a juggernaut she is also similarly difficult to stop. Pat Eddery's display of correction on the filly at York last time, when he earned a suspension for that particular use of a stick, would have earned him little sympathy at Strasbourg and he ensured there would be no late recourse to the whip yesterday. Eva Luna led throughout to provide her jockey with his 150th victory of the season. The winner comes from a hugely productive family, but she is the end of the line as her dam, the 1984 Oaks runner-up Media Luna, was killed by lightning in America two years ago.

Eva Luna gave heart to the team that will be represented by the favourite, Dushyantor, in Saturday's St Leger, and there are hopes that she too will develop into a Group One performer. "She's in such good form that I'm sure Henry will want to go again this season because she's just beginning to understand now," Pritchard- Gordon added. "She may well stay in training because the way she galloped on today might mean she is a Cup filly."

Musical Season will certainly be running again this campaign, in the Ayr Gold Cup, following his win in the Portland Handicap. David Barron may have told his confederates in the pub last night that he won the race twice as his For The Present, another Ayr Gold Cup possibility, was sixth but first home on the far side. Barron also trains the Ayr favourite, Coastal Bluff, but he will now have to transport top weight as another of yesterday's winners, Anzio, is unlikely to be sent to Scotland with a 7lb penalty. "That takes some carrying and it would almost be easier to win a Group race," Barron said.

There was no such reticence from Barry Hills, who provided the information that his string was in remarkably good form after Nightbird won the nursery. Hills reported to the normally unshockable swell of the press corps that a certain part of his anatomy would turn into a kipper if My Branch did not collect this afternoon's Sceptre Stakes.

ST LEGER (Doncaster, Saturday): Coral: 3-1 Dushyantor, 4-1 Mons, 6-1 Gordi & Sharaf Kabeer, 8-1 Shantou, 10-1 Heron Island & St Mawes; Ladbrokes: 100-30 Dushyantor, 9-2 Mons, 5-1 Gordi, 7-1 Sharaf Kabeer; William Hill: 3-1 Dushyantor, 7-2 Mons, 5-1 Gordi, 7-1 Sharaf Kabeer, 8-1 Heron Island & Shantou, 10-1 St Mawes.