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French have score to settle in Gold Cup; RACING - FROM THE FIRST DAY OF YORK'S ROYAL ASCOT MEETING.

Byline: By PETER HILTON

WESTERNER has unfinished business to attend to at Royal Ascot at York tomorrow.

His French connections are more than hopeful he can go one better than last year and claim the prestigious Gold Cup.

Controversy surrounded his 2004 second to Papineau, when the removal of earplugs during the race and ill-tempered accusations levelled at the winning camp by owner Alec Wildenstein detracted from a sterling performance by the Gallic stayer.

For the record, the plugs will again be inserted into his ears, but as in his last few outings, they will not be removed this time.

There is 'history' between the Wildensteins and the Gold Cup.

Back in 1978, when the late patriarch Daniel Wildenstein had horses in training with Peter Walwyn, Buckskin lined up as 11-8 favourite, but could only muster fourth under Pat Eddery.

A row erupted, Wildenstein blamed Eddery, and with Walwyn coming to his jockey's defence, the owner moved his string from Lambourn to Henry Cecil.

Many years later, in an interview in the Sporting Life shortly before his death, Wildenstein apologised for his intemperate behaviour.

Given all that, it is hardly surprising to hear that the ultimate staying prize is high on the family's shopping list.

"This race is very important to us, it's one we want to win," Alec Wildenstein said, the intent unmistakeable in his voice.

And in Westerner they have the key to finally unlock the Gold Cup riddle some 27 years on from Buckskin.

Olivier Peslier took over the ride this year and the combination have clicked, with Westerner brushing aside weaker opposition in his two Gold Cup warm-ups in the Prix de Barbeville and Prix Vicomtesse Vigier at Longchamp this spring with contemptuous ease.

Wildenstein reports Elie Lellouche's charge better than ever.

"There's been no problem at all with his preparation, in fact things couldn't have gone better for him," he said.

"It's a long time since I've had a runner at York. The ground shouldn't be as fast there as it can be at Ascot."

Whatever Westerner's fate on the Knavesmire, he is likely to have a change of direction after the Gold Cup.

"We"ll be dropping him back to a mile and a half. There's the King George at Newbury, or the Grosser Preis von Baden Baden is very interesting this year."

Lellouche, at 53, is no stranger to Royal Ascot glory, the Tunisian-born trainer sending over Shake The Yoke to lift the 1996 Coronation Stakes with Peslier in the saddle.

Come tomorrow, he could well be celebrating his second winner.
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jun 15, 2005
Words:428
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