Guineas double in Swinburn's sights
WALTER Swinburn sets off today hopeful of completing the coveted Guineas double at Newmarket, with his chances resting squarely on the small but powerful colt Wharf, trained by Henry Cecil.
Swinburn registered his third victory in the 1,000 Guineas when partnering Clive Brittain's Sayyedati to an exciting win at Newmarket on Thursday, and the jockey with the cherubic features is growing more confident by the minute about his prospects in the 2,000 Guineas.
Sayyedati put behind the disappointment of her seasonal debut when she could finish only third in the Nell Gwyn Stakes behind Niche and Zarani Sidi Anna. On that occasion, she loomed up to tackle Niche but then weakened as if hitting a brick wall.
This time, however, it was very different, with Swinburn biding his time in fourth, on the far side of the pack, and then pouncing over a furlong and a half from the finish.
Stretching magnificently, Sayyedati sailed past her opposition to record a half-length victory over Niche, ridden by Lester Piggott, with Ajfan flashing home through beaten horses to snatch a surprise third.
The ever-confident Brittain, whose adventurous campaigning has reaped rich rewards over the years, was understandably delighted with the result. ''I have been so very lucky during my life to be associated with a number of truly great fillies, and Sayyedati is another of them.
''First there was Pebbles (1,000 Guineas in 1984), and now I've got both this filly and User Friendly this year. I also had Ivanka, and it broke my heart when we had to put her down recently. She, too, would have been top class,'' said Brittain.
The trainer had stated frequently that something was amiss with Sayyedati when she failed in the Nell Gwyn, but even his confidence was rocked when he came into the paddock before the race and saw his filly dripping with sweat and on her toes.
''I honestly thought I had blown it,'' said Brittain. ''But being a warm spring day, there were a few others in the same situation. I realised that the only horses who wouldn't sweat up were wooden horses.'' Sayyedati's win had little bearing on Oaks betting, especially following Swinburn's post-race comment that he felt one mile would prove the filly's most effective distance.
''I really wouldn't like to be riding her beyond a mile,'' the jockey pointed out. ''When she hit the front, she started to idle with me.'' Sayyedati is now a 14-1 chance for the Oaks with Ladbrokes, who make Barry Hills' Yawl 6-1 favourite.
Mick Kinane enjoyed a very good ride on the flying filly Lyric Fantasy, who was having her first start for the season. She sat handy to the pace throughout but just failed to see out the strongly-run mile, finishing sixth.
The two major disappointments were Zarani Sidi Anna, who finished seventh for Bruce Raymond after appearing to struggle at halfway, and Elizabeth Bay, the 9-4 favourite, who came in eighth.
The stewards continued their campaign to rid racing of over-use and mis-use of the whip, handing out four-day bans to both Richard Hills, third on Ajfan, and Frankie Dettori, fifth on Dayflower, for their vigour during the 1,000 Guineas.
Dettori's ban comes on top of a seven-day suspension he received at Leicester last Saturday, so the young Italian will have a lengthy holiday to contemplate his future. If he fails to get the green light to ride in Hongkong next season, he will be a very unhappy man indeed.
Today's 2,000 Guineas revolves around the 4-5 favourite Zafonic and whether he can stay the one mile distance. On all known form, and after analysing a series of inconclusive trials, Zafonic is clear on the score of class - but there must still be reservations about him over the trip.
However, Pat Eddery, who rides him, is confident he can get this giant colt, who stands around 17 hands, to settle. If he does, then Zafonic will just be too good for his rivals.
If there is a weakness, Barathea could be the one to capitalise on the situation. Luca Cumani's colt was not himself when fourth in the Craven Stakes, jig-jogging in the paddock beforehand, and looking far from happy with proceedings.
On last year's form, Barathea has the potential to figure in the finish, as too has Robert Sangster's improving Chaddleworth, who is trained by Peter Chapple-Hyam.
And what about Wharf, Swinburn's mount. The jockey himself sums up: ''I think he must have an excellent chance. He ran a fine trial when just beaten into second by Emperor Jones in the Craven, and the fact that Henry Cecil wants to let him take his chance speaks volumes for his chance. He's a good ride, that's for sure.''