Racing: Desert Destiny can find Guineas reward for gritty endurance

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The Independent Online

The merit of the 2,000 Guineas form is examined in the Irish equivalent at the Curragh today and if the Newmarket race proves to be bogus then the cross of St George will become a tatty ensign indeed.

It is almost certainly to be a shamrock Derby at Epsom this year, the Blue Riband virtually consigned westwards across the Irish Sea for the fourth consecutive year.

Now we will discover if the ragged forces of Albion can at least mount some sort of offensive in the mile category. For while Refuse To Bend may have been yet another Irish winner up the Rowley Mile this month, he has gone on to longer challenges. Those closest to him at Newmarket included three British-trained horses and they stay at eight furlongs today in an effort to staunch the bleeding Classic.

Zafeen (the Guineas runner-up), Tout Seul (fourth) and Saturn (fifth) form half the British challenge in a field of 16 this afternoon, the largest gathering for 18 years.

We have become accustomed to Aidan O'Brien swamping this race both with runners and results and, once again, the young trainer has five runners as he attempts to record his third whitewash in a row. Yet there is a rare vulnerability about Ballydoyle this year, a sense that the horses tend to be running faster in O'Brien's slumber than they are on the track.

It is, perhaps, symbolic that one of the Co Tipperary runners is Great Pyramid, who possesses the blood of last year's winner, his full-brother Rock Of Gibraltar, yet little of the ability. All round it looks a weaker pedigree this season.

Nevertheless, two of the Ballydoyle fleet are course winners - France and Tomahawk, the stable-selected mount of Michael Kinane - a credential owned by just one other runner in the field, Tout Seul. Fulke Johnson Houghton's colt ran well in his first Guineas, at the same time creating the impression that a mile is outside his optimum range.

There are no staying worries about Zafeen. More dubious are the big horse's prospects of handling the pudding going.

One who should not fail on either score is the representative from David Loder's in-from string in Desert Destiny (3.45). He, too, already has a Guineas in his belt, having survived the horrors of a Poule d'Essai des Poulains two weeks ago. Mormons and double-glazing vendors get fewer doors shut in their faces than Desert Destiny suffered that Parisian day, but, to his credit, he kept on knocking. With the domestic team lacking an obvious standard bearer, he looks the one.

The fare in Britain today is distinctly runny, as is the going at Haydock, where the one indicator of the heavy ground should supersede all others. This one-trick system entertains hopes for Silca Boo (1.40) and Zabaglione (nap 2.10) who would enjoy running through the dessert of his name. At Kempton, the best bet is Kalaman (next best 3.05), Kalanisi's half-brother, who would be running in the Irish Guineas if the ground was better. The Heron Stakes is a considerably easier option.

The real stuff continues in the Irish 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh tomorrow, when Six Perfections attempts to make up for a luckless passage in the Newmarket equivalent. Much of the blame for the filly's defeat that day was deposited at the door of her jockey, Thierry Thulliez, who now relinquishes the mount to Johnny Murtagh. According to disingenuous connections, the switch has been prompted by a desire to have an Irish jockey in Ireland. It is clearly a home-town policy formulated after Thulliez took part in East Anglia.

The history book tells us the French have not won an Irish 1,000 since L'Attrayante in 1983, but Murtagh will have to be some sort of clod to avoid victory tomorrow.

The block bookings again include O'Brien, who will saddle L'Ancresse and Yesterday, the joint-favourite for the Oaks, as well as Kevin Prendergast, who is three-handed in a race which he has already collected with Pidget and Arctique Royale. The one that matters, though, is the singleton, the one trained in France by Pascal Bary.