Racing: Aljabr and Dettori add to bookies' anguish

Greg Wood
Wednesday 28 July 1999 23:02

YOU HAVE to travel in order to arrive, as Aljabr knows only too well. He flew 4,000 miles to Lexington in the spring to run in the Kentucky Derby, but bruised a foot two days before the race and promptly flew all the way back again. He has arrived now, though, and it says much for his spirit that he skipped out of the stalls for the Sussex Stakes here yesterday with a kitten's exuberance, and never once seemed ready to surrender his lead.

Six of the runners, in fact, might as well have been munching the grass back at the start. Only Docksider, who is a fast and unyielding opponent so long as the going is the same, could live with Aljabr's pace up the hill, and then down again towards the post. His nose reached Frankie Dettori's heels with a couple of furlongs to run, but got no further. Aljabr did something that only a brilliant horse can, and upped the tempo another couple of beats, crossing the line a length to the good, with five more back to Almushtarak in third.

On the barest evidence of the form book, Aljabr is still only the second- best miler of his generation, having finished second to Sendawar in his first race of the season, the St James's Palace Stakes at Ascot. Most punters, though, would make him the favourite for a rematch, perhaps in the Prix du Moulin at Longchamp in September.

"It was a race to get him back for Ascot and he was probably a race short," Dettori said. "We met a good one on the day there but I'd like to take on Sendawar again. He is very tough and he had it all to prove against all these good horses."

The win was Godolphin's 45th Group One victory in less than six years' racing and their eighth this year. "He is a serious horse with a real turn of foot," Simon Crisford, their racing manager, said. "The trip to America settled him and he is now more relaxed." A good thing too, because another flight to the States, for the Breeders' Cup Mile in November, is now sure to feature on his schedule.

As 11-10 favourite, Aljabr ran into a gale of cheers from the stands to match the one blowing down the straight, which helped him to set the third new track record of the week. In the ring, though, bookies were suffering heart murmurs and punching calculators, since after three races, Dettori was threatening to go through the card.

His run came to an end in the next, thanks to a front-running ride of genius by Gary Stevens, who got Mary Stuart home by a head without picking up his whip. This was little consolation for many layers, though, since Mary Stuart was the favourite, and Dettori made it four from five on Untold Riches half an hour later.

His run had started on High And Mighty in the opener, and continued on Bachir in the Group Two Richmond Stakes. Bachir's only previous race had been at Chepstow, but he took the step up in class without a second thought, and may now go to the Group One Prix Morny at Deauville in August. "His dam stayed a mile and a half," John Gosden, his trainer, said, "and he should get a mile." Should, however, is not the same as will, and a quote of 25-1 from William Hill for next year's 2,000 Guineas is a sign that the silly season has arrived.

The favourites all but went through the card yesterday, but the going looks harder for punters today, with the William Hill Mile the main betting event. A high draw is a huge advantage over a mile at Goodwood, and INDIAN LODGE (nap 3.50) must go well from stall 14, having finished sixth overall, and second on the wrong side of the course, in the Britannia at Ascot. Ta Lim (next best 3.20), who could not handle soft ground at York in May, is value to beat Kayf Tara in the Goodwood Cup, while Selfish (2.15) is worthy of support against the useful but exposed Wannabe Grand in the Oak Tree Stakes.

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