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ROYAL ASCOT COUNTDOWN: A WEEK TO GO TO THE GREAT DUEL: Daqman takes his spyglass out to form and facts on what is likely to be the greatest duel between racehorses in 36 years.
 
FIVE LAYS OUT OF SIX: Daqman skittled another paper favourite yesterday when Roman Dancer (2nd 11-4) was beaten at Folkestone, his fifth successful lay in the last six. There’s another one today.

JUST A STROLL FOR 5-1 SORRENTO: But best result yesterday was Daqman’s selection of Prince Of Sorrento (WON 5-1), who won as he liked at Windsor last night, ridden nearly five lengths clear and eased down. Daqman took 7.6 on Betdaq.


What a cliff-hanger! If you’ve thrilled to the Drama Derby and been dancing in the rain at the Golden Guineas, you ain’t seen nothing yet: here comes the hottest duel since the clash of the Titans.

They’ve talked about Grundy v Bustino for years. In fact, it was 1975 when courageous Grundy had to break the King George race record time by an amazing two and a half seconds in order to resist the brave and persistent bull-charge of the year older Bustino.

But Canford Cliffs v Goldikova next Tuesday could render the old story obsolete if, as expected, no quarter is given between two sensational milers, in a French-English decider that could heal the wounds of two Derbys lost in one weekend. Or open them wider.

Goldikova will be going for back-to-back wins in the Queen Anne and her 14th at Group 1 or Grade 1 level, whereas the two-years-younger Canford Cliffs has raced just nine times. On official ratings in England, Canford Cliffs is 2lb in front of the mare; on Racing Post figures, he is 1lb behind. That’s how close it is. That’s what a debate it is.

Canford Cliffs (Richard Hannon, rating 127): Aged 4, four wins in a row. Six out of nine. In the frame in all the nine starts. The four consecutive were Group 1, his only two-year-old win, the Group-2 Coventry Stakes. All success on sound surface. No runs on soft.

By Tagula out of a Marju mare, and not bred in the purple. Won by six lengths and seventh lengths in his two-year-old career but noted for a power surge, then just doing enough in three consecutive wins of a neck to little more than a length.

Goldikova (Freddie Head, rating 125): Aged six; 16 wins from 22 starts. Unplaced once. Four wins in a row twice. Four consecutive Group 1, and three consecutive three times. Has won on soft ground but defeats have come on soft, very soft and heavy.

By Anabaa out of a Blushing Groom mare; again not the top rank of breeding. Goldikova’s particular racing trait is her nonchalance on the bridle; a high cruising speed with seeming disdain for her rivals before delivering a decisive late run.

COLLATERAL FORM: Goldikova beat Dick Turpin a length in the Prix de la Foret last October (soft). Canford Cliffs beat Dick Turpin a length in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot last year (good).

Goldikova beat Rip Van Winkle 8 lengths when ‘Goldie’ was receiving 3lb in last years Queen Anne Stakes. Canford Cliffs beat Rip Van Winkle a neck, when ‘Canford’ was receiving 8lb, in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood last July (good to firm).

FLAWS: Canford Cliffs can prove hard to settle off a steady pace, has far less experience than Goldikova and is vulnerable to her waiting with the pace. Won only an ordinary Lockinge to start his season but rating maintained at 127 (achieved in Sussex Stakes).

Goldikova is giving two years away and her form actually dipped last season  – albeit scoring at the highest level – with her rating down from 131 in the summer of 2009 to sub-119, except for 124 achieved in the Queen Anne.

Goldikova was only workmanlike on her seasonal debut in the Prix d’Ispahan, failing to quicken away in her usual ruthless style. But Byword, a length second to her in the same race last year, was seven lengths behind this time.

VERDICT: Goldikova, a great, great mare in her own right, came up against one of the finest fillies of modern times in her two-year-old career when encountering the subsequent Diane and Arc winner, Zarkava.

Without Zarkava in the equation should would probably have scored 17 times from 19 outings. In any case her only real blip was an understandable defeat by the English Guineas winner, Makfi, having to concede a Classic colt 4lb in the Jacques Le Marois on very soft terrain at Deauville.

Canford Cliffs, who had been beaten at levels by Makfi in that Guineas, comes out as an almost identical animal to Goldikova on that form line. If continuing to progress, the years should tell, but only a fool would judge that Goldikova has finally lost her kick. Only the race next Tuesday will tell us.

DAQMAN’S BETS
LAY to win 10pts ATYAAB (2.30 Redcar)
BET 8pts win (nap) APRIL FOOL (3.20 Salisbury)
BET 2.7pts win and place KIWI BAY, and 1.4pts win and 1pt place NORTHERN FLING plus 1.4pts (saver) BOOM AND BUST (3.35 Redcar)
BET 11pts win ISTISHAARA (4.30 Salisbury)
BET 2pts win and 1pt place on each CAMBERLEY TWO and PICCOLETE (5.00 Salisbury)
BET 3.1pts win and place DANVILLA (5.30 Salisbury)