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Alastair Down: Godolphin make right connection; Europe's champion stayer and potential new sprint star land Group-race double on the Knavesmire.

GODOLPHIN have made a spluttering start to the domestic season but they roared into life yesterday with a notable double hit from Lend A Hand and Kayf Tara.

What York had been missing this week was an injection of class, but we got it here and, at five and six years of age, Lend A Hand and Kayf Tara reminded us what an age of impoverishment we were put through by those who used to rush everything off to stud at the end of their three-year-old careers.

Lend A Hand is really that most difficult of horses to place-the seven-furlong specialist. But he has plenty of speed, and though Frankie Dettori had to ask him to go about his work a fair way out, he quickened well and won what looked a well-contested Duke of York Stakes a shade easily.

The Cork and 'Orrible at Royal Ascot is the next target, for which he escapes a penalty. He is a proper horse, this one. He won five as a two-year-old, was second in a Guineas and has run all over the world.

He is now over the blood-vessel problem that used to trouble him, and his poor run last time at Nad Al Sheba was down to some Brazilian crab mugging him early on.

By chance, I came across Godolphin manager Simon Crisford watching the race on a telly at the back of the stands. He had his mobile welded to his ear, as usual, and was obviously giving Sheikh Mohammed a commentary on the race.

It wasn't a bad effort, though Messrs McGrath and Holt can rest easily in their beds. Mind you, they don't have to say things like "Frankie is making ground on the outside now, sir."

But if you needed an illustration of Sheikh Mohammed's commitment to his horses it was the fact that, whatever duties took him to Egypt, his focus was on the Knavesmire.

Doubtless the Sheikh was back on the phone to SIS (Simon's Information Services) for the Yorkshire Cup, and the commentator will have found this a far easier call.

This was very much a sighting shot for Kayf Tara, who suffered a bad suspensory injury when in Melbourne being trained for the race which grinds Australia to a happy halt.

Given that Godolphin almost won it with the stable cat in Central Park, one can only surmise that Kayf Tara must have gone hellish close.

The Melbourne Cup is very high on the hit-list for Godolphin, though the Aussie handicapper won't be unaware of that fact.

A decision will be made after Kayf Tara has run in the Ascot Gold Cup.

There are always question marks on the first run back from injury-mental questions to be answered as well as physical ones.

On ground quicker than ideal, Kayf Tara was, I thought, at his very best. I doubt those behind him are the very top stayers around, but he treated them with contempt and was never going to be beaten from when he surged to the front over two furlongs from home.

He is a three-time Group 1 winner, and this was his fourth Group 2. His only blip last year was when a not-quite-firing third in the Ascot Gold Cup.

He is admirably tough, battles, and can do it at all trips between 14 furlongs and two and a half miles. What is more, he can quicken and that is the quality that separates the great stayers from the merely good.

Were he to win a second Ascot Gold Cup he would surely be one of the best stayers since Ardross. In recent years, the staying division has given us rich sport and one is tempted to enquire where those goons who wanted to chop back the Ascot Gold Cup by half a mile are skulking now. In the Home for the Bewildered, where they always belonged, I suspect.

Final thoughts on the Derby after nearly all the trials are done with.

Along with two of my most senior journalistic colleagues Mr G Delamere and Mr Richard Evans (both judges of international repute), we ran the Derby in the York press-room at 12.37 yesterday.

Sinndar was an impressive winner for John Oxx, King's Best just failed to stay in second, Sakhee finished third and Best Of The Bests fourth. One of Terry Mills's came fifth. Simple really-and don't say you weren't told.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Author:Down, Alastair
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:May 19, 2000
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Next Article:Racing News: Putting on silks again for charity.

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