When a horse starts at 30-100, a three-length victory is almost a disappointment, but such was the authority of Alhaarth's success in the Solario Stakes at Sandown yesterday that his position as favourite for next year's Derby is now likely to endure through the winter. Dick Hern's colt needed no persuasion to stride away from the useful Staffin, and once again Willie Carson seems to have found a good reason to dismiss any thoughts of retirement.
Alhaarth is big but beautifully balanced and has an exceptional stride, and neither punters nor bookmakers seem to doubt his ability to act at Epsom. Ladbrokes and Coral offer 8-1 about his chances in the 1996 Derby, while 16-1 with Ladbrokes is the best price available for the 2,000 Guineas. Both firms quote 25-1 about the Classic double, following a bet at the course yesterday of pounds 3,000 to win pounds 100,000 about Alhaarth emulating Hern's Nashwan, the last to win the Guineas and Derby.
Hern is keen to broaden Alhaarth's experience, and if he comes out of yesterday's race in satisfactory shape - he should, since it was little more than an exercise gallop - he will run in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster's St Leger meeting.
The favourites at Sandown today will be of a rather different vintage, mostly dating from the days when there were just three television channels. The shame about Variety Club day at the Esher track is that the horses are nowhere near as good as the causes, but if the form-book can be believed there should be an exciting finish to the card's Listed event, the Atalanta Mile.
Private Line and Amanah were separated by just a neck at the end of a conditions race at Kempton in June, with Private Line rallying to get back up after being headed by Amanah at the two-furlong pole. At identical weights and on this stiffer track, PRIVATE LINE (nap 3.10) should confirm superiority.
Some difficult handicaps make up the rest of the televised card, with the sprint particularly tight. Join The Clan would be a confident choice were she not drawn eight of nine, a difficult place to win from on this track, and this may hand the advantage to Jayannpee, who is one place off the rail. Third in the Stewards' Cup at Goodwood, Jayannpee (next best 3.40) is in fine form and Sandown's stiff five furlongs will suit.
High Patriarch (4.15) is an interesting runner in the 10-furlong event, having put up eye-catching performances in the spring. He has not been seen since and his rating for today's handicap debut may be generous. The stayers in the next race are more exposed, with Broughtons Formula (4.45) the most solid.
There will be a better class of horse (and probably spectator) at Deauville tomorrow, where the Prix Morny, one of the season's top juvenile events, is the highlight. The British challenge, with four of the eight runners is strong in numbers, but the probable favourite is With Fascination, an impressive winner over course and distance 18 days ago. She is, at least, trained by a Briton, Jonathan Pease, but that may prove to be little consolation to the connections of Lucky Lionel, World Premier, Russian Revival and Tagula.
Another expat, John Hammond, will saddle Hernando, last year's Arc runner- up, for his seasonal debut in the Prix Gontaut-Biron, a race he won last year for the late Francois Boutin. Millkom and Peter Chapple-Hyam's Erin Bird will make him work for a repeat.
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