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Horse Racing: Goodwood experience compensates for the ups and downs.

Byline: James Willoughby Chief correspondent

THERE cannot be a more uplifting place than Glorious Goodwood at which to curse your luck as a punter. In either direction, the view from the stands is difficult to forget: the silvery channel one way, a sea of troubles the other.

If your selection gets hampered, draw inspiration from the surroundings. And remember that wherever there are undulations, there are always ups and downs.

For it is better to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune than to shuffle off this mortal coil devoid of the Goodwood experience. The next five days brings some marvellous racing in a unique setting and on a surface which draws consistent praise for its condition.

On a more prosaic note, the track's longstanding reputation as something of a minefield for punters is far less deserved these days. An elbow to the rails is often used to lessen the incidence of trouble, and there is usually the compensation of a good pace.

In any case, it is a reasonable contention that a horse who looks unfortunate on any track is often merely deficient in the pace required to get itself out of trouble. A case in point is Iffraaj in the latest July Cup.

The Godolphin colt lines up in the Betfair Cup today saddled with two penalties' the first a 4lb impost for having already been successful in this Group 2 class' the second the heftier burden of the tag of unlucky loser.

Rather than finishing second to Les Arcs, Iffraaj would have won the July Cup if everything had gone well for him. His jockey Frankie Dettori chose to track the wrong horses on the wrong part of the track, and the colt was momentarily, but vitally, caught on his heels as others quickened all around him. More than anything, however, he was let down by a propensity to hit a flat spot in the middle of his races.

Intriguingly, Iffraaj has pulled stall 10 this afternoon - right next to the rail. That cuts down the number of avenues open to Dettori by 50 per cent, and it may be that the jockey will be forced to race prominently to avoid becoming a hostage to fortune.

Dettori would be pleased to get it right this time. In Saturday's King George, he once again did little wrong but little particularly brilliantly either, and he must have winced to see the replay of Hurricane Run taking advantage of the hole he had helped to create with his right-handed whipping of Electrocutionist.

Incidentally, while Hurricane Run's jockey Christophe Soumillon raised eyebrows with his rather undignified celebratory gesture, by far his bigger crime was showboating just after the line. This is an old chestnut, but the horrendous accident to Barbaro in the Kentucky Derby underlined that a horse needs only to take one bad step for its fragilities to be exposed. There is nothing wrong with showing emotion, but it is imperative that a jockey gives full concentration to his mount until pulling up.

Opposition to Iffraaj is headed by Jeremy. If we take apart his victory in the Jersey Stakes in a technical fashion, it would seem that he was the beneficiary of circumstance. The combination of a downpour the night before, a headwind and a strong pace must have aided his charge from off the pace, and hindered that of the pacey runner-up Asset. For all that Jeremy is a coming force, he will not encounter the same test here.

The only natural pacesetter is Mark Johnston's Prince Of Light, but two or three others are fond of racing prominently. Jeremy, along with Quito and the old boy Nayyir, will need the likes of Iffraaj, Etlaala, Assertive and Suggestive to provide internal pressure on the front-runner and force a pace meltdown, otherwise the prominent runners will be home free.

In the previous race 35 minutes earlier - the elongated gaps between races at Goodwood allow punters to swap hard-luck stories - Johnston will unleash the ferocious combination of Linas Selection and Luberon in the Group 3 Gordon Stakes. These two relentless gallopers go out to race with a pretty clear agenda and just don't get cheated. In a race famed as a St Leger trial, a stern test of stamina is guaranteed.

Luberon is an embodiment of the two halves of his trainer's season. On his first two starts of the campaign he looked almost gutless - if ever the term could be seriously associated with a runner from his yard - in defeat, but he has come back with fresh vigour to win handicaps from BHB marks of 89 then 98 in the manner of a progressive horse.

For his part, Linas Selection has gone in off 90 then 103, again in the relentless fashion similar to his owner Renata Jacobs' Soapy Danger. Those yellow-and-black colours are difficult to get past.

Other strong contenders here are the Derby seventh Sixties Icon and a promising Aidan O'Brien maiden graduate called Savannah. Lucky they have not seen the videos of the Johnston pair' whoever wins, nobody will have an easy day at the office in this field.

CAPTION(S):

Iffraaj (near side), who didn't enjoy a particularly smooth run under Frankie Dettori, goes down to Les Arcs in the July Cup
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Aug 1, 2006
Words:878
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