Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Craven meeting a welcome arrival

Not a moment too soon, for many who follow the Turf, Newmarket offers everyone a fresh start today.

Since the heartbreak of Aintree, the sport has spent four days examining its conscience, while doing its best not to manifest undue irritation with some highly emotive criticism.

At the best of times, the Craven meeting introduces a wholesome change of tempo. This year, for all that the show goes on at Cheltenham over the next two days, all passion for jumping will just about be spent.

Admittedly, the new Flat season will only reach top gear with the reappearance of Frankel at Newbury on Saturday.

This colt so bestrides the Qipco 2,000 Guineas, now just 17 days away, that the Classic trials staged at his home racecourse will in the meantime seem mere skirmishes.

The Craven Stakes itself will tomorrow be contested by just half a dozen runners — likewise, the Blue Square EBF Free Handicap on today's card.

The Lanwades Stud Nell Gwyn Stakes, in turn, faithfully reflects the baffling collective aspect of those fillies preparing for the 1,000 Guineas, and perhaps the most instructive race will instead be the Feilden Stakes, which seems likely to volunteer some new colour for the Investec Derby picture.

There are some who will tell you that the most feasible Epsom colt on show today will be found in the maiden that follows. Midsummer Sun, a half-brother to Midday and stablemate of Frankel, has been drawing plenty of attention on the gallops and was recently supplemented to the Derby.

Meanwhile, the sport's governing body has been boosted by confirmation that Mark Johnston has become a director of the British Horseracing Authority.

The Middleham trainer has never been diffident in offering his opinion, and it will be interesting to see whether he has any patience with the corporate priority of presenting a united front.

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