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david ashforth: Guineas winner fighting lost cause at Epsom; Throwing up weighty problem for US jockeys.

Byline: david ashforth

I don't know what's going to win the 2,000 Guineas, but I know what's going to happen to the winner afterwards. Be prepared. Forewarned is forearmed. He's going to be installed as one of the favourites, if not the favourite, for the Derby.

If he's got a decent chance of staying the trip (a rarity), like Pennekamp in 1995 or Golan in 2001, he'll be sent off favourite, or joint favourite, and lose.

If he's got no earthly chance of staying, like Mystiko in 1991 or Rodrigo de Triano in 1992, he'll still be sent off favourite or near-favourite, and be lost completely.

Nothing could do more for the 2,000 Guineas winner's burgeoning reputation than to add the greatest of Classics - the Derby - to his curriculum vita. There is only one Derby, and only one chance of winning it. It's now or never.

So the trainer stands, beaming elatedly, in the winner's enclosure at Newmarket and is asked about the Derby, and whether or not he thinks his Classic winner will stay a mile and a half. There is no firm evidence that his champion will not stay, only the uncertain testimony of his untested bloodlines.

So the trainer talks about his 2,000 Guineas winner's fine qualities - how well he settles, how economically he moves, how amenable he is to his rider's bidding, how stoutly he finished - while admirers pour over his pedigree and, eventually, shout "Eureka! The winner's grand-dam once foaled a runner-up over 11.5 furlongs. All is well.

But all is rarely well, very rarely. In fact, hardly at all.

In the last 20 years, only one Guineas

winner has gone on to win the Derby - the exceptional Nashwan, at 5-4 favourite, in 1989. Is a Nashwan lurking in today's field? Maybe, but probably not.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, but insufficiently remarked upon, that the 2,000 Guineas has a habit of being run over a straight mile at Newmarket early in May, while the Derby is run over a mile-and-a-half big dipper at Epsom only five weeks later.

How likely is it that a horse sufficiently suited to the former to win the 2,000 Guineas will be equally well suited to the latter? Extremely unlikely.

It doesn't stop owners and trainers - and punters - appearing at Epsom, full of optimism, doomed to disappointment. Fourteen of the last 20 Guineas winners ran in the Derby. Eight of them started favourite or joint favourite, including two at odds-on, with only three starting at odds longer than 11-2. They often arrived boasting the best form, but not over a mile and a half.

So, although I may not be able to tell you what will win the 2,000 Guineas, I can tell you what won't win the Derby. Lay the Guineas winner and, if the odds are short and the question mark over its stamina large - as they often are - lay it like a man. Unless you're a woman, in which case, lay it like a woman.

Today, in a Kentucky Derby market that can't make up its mind, Shane Sellers will be riding the likely favourite, The Cliff's Edge, for Nick Zito. It's lucky the trainer isn't

D Wayne Lukas. If he were, the jockey wouldn't be Shane Sellers.

Sellers, who has a reputation for speaking his mind and falling out with people, doesn't think much of Lukas as a horseman, and thinks even less of him as a person.

Lukas doesn't think Sellers is worth listening to, and vice versa. They are not the best of chums.

This week, their lack of friendliness intensified after Sellers appeared on a television programme about the things jockeys do in order to make the weights many US racetracks require them to ride at.

Apart from the usual starving and saunas, some jockeys take lasix, and others deliberately make themselves sick. According to Jose Santos, last year's Kentucky Derby-winning jockey, half of all riders regularly resort to "flipping" - vomiting deliberately.

Randy Romero, now 46, who rode over 4,000 winners, including three Breeders' Cup successes, is waiting for a kidney transplant. Romero believes it is the result of the damage he inflicted on himself by years of wasting.

Top-class British jockeys such as Kieren Fallon, Frankie Dettori and Darryll Holland, who don't often ride below 8st 7lb, would find weight more of a problem in the US.

The runners for today's Kentucky Derby will carry 126lb (9st) but, on the same card, two of the seven runners in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff for four-year-olds and upwards are set to carry 110lb (7st 12lb), while in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, for three-year-olds and upwards, four of the 11 runners will carry 115lb (8st 3lb).

Although the minimum weight in the UK is 7st 12lb, it is becoming an unusual sight and, in Group races, jockeys are rarely required to ride at below 8st 6lb.

Europe's higher weights encouraged Steve Cauthen and Cash Asmussen to cross the Atlantic, but the battle to raise weights in the US is proving difficult to win - partly because there is still a supply of lightweight riders from Central and South America.

Lukas believes that jockeys should be small and, if they aren't small enough they shouldn't be jockeys. He is concerned about the effect of higher weights on the horses - although work-riders routinely weigh more and you might think that, if 9st is considered safe for the best

three-year-olds in America - the ones running in the Kentucky

Derby - it's safe enough for the others.

Harsh track surfaces are more likely to cause injuries than a few extra pounds on a horse's back,

but Sellers and Lukas are likely to be arguing for a good while yet.


Exception to the rule: Nashwan ... D Wayne Lucas and Shane Sellers: lack of friendliness has intensified
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:May 1, 2004
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