Title sure thing for bin Suroor

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The Independent Online
Henry Cecil sportingly conceded the trainers' championship to his rival Saeed bin Suroor here yesterday. The 10-times former title-holder acknowledged his deficit of pounds 22,000 was too much to make up in the four days that remain of the turf season.

It has been nip and tuck between the two men since they each saddled a Guineas winner on the Rowley Mile back in May. Cecil went into yesterday's proceedings pounds 30,000 down and although Palisade and Ali-Royal won for him, bin Suroor hit back with a win with Saheel and a third place with Fatefully.

Cecil, gracious in defeat, said: "I think that's probably it. We'll only have another half-dozen runners and I think its unlikely that we can make up the difference. But the competition between us has livened up the end of the season, and we've both thoroughly enjoyed it."

Bin Suroor, a 30-year-old Dubaian former policeman who started his training career with two Arab horses in a garage, was narrowly pipped for the title by John Dunlop last year, his first as the head of Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin operation. Both he and Cecil have amassed nearly pounds 2m in win and place money this year, bin Suroor from 47 wins so far and Cecil from 112.

Cecil added, referring to the fact that several of bin Suroor's best winners were housed at his Warren Place before he and the Sheikh split up: "We'll renew the battle next year, and I'll feel better when I'm not running against horses I might have been training. I'll start with a clean slate. But hats off to them this time."

Ali-Royal, a half-brother to Cecil's 1997 1,000 Guineas hope Sleepytime, took Newmarket's feature race, the listed Ben Marshall Stakes, by a cosy length and a quarter from Nijo, and will remain in training next year after plans to send him to the autumn sales were shelved.

The Cecil-bin Suroor match - which will not go into extra time, as neither trainer will continue on all-weather tracks after the turf season ends at Folkestone a week tomorrow - may have provided a spark of interest through the butt-end days of the Flat campaign, but in terms of quality of horseflesh the jumpers had the edge yesterday as their season kicked into life.

At Wetherby, One Man threw down the gauntlet with an impressive seasonal debut in the Charlie Hall Chase. As soon as Richard Dunwoody released the brakes the grey went past Barton Bank in the air at the ditch four out and strode away to win by seven lengths. One Man is now clear second favourite - William Hill and Ladbrokes go 8-1, but Coral only 6-1 - to this year's Gold Cup winner, Imperial Call, for next March's renewal at Cheltenham.

At Ascot, Storm Alert beat Big Matt a neck to win the United House Construction Handicap Chase for the third time in four years. This gave David Nicholson compensation for the defeats of Barton Bank and Hill Of Tullow at Wetherby.

Further afield, the Irish-trained Melbourne Cup favourite Oscar Schindler will face 23 rivals, including the British challengers Grey Shot and Court Of Honour, in Australia's richest race on Tuesday. There were no surprise omissions at yesterday's final declaration stage, with the local defence led by last year's first and second, Doriemus and Nothin' Leica Dane.

The three Northern Hemisphere runners have all been drawn middle to high for the pounds 700,000 race. Oscar Schindler, trained by Kevin Prendergast, is in stall 12, Grey Shot (Ian Balding) next to him in 13, and Court Of Honour (Peter Chapple-Hyam) in 17. The going is likely to ride fast.

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