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Page last updated at 16:47 GMT, Tuesday, 5 May 2009 17:47 UK

Cornelius Lysaght column

Cornelius Lysaght
By Cornelius Lysaght
BBC racing correspondent

It's been just what the marketing fellows ordered: a start to the Flat-racing season that's a bit different.

Amidst claims by some that the Flat's got boring and is in danger of being overshadowed by a golden age for jump racing, it needed the stalls to open just right on its 2009 campaign.

Sea the Stars wins
Sea the Stars (left) took the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket

And that's what happened. The results that accompanied the two Guineas races at Newmarket can reasonably be described as being "good for the sport".

Not only was it the John Oxx-trained Sea The Stars which threw down the Derby gauntlet to all-comers in the 2000, but Ghaanati handed the 1000 to the Hills family, particularly patriarch trainer Barry.

Oxx and Barry Hills: great and successful names to savour at all levels, but this was the former's first ever Newmarket Guineas, and the latter had been waiting since 1978 for a second 1000 Guineas.

Don't get me wrong: my admiration for the achievements of the dominant Aidan O'Brien and the whole Irish-based Coolmore racing and thoroughbred breeding team knows no bounds.

But seeing O'Brien and his training mentor Jim Bolger, who also enjoyed a magnificent 2008, playing second fiddle this time was refreshing.

And, anyway, neither was terribly far away - and O'Brien has not yet hit his powerful stride - so both will be ready to compete again shortly, and, as they will agree, that's what it's all about: competition.


Those marketing folk want stories for us in the media to tell, or as they put it "a narrative" for Flat-racing regulars, and more important irregulars, to be able to follow.

The stepping stones to Epsom's now sponsored Derby (it's Investec, signed at the 11th hour, if you missed it), mainly laid out at Chester, Lingfield, Leopardstown and York during May, are perfect examples.

Sea The Stars, who won at Newmarket under Mick Kinane despite suffering from a virus during part of the build-up, is favourite to become the first to complete the Guineas/Derby double since Nashwan (1989).

The understated Oxx says he's unsure whether the colt's stamina will last out Epsom's mile-and-a-half, but the distance held no fears for his older half brother Galileo, the 2001 Derby winner, nor his mother Urban Sea, successful in the 1993 Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp.

Guineas third Gam Amhras (representing Bolger), Leopardstown-bound Fame And Glory (for the O'Brien team) and York hopeful Crowded House are the other big contenders at the moment.

But others will also emerge too, not only ready and waiting to grab the attention of fans, regular and irregular alike, but also sure to keep the marketing guys happy for a few more weeks.

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see also
Trainer Hills eyes Chester glory
05 May 09 |  Horse Racing
Ghanaati seals 1,000 Guineas win
03 May 09 |  Horse Racing
Sea The Stars wins 2,000 Guineas
02 May 09 |  Horse Racing
Cornelius Lysaght column
01 Apr 09 |  Horse Racing
Fallon aims for long-term success
26 Mar 09 |  Horse Racing
Frozen Fire takes Irish Derby win
29 Jun 08 |  Horse Racing
Cornelius Lysaght column
01 Apr 09 |  Horse Racing
Cornelius Lysaght column
25 Mar 09 |  Horse Racing

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