Esteem joins the Epsom defectors

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Waste paper baskets across the nation were receiving tightly packed betting-slip balls yesterday as three fancied runners were removed from Derby consideration. When the betting sweep kits come out next week, they will not contain the names of Godolphin's Mark Of Esteem and Mick's Love, or Peter Chapple-Hyam's Nash House.

Godolphin, who 12 months ago won the Blue Riband with Lammtarra, will now be without a Derby runner as Kammtarra and Russian Revival will not run either. Just a week ago, the Dubai team appeared to have a strong hand, but then Mark Of Esteem, the 2,000 Guineas winner, was found to be suffering from a temperature and Mick's Love damaged his off-fore leg during a gallop. "Mark Of Esteem has missed too much time in his preparation and Mick's Love has met with a training setback," Simon Crisford, the Godolphin racing manager, said yesterday.

Nash House had been an occupant of racing's hottest chair, ante-post Derby favouritism, until his world came tumbling down in the Dante Stakes at York last month when he almost collapsed in the unsaddling enclosure. "He's just a bit off-colour," a spokeswoman for Chapple-Hyam's Manton yard said. "You can't run in races like the Derby if you are not 100%. We'll wait for the Irish Derby."

Chapple-Hyam and Godolphin need wait only until tomorrow to contest another Derby though, as they have charge of all the British-based representatives in the French version, the Prix du Jockey Club. Chapple-Hyam's High Baroque is likely to prove best of his trio, while Godolphin's Don Micheletto, who was comprehensively outpointed in the French Guineas, needs to show dramatic improvement to cope with the Elie Lellouche-trained favourite, Helessio.

What sounds like a bastardisation of Newmarket and Epsom Downs will host perhaps the greatest racehorse in the world today when Cigar attempts to extend his winning sequence to 15 in the Massachusetts Handicap at Suffolk Downs, a race he won last year. The track cannot be accused of under-selling this event: they have had tee-shirts manufactured, bearing the belief that this is "The Second Coming". It will, however, be more than a parade for Bill Mott's champion as he has to concede between 19lb and 22lb to his opponents.

The nearest we can get to Cigar today within these shores is Chewit, who contests the Tote Credit Leisure Stakes at Lingfield. The grey will not win, though, as Fire Dome (3.00) is much better qualified. His trainer, Richard Hannon, should start the card healthily as MAJOR DUNDEE (nap 2.00) looks on a useful mark.

This was the animal that crept up on Willie Carson like an Apache to the cowboys' camp fire at Lingfield recently and made the Scot a figure of fun. That undeserved victory over Kamari masked the fact that Major Dundee kept on rather well in the closing stages.

The other BBC event features Taufan's Melody, who went on the gourmand's trail around France last year, winning at Lyon and Nantes. He will struggle here to cope with Midnight Legend (2.30), who had a blow-out in the Jockey Club Stakes at the Guineas meeting.

Godolphin should be revived at Newmarket, where Wall Street (next best 3.10) can win his maiden. He was only second on his Kempton debut but that was behind a horse that is now Derby favourite, Dr. Massini.

Branston Abby (4.15) is another likely winner as is Depreciate (3.40). This colt suffered a desperate run last time behind the well-handicapped Farhana.

Highlight of the final day of the National Hunt campaign is the televised Horse and Hound Cup at Stratford. Proud Sun (4.25), the Whitbread Gold Cup runner-up, should outclass these rivals.

THE DERBY (Epsom, 8 June): Ladbrokes: 5-1 Dr Massini, Dushyantor, Glory Of Dancer, 6-1 Alhaarth (from 7-1), Even Top, 10-1 Storm Trooper (from 14-1), 14-1 Double Leaf (from 20-1), 16-1 Shaamit (from 20-1), St Mawes (from 25-1), 20-1 Mystic Knight (from 33-1), 25-1 Chief Contender, Jack Jennings, 40-1 Shantou, 50-1 Zaforum, 66-1 Busy Flight, Prince Of My Heart, 100-1 Acharne, Ashbal, Jiyush, 200-1 others.