04/15/2010 12:00AM

Elusive Pimpernel romps in Craven


Elusive Pimpernel threw down the gauntlet to St Nicholas Abbey at Newmarket on Thursday with a stunning four-length rout of the Group 3, $100,000 Craven Stakes over the 2000 Guineas course and distance. Pushed along by Ryan Moore when still sixth after a half-mile, Elusive Pimpernel, a son of Elusive Quality trained by John Dunlop, cruised to the lead approaching the three-sixteenths marker and never looked back.

Dancing David was second with the pacesetting Critical Moment third, as the 10-11 winner covered the straight mile on good to firm ground in 1:37.16. Elusive Pimpernel had finished 3 3/4 lengths second to St Nicholas Abbey in the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy on Oct. 24, but has filled out considerably since then. He has been cut by Guineas sponsor Stan James from 14-1 to 5-1, but the Aidan O'Brien-trained St Nicholas Abbey, who will make his seasonal debut in the May 1 classic, remains the 2-1 favorite.

The road to the Guineas switches to Newbury on Saturday. At seven furlongs, the Group 3, $100,000, Greenham Stakes is a key trial for the 2000 Guineas, with three of England's sharpest juvenile group race winners lining up in a short field of five.

The two principles, Arcano and Canford Cliffs, have not run since finishing first and third in the six-furlong, Group 1 Prix Morny at Deauville on August 23. There was just a half-length separating them that day, with European juvenile filly champ Special Duty in between, as Arcano improved to 3 for-3 while ending Canford Cliffs own perfect record. Before the Morny, the Brian Meehan-trained Arcano had won the six-furlong, Group 2 July Stakes. A son of Oasis Dream out of a Daylami mare, he might be a question at a mile, but should be able to handle the Greenham's seven furlongs.

Trained by Richard Hannon, Canford Cliffs had previously impressed at Royal Ascot in winning the six-furlong, Group 2 Coventry Stakes by six lengths. Like Arcano, he has never been beyond six furlongs, and his Tagula-Marju pedigree is not guaranteed to get him much further than that. Another Hannon trainee, Dick Turpin, was 4 for 4 at six furlongs, among them the Group 2 Richmond Stakes, but he was subsequently twice unplaced in Group 1 company at seven furlongs. Should the sprinters fail to stay, the John Gosden-trained Bullwhip, recent winner of a seven-furlong Doncaster maiden, could pick up the pieces.

Meehan will saddle the favored Lady of the Desert in the Group 3, $100,000, Fred Darling Stakes, a seven-furlong trial for the 1000 Guineas. The winner of the Group 3 Princess Margaret Stakes and the Group 2 Lowther Stakes last summer, she was third behind Special Duty in the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes, all of those races at six furlongs. Misheer was a neck in front of her when second in the Cheveley Park but is also a question mark at the distance.

* Deluxe, a Storm Cat half-sister to Banks Hill, Intercontinental, Heat Haze, Champs Elysees, Cacique, and Dansili, won for the second time in two starts at Longchamp on Thursday, taking a one-mile conditions race by a neck. Trained by Andre Fabre for Khalid Abdullah, this daughter of the superb broodmare Hasili will go next in the French 1000 Guineas on May 16.