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Sajjhaa goes back to basics

Two fillies who recently started Classics at single-figure odds today find themselves appearing on midweek cards at Newcastle and Warwick, but this apparent indignity by no means denotes a precipitate decline.

Their artful trainers instead restore both Sajjhaa and Seta to listed company in the expectation that each will eventually justify the high hopes that preceded them to the Oaks and 1,000 Guineas respectively.

The very fact that Michael Jarvis was prepared to fast-track Sajjhaa to Epsom, barely a fortnight after her racecourse debut, was sufficient for her to be sent off at just 8-1.

In the event, she trailed in stone last, but she was forgivably bewildered by the contours of the track and the hectic competition, and Frankie Dettori was sensibly indulgent once it became apparent that the gamble wasn't going to come off.

Sajjhaa had dominated in the parade ring, even so, and her seven-length success at Sandown remains fresh in the memory as she drops back in distance for the EBF Hoppings Stakes at Newcastle. Her rivals retain a considerable advantage in experience, but have a corresponding deficit in promise.

“Obviously nothing went right for her in the Oaks,” Jarvis said. “I think a combination of the track and her inexperience were to blame, but she came out of the race in really good form, and this looks a good opportunity to get her back on the road.”

Luca Cumani has already shown the merit of this kind of return to basics, Seta having beaten three runners in a conditions race at Leicester after a disappointing reappearance in the Guineas.

She, too, had her excuses that day, marooned by the draw and leaving the overall impression that she remained likely to improve as the season unfolded.

Sure enough, she still seemed to be learning her trade at Leicester, coping well with a drop in trip, and it will be intriguing to see whether she proves any sharper, kept to seven furlongs round the dizzy bends of Warwick.

There was disappointing news from the United States a few days ago, when it was announced that the 2011 Breeders' Cup would for the second year running be staged at Churchill Downs.

The dirt surface there means that the Europeans, who enjoyed unprecedented success on the synthetic track at Santa Anita over the last two years, will be at a disadvantage against the home team.

But yesterday there was a crumb of comfort from the powerful chairman of Santa Anita, Frank Stronach, who said that the replacement of the track there would wait until next year at the earliest — and that he himself favours a different type of synthetic track. Californian traditionalists have been lobbying for the restoration of dirt.

Brian Ellison meanwhile excelled yesterday with a central role in two of the most venerable and competitive handicaps in the calendar.

He won the Carlisle Bell with Camerooney, and saddled the second, third and fourth behind Brushing in the Cumberland Plate.

Belfast Telegraph


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