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`It's going to be tough after that, but if Haafhd does produce a twin peak on Guineas day,; One Cool Cat and his pals better watch out'.

Byline: James Willoughby

THE last thing a human athlete would contemplate in the build-up to a major championships is an attempt on the world record.

Peaking on the day is paramount to winning big races, and the best preparation is one which keeps long-term energy resources intact.

The superfluous effort which Haafhd expended when winning yesterday's Craven Stakes by open daylight could, therefore, catch up with him in the 2,000 Guineas. Could, because racing is never an exact science and unequivocal predictions tend to blow up in your face.

Haafhd looked one of the fittest before yesterday's race. He was sweating slightly and seemed as forward in attitude and demeanour as he was in condition. Allowed to dictate the tempo by Richard Hills, he extended tenaciously, pinning his ears back when first asked to make his effort and straining to comply with his jockey's demands as soon as he was physically capable. You got the impression he was putting everything into his performance on the day.

There are several precedents that might encourage the belief that Haafhd will not be in quite the same form in 15 days' time. That his trainer Barry Hills is bereft of a 2,000 Guineas victory since Tap On Wood in 1979 is likely to be overstated in some quarters. True, he has enjoyed the patronage of some of the world's leading owners in the intervening period. But, on the other hand, he has saddled any number of big-race winners during his career, and to infer that he cannot get a horse to peak when required is ludicrous.

More pertinent, perhaps, is the evidence provided by Haafhd himself. Last season, he turned in an equally striking performance to win the Washington Singer Stakes in a fantastic time. When sent to Doncaster for the Champagne Stakes, however, a listless Haafhd was in nothing like the same form and lacked comparable zest off the bridle. Whether there were extraneous factors or not, the precedent is there.

Moreover, Haafhd's dam Al Bahathri has already produced Munir, a half-brother to Haafhd, who won the Greenham Stakes impressively two years ago then disappointed in the 2,000 Guineas. He was beaten too far out to blame lack of stamina.

One thing is for sure, however. If Haafhd produces a twin peak on Guineas day, One Cool Cat and his pals better watch out. The manner in which he subdued two of last season's best juveniles in a fast

time - maintaining his momentum through a final furlong of 11.86sec taken uphill - deserves respect.

Roger Charlton, the trainer of Three Valleys, would certainly like the same problem as Hills. His impressive Coventry Stakes winner does not look the same force as last season, and it was understandable that Charlton wore an air of despondency afterwards.

There still exists the diminished possibility that Three Valleys is a sprinter, but it is far more likely that his Ascot performance last year was an expression of precocity as much as raw ability. Something to bear in mind the next time a juvenile records a brilliant time performance is to be wary of peaks as well as valleys.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Apr 16, 2004
Words:525
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