Toller's form evokes stardust memories

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The Independent Online
When the pixies went round sprinkling their magic dust the sack broke at Majors Farm stables, Whitsbury. This report was almost made impossible following your correspondent's visit to the tiny Hampshire yard in the early 1990s. That day the only sprinkling that seemed to be needed was salt and pepper as one inmate appeared to believe the protrusion from this writer's cuff was not a bunch of fives but rather a bunch of carrots.

This unprovoked attack did not appear to earn Desert Orchid any enemies (in fact the contrary seemed, strangely, to be the case) as he first alerted the nation to the bewitching nature of his premises. The Majors captured another major earlier this month when Compton Place popped up at 50-1 in the Group One July Cup and there are expectations that the current incumbent, James Toller, will collect the richest race to be run in Britain this weekend.

The Weatherbys Super Sprint, at Toller's favourite course, Newbury, will by no means feature the best two-year-olds in the land as it is designed to attract the more cheapely-bought animal. This factor, however, will have no bearing on the post-race celebrations.

Toller's representative is the filly Petarga, who already has winning form, at Bath, to her name. "I'm very pleased with her and it's the obvious race to go for," the trainer said yesterday. "Both times she has run at Bath she has had a terrible draw and managed to overcome it.

"With these sort of horses you don't get too many shots at a pounds 50,000 race. We can always look at nurseries and that sort of stuff later, but she's won her race so we've got to go for it. It's a race you can only approach with a degree of confidence if you have got an outstanding two- year-old and I can't say I've got that, so I'm not exactly bullish. But she's half useful and she's been working well."

Compton Place proved himself wholly useful at Newmarket and even a disbelieving trainer now considers the chestnut belongs in Group One company. "I keep looking at the race and trying to find some way it was a fluke, but I'm sure now it just wasn't," Toller said. "Royal Applause looks to have run up to his Cork & Orrery form with Indian Rocket, and while I didn't expect mine to win I knew he'd run a good race. Now that we've found the key to him in holding him up off a fast-run pace I'm sure he will continue to show his form."

The first venue for this conviction is Deauville and the Prix Maurice de Gheest in three weeks' time, although York's Nunthorpe Stakes stands as an alternative if the umbrellas start going up in France. The autumn target is the Haydock Park Sprint Cup.

As he navigates the halls of Chatsworth in Derbyshire, the Duke Of Devonshire, Compton Place's owner, does not consider for one moment another tantalising event, the Breeders' Cup Sprint in America. The Duke's chestnut bullet is to be kept in training for another season at least and so he is leaving Hollywood Park to its own stars this year before testing the Majors Farm stardust once again in 1998.

Yesterday's results, page 31