Racing: Cameras turn away as Flat season starts with whimper

Richard Edmondson
Thursday 20 March 2003 01:00

We are, at the very least it seems, on the outskirts of Nirvana. The Tote is about to cut its deductions, Royal Ascot is spreading to five days and the advent of the turf season at Doncaster this afternoon begins a weekend rhythm which continues with the Dubai World Cup (in theory at least) and then the Grand National.

It is Aintree though which always casts a shadow at this time of the year. We cannot take on the vestments of a Flat campaign until Liverpool is out of the way. It would be rather like pulling underpants over your trousers.

Perhaps most worrying about the coverage at Town Moor today is its absence. The terrestrial television companies are not quite as convinced as racing's administrators that the sport is in the rudest of health. They are absent for the first time in over 30 years.

The racing at Doncaster is admittedly garbage. The glorious genesis comes in the shape of the Racing Schools Apprentice Handicap (Class E), and those who are not blinded by that light will doubtless be awestruck by the crescendo and the culminating David Scott & Co (Pattern Makers) Lady Riders' Handicap (also [my word] Class E).

However, this is not the symbolic point. They cover the opening ceremony at the Olympics out of deference to the sport. Racing though embarks on a brave, new and now clandestine world.

Still, today's seven-race, 114-runner card, will have resonance for the participants, notably Mark Wallace, a former assistant to John Oxx, Aidan O'Brien and Mick Channon, who has his first turf runner, Romancero, in the Brocklesby.

One man who rubs the sleep early out of his eyes and is a considerable force at this meeting is Bryan McMahon, who, for some reason, did not win the Brocklesby 12 months ago. That broke a sequence of three successful years for his Tamworth yard. Cotosol is in place to get back to the good old days. "Cotosol goes all right and has done plenty of work, although he may prefer the ground a bit softer," the trainer said yesterday. "I'll just keep my fingers crossed that he runs a respectable race."

Another growing theme at this meeting is the appearance of Adiemus, the runner-up to Zucchero in last season's Lincoln and ante-post favourite to improve his position on Saturday. Jeremy Noseda yesterday confirmed that his gelding, again second, behind Parasol, in Lingfield's Winter Derby at the weekend, would be available for another stab.

Yet that is only one element to overcome for ante-post punters. Adiemus needs four above him in the handicap to come out at this mornings 48-hour declaration stage. Their fate will be known before brunch.

Over the hill and seemingly far away are the first of the Classics, which, in reality, will be with us in just over six weeks' time. Aidan O'Brien has given himself a chance in the 2,000 Guineas by entering 25 of the Ballydoyle string as he attempts to lift the colts' Classic for a third time.

The apparent leader of the pack and ante-post favourite is Hold That Tiger, the winner of three races last year, including the Group One Grand Criterium at Longchamp in October. He was available at 8-1 with Coral on Sunday, but, with the publication of entries, he is now, somewhat conveniently, down to 7-2. The faces, they tell us, have been on for the horse.

The 1,000 Guineas pool is made interesting by the nine fillies entered by Sir Michael Stoute, who last won the race in 1989 with Musical Bliss. The Freemason Lodge team is headed by the Group performer Russian Rhythm, and there is formidable back-up in the shape of the unbeaten Crystal Star and Spanish Sun.

LATEST ODDS (Coral): LINCOLN HANDICAP (Doncaster, Saturday): 5-1 Adiemus, 10-1 Pablo, Norton, Certain Justice, 11-1 Golden Chalice, 12-1 Colisay, Selective, 14-1 Cape Town, 16-1 Nimello, Island Light, 20-1 Zucchero, Atlantic Ace, Dumaran, Courageous Duke, Incline, Gallant Boy, Jabaar, Lingo, Sahaat.

DUBAI WORLD CUP (Nad Al Sheba, 29 March): 9-4 Nayef, 4-1 Grandera, Moon Ballad, 9-2 Sulamani, 5-1 Aquarelliste, 8-1 Harlan's Holiday, 20-1 Blue Burner.

GRAND NATIONAL (Aintree, 5 April): 5-1 Ad Hoc, 9-1 Shotgun Willy, 11-1 Chives, 12-1 Youlneverwalkalone, 16-1 Gunner Welburn, Gunther McBride, Iris Bleu, Gingembre, 20-1 Maximise, 25-1 Blowing Wind, Kingsmark, Ballinclay King, Bindaree, Amberleigh House, Southern Star, Supreme Glory, Killusty, You're Agoodun.

2,000 GUINEAS (Newmarket, 3 May): 7-2 Hold That Tiger, 9-1 Refuse To Bend, 10-1 Trade Fair, 12-1 Statue Of Liberty, 16-1 Tomahawk, Oasis Dream, Tout Seul, 25-1 Al Jadeed, Maghanim, Muqbil, Van Nistelrooy, Saturn, Lateen Sails.

1,000 GUINEAS (Newmarket, 4 May): 4-1 Russian Rhythm, Soviet Song, 7-1 Six Perfections, 10-1 Intercontintal, 16-1 Khulood, 20-1 Luvah Girl, Mezzo Soprano, 25-1 Echoes In Eternity, Etoile Montant, Geminiani, Loving Kindness, Nayzak, Reach For The Moon.

DERBY (Epsom, 7 June): 3-1 Brian Boru, 10-1 Hold That Tiger, 16-1 Refuse To Bend, Alamshar, Dalakhani, 20-1 New South Wales, 25-1 Al Jadeed, Statue Of Liberty, Trade Fair.

OAKS (Epsom, 6 June): 16-1 Russian Rhythm, Soviet Song, Yesterday, Mezzo Soprano, 20-1 Echoes In Eternity.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments