Classic question answered by Cliche

RACING: The winner of the main Derby trial is not even entered for Epsom but vindicates Sheikh Mohammed's hothouse experiment
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The Independent Online
The Dante Stakes has had several sponsors in recent seasons but nowadays it is the Homeowners Dante, a name which seemed all too appropriate here yesterday when its reputation as the premier Derby trial was devalued more swiftly than a yuppie's flat on Black Monday.

Classic Cliche struggled home half a length ahead of Annus Mirabilis, with Presenting and Salmon Ladder, the big Epsom talking horses, soundly beaten. However, the winner has no chance of emulating Erhaab, last year's Dante winner, by following up in the Derby. He was not considered worthy even of an entry. As for Presenting, the rain which worked its way into the Knavesmire overnight certainly did nothing to assist his cause, but his was a poor effort none the less and the 16-1 (from 7-1) offered by William Hill for Epsom is a fair assessment of his chance. Salmon Ladder (25-1 from 9-1) can safely be forgotten about.

The upshot at the other end of the market is that Pennekamp, the 2,000 Guineas winner, is now odds-on for the Derby with both Coral (8-11) and Ladbrokes (4-5), while Hills offer 5-4 only because the "with a run" clause has been removed from Celtic Swing, a 9-4 chance. Munwar is best-priced at 10-1 (Hills), and every other candidate is available at a minimum of 14-1.

If the Dante failed to fulfil its role as a Derby trial, in its capacity as a Group Two event worth more than pounds 60,000 to the winner it was yet another striking success for the Dubai-based Godolphin operation of Sheikh Mohammed and the trainer, Saeed bin Suroor. "Since 1 April we've had winners in six different countries, four in Grade One races and now in a Group Two," Simon Crisford, Godolphin's racing manager, said. "Physically, Classic Cliche did extremely well out in Dubai, and he'd been working well with older horses so we knew he would run a good race. Obviously, after winning a race like this you have to think about Derbys. Walter [Swinburn] said that he would get another couple of furlongs and the boss may want to supplement him for the French Derby."

The advantage conferred by a winter in the Dubai sun may not last long - Crisford feels that "within a month it starts to wear off" - but at the moment it is a significant factor which will certainly weigh in favour of Moonax in this afternoon's Yorkshire Cup. Indeed, it is probably good for competition that Godolphin has no representative in the Irish 2,000 Guineas at The Curragh on Sunday, though Hamdan al Maktoum, Sheikh Mohammed's brother, could hardly have a stronger hand with two of the first three in the betting.

Bahri, third in the Newmarket 2,000, and Nwaamis are the colts concerned, at 6-4 and 4-1 respectively, while Peter Chapple-Hyam also has two strong contenders in Spectrum (11-4) and Prince Arthur (7-1). The home side does not have a single entry at single-figure odds in Ladbrokes' betting, and they must be grateful that Henry Cecil's Charnwood Forest was taken out of the race yesterday, when 15 names were left in at the five-day stage.

Spectrum, quoted at 14-1 for the Derby by Hills, now seems to be the only colt who could make a serious advance through the ante-post betting (though the 16-1 chance Vettori, the French 2,000 Guineas winner and another who gallops for Godolphin, is unlikely to be longer than 10-1 if he lines up).

If the Dante failed as a Derby trial, though, there was at least one positive hint for Epsom on yesterday's card, when Brave Edge quickened past Saddlehome and Name The Tune in the sprint handicap.

Richard Hannon, Brave Edge's trainer, has already marked out the five- furlong dash on Derby day as the gelding's next assignment. "He's got speed to burn and he can just sit in behind them and produce a bit," Hannon said. He produced more than a bit yesterday, showing an impressive turn of foot in view of the fact that he had, like the rest of the field, been at something approaching full pelt from the off.

It is a tip to bear in mind when examining the Derby day card, and one thing at least seems certain. Unless something dramatic occurs in the next three weeks, the sprint handicap may be a much more appealing betting medium than the Classic.

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