Racing: Dettori to break Derby jinx by giving star status to understudy Linda's Lad

There may be more valuable races around the world than the Vodafone Derby, but none is more precious. Certainly there remains no better way for André Fabre to test his belief that Visindar, hot favourite at Epsom today, is the best European colt of his generation. As champion trainer of France for each of the past 19 seasons, Fabre can be assumed to have a rough idea of what he is talking about. How ironic, then, if the peculiar demands made by the great race should reveal Visindar to be not even the best colt in his own stable.

After all, when it comes to this venerable challenge, there are many dimensions to the word "best". It is not enough merely to be the quickest in the field, or the most agile, or the hardiest. These individual qualifications might well identify three different colts. The glory of the Derby is that it tends to be won by the horse closest to the paradigm, the "best" compound of miscellaneous assets.

Of course, having the best jockey as well can do no harm to your chance. Again, however, that is a relative concept. The midweek stampede to back his chosen mount, Horatio Nelson, confirmed that Kieren Fallon has taken over the mantle of Lester Piggott as the modern master of this most fiendish of tracks. Three of his last five Derby rides have won.

In contrast Frankie Dettori has yet to gild popular esteem by winning the race, and he makes no secret of the way this gnaws at his sense of fulfilment. Yet his wins in the Oaks and Coronation Cup leave no doubt that he rides the course beautifully, and circumstances have conspired in his favour today.

Dettori rides Linda's Lad, perceived by Fabre as a yeoman understudy to Visindar and duly available at the working man's price of 14-1. Yet this colt must answer far fewer questions than the favourite, and looks bombproof each-way.

It would be typical of the fitful fortunes of his vocation if Dettori, now 35, were finally to nail the Derby in the year when he had most despaired of success.

As stable jockey to Godolphin, he rides some of the most valuable thoroughbreds in the world: horses like Dubai Millennium, who suffered his sole defeat when boiling over and failing to get home in the 1999 Derby.

Unfortunately, Sheikh Mohammed's flagship stable has hit rough seas this season, and Dettori was reconciled to riding its last feasible Derby candidate, a rank outsider named Winged Cupid. Last Sunday, however, it was decided that Godolphin should miss Epsom altogether, and Dettori was suddenly free to take the mount on Linda's Lad.

None of his 17 rivals have demonstrated as thoroughly as this colt that he will both stay the distance and handle the dizzy descent round Tattenham Corner. Linda's Lad won the Lingfield Derby Trial, of all the rehearsals much the closest replica of the Derby course and distance. He coasted downhill that day like Franz Klammer, and showed ample speed to claim a position among the hustle and bustle of a bigger field.

True, he did not look quite so impressive once off the bridle, hard driven to beat an unexciting rival in a photo. But he was carrying a massive penalty for his success in an élite race in France last autumn, and was plainly uncomfortable on the fast ground.

Conditions will be kinder today, though rain would certainly not harm his chance. And this has never been a colt to waste energy in pointless swagger. The better the opposition, the better he runs. He will never look flamboyant, but the most demanding stamina test he has faced seems guaranteed to yield a career best today.

Visindar is a far more flamboyant colt and could conceivably justify even the extravagant expectations that have preceded him since the spring. But odds of around 9-4 offer no value at all. He has run only in small fields on flat tracks over shorter distances, and his record is more style than substance.

Though his sire, Sinndar, himself won the Derby, his dam's family tree brings together several branches of American speed and you could not be adamant that he will get home. Overall the potential excuses for defeat are too numerous for anyone to be making such generous assumptions in Visindar's favour.

Horatio Nelson evidently worked best of the four Ballydoyle runners earlier in the week, and will presumably emulate the improvement made by so many other horses in the yard for their first run this season. But he is not absolutely guaranteed to stay, and he should not be half the price of the colt that beat him in the Dewhurst last autumn and ran so well in the 2,000 Guineas.

Sir Percy has the best form in the race and only reservations about his stamina tempers hope in his chance.

Septimus looks too dour to win a Derby - the St Leger could be his race - whereas Dylan Thomas is a doubtful stayer, and did not seem especially happy to be given such a hard race in his trial.

Fallon must have been tempted by Papal Bull, also owned by his patrons but trained by Sir Michael Stoute. This progressive colt demonstrated the necessary stamina and agility in the Chester Vase, and his slothful demeanour disguises the likelihood that he should give Robert Winston a most exciting first Derby ride. He was certainly in significant demand on the eve of the race, William Hill cutting his odds to 8-1.

The fact that Stoute recommended that Papal Bull be supplemented commands attention, and likewise the faith shown by the trainer of Hala Bek, despite his worrying lack of experience. Atlantic Waves will stay but probably lacks class, leaving Championship Point as the best remaining value.

He would be unbeaten but for bumping into Linda's Lad at Deauville last summer, and his remarkable trainer would love to wrest attention from the trifling distraction of England v Jamaica. But even Mick Channon may have to accept that the dominant figure today would sooner treat success as an omen for Francesco Totti and friends.

The Experts' Predictions

1. Linda's Lad
2. Papal Bull
3. Sir Percy
Best outsider: Championship Point

1. Linda's Lad
2. Septimus
3. Championship Point
Best outsider: Mountain

1. Papal Bull
2. Linda's Lad
3. Visindar
Best outsider: Dragon Dancer

The unlucky 13 - Dettori's Derby record of underachievement

1992 Pollen Count 16th

1993 Wolf Prince 8th

1994 Linney Head 10th

1995 Tamure 2nd

1996 Shantou 3rd

1997 Bold Demand 9th

1998 Cape Verdi 9th

1999 Dubai Millennium (left) 9th

2001 Tobougg 3rd

2002 Naheef 7th

2003 Graikos 8th

2004 Snow Ridge 7th

2005 Dubawi 3rd

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map