French raise Guineas stakes

RACING: The bookmakers are impressed by a Chantilly work-out and cut the odds against a win by the chief rival to Celtic Swing
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Celtic Swing worked for a mile on his home gallops in West Sussex yesterday, pleasing Kevin Darley, his jockey in Saturday's 2,000 Guineas. But more significant action was occurring on the other side of the Channel where the British-trained colt's main rivals were also being put through final preparations for the first colts' Classic.

Pennekamp and Diffident, second and third favourites in the Guineas market, completed their rehearsals on Chantilly's Les Reservoirs gallops, with Pennekamp proving particularly impressive.

The pair moved well in separate gallops over six and a half furlongs. Pennekamp, ridden by Sylvain Guillot, quickened 10 lengths clear of two galloping companions while Diffident finished about four lengths up on his workmates. Andr Fabre, their trainer, is reported to have been delighted with the exercise.

Anthony Stroud, racing manager to the colts' owner, Sheikh Mohammed, who was among the onlookers, said: "It was a very pleasing workout. Pennekamp's was a confidence- boosting gallop."

Coral immediately cut Pennekamp's odds to 7-2 from 9-2 and pushed his stablemate out a point to 6-1. Celtic Swing remains the 4-6 favourite.

Pennekamp was also in demand with Ladbrokes who cut his price to 3-1 from 4-1 and his Derby odds to 5-1 from 6-1. Diffident was eased to 11- 2 from 9-2 for the Guineas.

At Lady Herries's stables in Angmering Park, Darley was in the saddle on Celtic Swing for the first time since the colt's victory in the Greenham Stakes 10 days ago.

Darley came away confident that his mount is at a higher level of fitness than at Newbury, where he beat Bahri on his return to action. "It was a nice piece of work which was really to give him a good blow. He was a long way off 100 per cent at Newbury but that race has tightened him up. You can tell he's had a race," the jockey said.

"There are some good horses that deserve respect, such as Pennekamp and Diffident, but I am quite confident. Celtic Swing has done everything asked of him so far. He always rises to the occasion."

The only factor concerning the Lady Herries camp is the weather. Sunny weather has been drying out the surface at Newmarket.

Peter Savill, the colt's owner, has ordered Nick Babbington, his racing manager, to walk the course to make sure the track's watering operation will guarantee there is no jar in the ground.

Darley added: "Newmarket has been dry a long time and any water will quickly evaporate in this weather. We don't want firm ground but, provided there is no jar, everything should be all right."

Nick Lees, clerk of the course at Newmarket, is optimistic over the conditions. "I very much doubt that it will go firm. The ground should be good on Thursday and good to firm by the weekend," he said yesterday.

"It's very warm today but we don't need to pour on a lot of water. We're watering today and tomorrow and we watered last week as well."

Painter's Row, the fourth unbeaten colt in the 2,000 Guineas line-up, completed his final main piece of work on Friday and his participation was confirmed after his trainer, Peter Chapple-Hyam, spoke to owner Lord Weinstock yesterday.

"He definitely runs and Myself is virtually certain to run in the 1,000 Guineas," said Chapple-Hyam, whose Prince Arthur won the Premio Parioli (Italian 2,000) in Rome on Sunday.

"Painter's Row is in good form, although everyone seems to give him no chance. He might not have the speed, but it's a trip that he wants and he will run a very big race. He'll love the ground. I think Spectrum will be aimed at the Irish 2,000 Guineas, while General Monash heads for the French version. So it's one down, four to go."