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Lavery aiming to prove his worth; CHAMPAGNE STAKES: Heinz 57 winner bids to further strengthen O'Brien's Classic hand.

A SECOND appearance in England by the much-vaunted Stravinsky may have been resisted, but trainer Aidan O'Brien displays his awesome strength in depth by saddling a Group 1 winning understudy in Lavery at Doncaster today.

Stravinsky is set to put his Classic credentials to the test in France next weekend, but his Ballydoyle trainer has a colt with arguably better form for the pounds 60,000-added Intercell Communications Champagne Stakes.

Having started the season so fluently with a 2,000 Guineas and Oaks victory from King Of Kings and Shahtoush, O'Brien is developing next year's pool of Classic talent with considerable success.

He said yesterday: "Lavery is very well and we're hoping he runs a good race. He is a lovely-actioned colt so the better the ground, the better it will be for him. I don't think he would like it too soft."

O'Brien's highly-successful season also encompassed the first two European Group 1 events for two-year-olds with Lavery in Ireland's Heinz 57 Stakes and Orpen in France.

Lavery meets nothing with equivalent form at Doncaster but some with undoubted Classic potential, notably Commander Collins and Auction House.

The last Classic winner to land the Champagne Stakes was Rodrigo de Triano in 1991 and the same Peter Chapple-Hyam stable is represented today by Commander Collins in today's 165th renewal.

The once-raced colt is quoted at 20-1 for next year's 2,000 Guineas on the evidence of his debut victory in the Superlative Stakes at Newmarket.

But he has a new partner in Jimmy Fortune, whose replacement of the suspended John Reid has increased his chances of forging a more permanent association with owner Robert Sangster.

Sangster, who has been staying with Fortune's current employers Jack and Lynda Ramsden, said: "I think Commander Collins will go well. Jimmy is a very good jockey. I've not spoken to him but we'll work something out."

Commander Collins has been restricted to just one run by a bout of coughing that kept him out of work for six weeks.

"I have brought him back slowly and his run at Doncaster will tell us a lot. One thing is for sure, he will improve on whatever he does here. He really has been pleasing me recently," said Chapple-Hyam.

"I think this trip of seven furlongs is as short as he wants to go nowadays.

"I had loads of plans for him after Newmarket but then everything went wrong. The rain-softened ground might be a slight worry but hopefully he will handle it all right."

Auction House has already posted a win at Doncaster and followed that success with an emphatic victory in the Deploy Acomb Stakes at York.

"He has pleased me since York," said trainer Barry Hills. "He is a nice colt and this should be an ideal type of race for him.

"I don't think a drop of rain will inconvenience him as he handled the easier ground all right at Ascot first time out, even though he did not win."

Locombe Hill, one of only two unbeaten horses, has form on firm and heavy ground, but his trainer Michael Blanshard admits he is taking a big leap in class.

"It is a big step but I'm hoping he will run well because he has been working well. I have nothing at home to compare with him so I thought we might as well find out if he is up to scratch," he said.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Author:Lees, Jon
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Sep 11, 1998
Words:571
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