Cliche to silence Swing superlatives

RACING: Fortune may not favour the fainthearted as the 'wonder horse' must finally prove himself
Click to follow
The Independent Online
BY GREG WOOD

The more you consider Peter Savill's decision to send Celtic Swing to Chantilly for tomorrow's Prix du Jockey-Club (French Derby) rather than the original version at Epsom a week today, the more misguided it seems. Initial reaction tended to concentrate on how suitable, or otherwise, the two courses might be for last year's champion two-year-old, but when you move on to contemplate the possible outcomes tomorrow, it is ever harder to understand how either Savill or his horse can win in anything but the simplest sense of the word.

The basic scenarios are these. If Celtic Swing is beaten tomorrow, even his owner will no longer be able to pretend that the colt is a champion. If he wins, but only narrowly, everyone will point out that it's only the French Derby, and that with such a moderate field to beat he should really have won by further. And of course, if he spreadeagles his opponents in the manner of Old Vic six years ago, the accusations of folly and faintheartedness which were aimed at Savill on Thursday may return with even greater force.

We can surely discount, incidentally, any suggestion that an effortless win for Celtic Swing tomorrow might persuade Savill to send him to Epsom as well. Classic horses simply do not contest two Derbys in six days, while it would also make Savill's assertion that the decision to run at Chantilly was taken with his colt's best interests at heart sound hollow indeed.

This, surely, will be Celtic Swing's best chance to win a Derby. It may be his only chance too. Eleven opponents stand in his way, four of whom also hail from British stables - Classic Cliche, Flemensfirth, Commoner and Indian Light - while the principal representatives of the home team appear to be Rifapour (trained by Alain du Royer-Dupre) and Diamond Mix (Andre Fabre).

Astonishingly, given that Fabre has sent out the winners of hundreds of Group One races throughout Europe, he has yet to claim his domestic Derby. It must be an omission which irritates him, as he will saddle a total of four runners in tomorrow's race. Diamond Mix is expected to put up the strongest showing simply because he is the chosen mount of Thierry Jarnet, Fabre's stable jockey, but since all his form is on heavy going and the ground at Chantilly is currently good, it may be wiser to look elsewhere for dangers to the favourite.

Rifapour, owned by the Aga Khan, is a more credible rival. He has winning form at the trip in the Group Two Prix Hocquart, a race in which he made up a remarkable amount of ground in the closing stages. He must have every chance of making the frame, but at the likely odds, Classic Cliche appeals as a better each-way bet.

This year's Dante Stakes at York was written off by some as a poor renewal following Classic Cliche's success last month, simply because the winner did not figure among the entries for the Derby at Epsom. The names had to be in, however, before the winter holiday in Dubai which seems to have improved the former resident of Henry Cecil's yard by at least a stone.

On the book, Classic Cliche has little chance of beating Celtic Swing, but whether the favourite will be the same horse he was at Newmarket when narrowly beaten in the 2,000 Guineas is a matter of sufficient doubt to scotch any thoughts of a bet.

Savill, remember, is convinced that Celtic Swing found being let down on the fast ground a Newmarket a most unpleasant experience. When asked for an effort tomorrow, the colt might just have his own ideas. It is, at least, enough of a possibility to make an each-way bet against him essential, and the 8-1 about Classic Cliche with Ladbrokes and Coral seems the ideal option.

Celtic Swing's appearance at Chantilly could not have been timed better for the BBC, which has just re-acquired the television rights for French racing. There are British runners too in the Group One Prix Jean Prat, notably Annus Mirabilis and Torrential, but Bobinski, a Fabre-trained half-brother to Old Vic, will take some beating.

The less said the better about the BBC's offerings from Lingfield today, though Roger The Butler (3.00) should go well, so too Emerging Market (3.40) at Newmarket.

Comments