Arcano can stake claim for Guineas
It is barely an exaggeration to say that half the promise of the young Flat season has been salvaged by Kieren Fallon's lucky escape at Newbury yesterday.
The rest, at this stage, is largely vested in Aidan O'Brien's St Nicholas Abbey, the champion juvenile and favourite for the English 2,000 Guineas. The Bathwick Tyres Greenham Stakes on today's card, completing a series of Classic trials this week, presents a last chance for rivals to stake their claim.
O'Brien has saddled five colts to win the Guineas first time out, including three of the past five. St Nicholas Abbey duly goes straight to Newmarket, and only amnesiacs will be persisting in doubts about Ballydoyle's customary slow start.
All this is purely a matter of instinct, however, and it must be acknowledged that the Craven Stakes -- won decisively at Newmarket on Thursday by Elusive Pimpernel, runner-up to St Nicholas Abbey in the Racing Post Trophy -- has enjoyed a revival of late. Last year Delegator was foiled only by Sea The Stars in the Guineas, while a photo for the 2008 Craven was shared by Raven's Pass and Twice Over -- between them beaten only by two others in the next two runnings of the Breeders' Cup Classic.
Admittedly Twice Over took the best part of 18 months to build on that run, but the Craven can hardly fail to identify a colt that has trained on and is comfortable with the demands of the Rowley Mile.
But the possibility remains that another race on fast ground, so soon after his return from a long absence, will inhibit a creature as big and burly as Elusive Pimpernel.
Either way, it can be argued that he has simply lent St Nicholas Abbey greater substance to go with his astonishing style.
If you had told anyone in the unsaddling enclosure after the Racing Post Trophy that the winner would be quoted 5/2 a fortnight before the Guineas, and the second 5/1, you might have been escorted away in a straitjacket.
Whether today's winner could yet intrude remains to be seen. Canford Cliffs looked an extraterrestrial at Royal Ascot last year, only to go down in a riot scene in the Prix Morny. The five runners were divided by barely two necks, and it was Arcano who cut down both Canford Cliffs and the subsequent Cheveley Park winner, Special Duty.
Arcano's genes strongly suggest that he will prove comfortable with this seventh furlong, and with runs on the board against Canford Cliffs he is the safest option today. But something pretty extraordinary will be required to alarm those of us who reckon St Nicholas Abbey an instant consolation for the retirement of Sea The Stars.
The extra furlong would certainly seem an issue for Arcano's stablemate, Lady Of The Desert, in the Dubai Duty Free Fred Darling Stakes. But she sets a clear form standard.
She was due to be ridden by Fallon. The idea that he might keep the appointment seemed remote last night, but you never know with the teak-tough Clareman. (© Independent News Service)