10/15/2004 11:00PM

Haafhd scores Champion victory


Haafhd emerged from his summerlong doldrums on Saturday to land the $640,000, Group 1 Champion Stakes on a Newmarket course that was nearly waterlogged after three days of rain.

The winner of the 2000 Guineas on May 1, Haafhd had looked like anything but a classic winner in his next two starts, finishing fourth in the St. James's Palace Stakes and ninth in the Sussex Stakes. Trainer Barry Hills then rested the colt for 11 weeks, and the freshening did him wonders.

Haafhd reveled in ground labeled soft, heavy in places, despite never before having run on anything worse than good. Jockey Richard Hills put the 12-1 Haafhd on the lead 1 1/2 furlongs from the line and was quickly clear. His winning margin over the 20-1 Chorist was 2 1/2 lengths, the straight 10 furlongs traveled in 2:06.90.

Azamour, the Irish Champion Stakes winner who had beaten Haafhd into fourth in the St. James's Palace, was uncomfortable in the going but still finished gamely to be third, a length behind Chorist. Refuse to Bend, the Eclipse Stakes winner, was next in fifth, but his Godolphin stablemate, Doyen, sent off as the 3-1 favorite, was a dull seventh, beaten 11 1/2 lengths.

Lucky Story, recently second to Rakti in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, was distanced, while his Mark Johnston-trained stablemate Mister Monet broke down early in the race.

Saturday's $457,000 Dewhurst Stakes may have produced the most exciting winner of the day on a card that included seven group races. The seven-furlong Group 1 Dewhurst went to the brilliant Shamardal, a son of the hot first-year sire Giant's Causeway. Shamardal led throughout under Kevin Darley to defeat the recent Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere winner, Oratorio, by 2 1/2 lengths.

Sent off at a generous 9-2, the unbeaten Shamardal, previously the winner of the Group 2 Vintage Stakes lengths over the Breeders' Cup Juvenile-bound Wilko, covered the seven furlongs in 1:27.16.

Etlaala, undefeated 9-4 favorite, never got involved and came home eighth of nine, beaten 20 lengths.

Shamardal, trained by Mark Johnston, may have clinched the European juvenile championship with he victory.

Meanwhile, a daughter of Giant's Causeway served notice that she will be a force to be reckoned with next year.

The filly, Maids Causeway, gave Barry Hills a second big-race victory on the day when she outgamed Penkenna Princess by a short head in the seven-furlong Group 2 Rockfel Stakes. The 3-1 Maids Causeway, who was timed in 1:28.93, had been second to the highly regarded Playful Act in the Group 1 Fillies Mile last time. She will be pointed to the 1000 Guineas.

Winless in two starts since winning the Godolphin Mile on dirt at Nad Al Sheba in March, Firebreak was the beneficiary of a cagey front-running ride by Frankie Dettori in the Victor Chandler Challenge Stakes. He held on gamely to hold off a late challenge from Keltos by a length. Firebreak covered the seven furlongs in 1:27.22 as the 11-2 second choice. Polar Bear, the 5-1 favorite, was a neck back in third.