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Talking Horses: Zabeel Prince can pip uncertain Elarqam at Newmarket

The Guardian logo The Guardian 18/04/2019 Greg Wood
a man wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: Roger Varian has high hopes for Zabeel Prince at Newmarket. © Getty Images Roger Varian has high hopes for Zabeel Prince at Newmarket.

This year’s Craven meeting has already fulfilled its primary function by highlighting live candidates for next month’s Classics in Qabala, the new favourite for the 1,000 Guineas, and Skardu, Wednesday’s Craven Stakes winner, but the feature race on the final day could be seen as a timely reminder of how rapidly a promising three-year-old career can unwind.

Around this time last year, Mark Johnston’s Elarqam was a 5-1 chance for the 2,000 Guineas and ran a fine race to finish fourth, just over two lengths behind the winner, Saxon Warrior. It looked like the ideal platform for a successful season, but from that point on, it was downhill all the way. Elarqam was the beaten favourite in all three of his subsequent starts, in the Irish 2,000 Guineas, the Sky Bet York Stakes and the Group Three Sovereign Stakes at Salisbury, where he set off at even money to beat five opponents and came home in fourth place.

Related: 2,000 Guineas: Craven winner Skardu fancied as bookies cool on Too Darn Hot

Seven months, a hairline fracture of the pelvis and a wind operation later, he will make his four-year-old debut in Thursday’s Earl Of Sefton Stakes with something to prove and this looks like a tough renewal of the Group Three event in which to prove it.

Elarqam is the narrow favourite this morning but uneasy in the market as support comes for both Zabeel Prince (4.10) and Forest Ranger, and it is Roger Varian’s runner that could give him most to do. He is very lightly raced for a six-year-old, with only eight starts in the book, and put up a career-best performance on his latest start when a close second in the Group Two Joel Stakes at Newmarket last September. Given the doubts about the favourite, he looks a fair bet today at around 5-1.

Beringer (3.35) ran well on his return to action at Doncaster’s Lincoln meeting and should give the in-form Alan King his second winner of the meeting, while On The Warpath (4.45) also has sound claims later on the card. Agusta Gold (3.15) and Sheneededtherun (3.50) look best on the jumps card at Cheltenham while Ideological (4.35) should go close up at Ripon.

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