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Singapore Cup: Get used to it - World Series is alive and kicking and here to stay.

Byline: Paul Haigh

Sceptics have insisted that the health and even the survival of the World Series of Racing depends - among other things - on some outfit other than Godolphin eventually managing to win it.

Those who suspected, or maybe just hoped, that the Newmarket Dubaians' grip might weaken slightly now that Emirates no longer sponsors the Series were confounded, however, when Frankie and Grandera bolted up in the S$3 million (pounds 1.1m) Singapore Airlines International Cup on Saturday night.

If you had to select the horse most likely to claim the title first won by Daylami and finally vacated by Fantastic Light, it would probably be the former James Fanshawe horse some had begun to see as a bit of a mug's buy after he'd pulled away his chance in Hong Kong three weeks ago.

Maybe Grandera overheard some of the mutterings around Sha Tin that his attitude problem was only ever likely to be cured by an operation that would have prevented him from making any contribution to the thoroughbred gene pool.

Whatever the reason, if he takes the Arlington Million, mentioned by Simon Crisford as the next probable target, he'll be on 26 points and well on his way to the championship and a future at stud - though Crisford also said that Godolphin intends to keep Grandera in training next season.

As for the jockey's title, no-one has ever won it except Frankie, and our very own Italian stallion is clear again and apparently heading for yet another situation in which he can deliver his inoffensive catchphrase "Well done me!".

The Godolphin stranglehold still seems to be complete. So has the Series had its chips?

Those who disliked the event from the beginning, insisting it was based on the misconception that it could ever be analogous with the Formula One Grand Prix circuit, would probably say "yes" - and point to its lack of sponsorship this year as clear indication that nobody now wants to have anything to do with it.

Those who've always been supporters would laugh at such suggestions, albeit a bit less assuredly than in the past; point out that the Series has already thrown up three world champions well worthy of the name; that it's only now beginning to seep into the consciences of parochially minded fans worldwide; and that the future is assured, not just because the races that form it are going to be run anyway, but because the tracks at which those races are run are solidly behind the concept as they are well aware of how much it raises their own profiles.

They might argue, furthermore, that the absence of sponsorship this year is not actually an indication of weakness but of strength.

Does that sound perverse? Maybe it does in a way, but the fact is that several potential sponsors did come forward. It was just that in the economic atmosphere prevailing at the end of last year (remember Emirates announced it was pulling out a few days after September 11), no sponsor was prepared to commit to the asking price, or come anywhere near it.

Rather than give the Series away, so to speak, at what would have been a knockdown price, and one that would probably have made it difficult, for years perhaps, to obtain again the $15 million (pounds 10.2m) Emirates contributed over three years, the tracks decided to do without a sponsor for the time being and just promote the Series themselves - with the immeasurable help of ESPN which televises each race to a global audience.

Of course $15 million would hardly buy the right to put a bumper sticker on a Formula One car, so racing's poor-relation status is there for all to see, but no-one's making the analogy with motor racing anymore.

Everyone recognises the comparison will always be false because horses are not machines that can be packed into crates and moved from venue to venue almost without thought. The fact that the participating tracks felt they could afford to ignore the offers of five or six million from companies wishing to have their name attached to the Series does show a certain self-confidence; and their commitment to the Series for the foreseeable future does have to be a pretty good sign.

Some of us global groupies are certainly biased because we've already allowed ourselves to become so besotted with international competition that even domestic Classics now seem like pretty small beer. But if I had to make a bet, it would be that the World Series will not only survive in something not far off its present form, but that in a decade or so it will have become so much an accepted part of most of our racing lives that - whether Godolphin keeps on winning it or not - we'll look back in surprise at the time we ever doubted its future.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:May 13, 2002
Words:813
Previous Article:Singapore Cup: Dettori keeps his cool as Grandera storms home; Arlington Million may be next target for Godolphin's new international flag-bearer.
Next Article:View from the training centres: Newmarket.


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