Racing: Fallon factor hidden by O'Brien multiple choice

The Derby used to be such a simple race, with just one of the myriad questions that attached themselves to lesser races. All a punter had to do in the old days was consider a single issue: what is Lester going to ride?

The Derby used to be such a simple race, with just one of the myriad questions that attached themselves to lesser races. All a punter had to do in the old days was consider a single issue: what is Lester going to ride?

These are more complex times, but the strategy does carry a modern application: what is Kieren going to ride? Kieren Fallon has won the last two Derbys, on North Light and Kris Kin, and whatever colt he decides to partner on 4 June will get a bashing in the bookmakers' lists. Whatever, though, is a rather grand question itself at the moment.

We can determine that Fallon will ride an animal for his new employers at Ballydoyle, but that was a flimsy tool of deduction yesterday when Aidan O'Brien nominated seven contenders among the 27 horses left in the Blue Riband.

At least as surprising as O'Brien's runners left in were those omitted. Footstepsinthesand, whom we were belatedly told had suffered a stone bruise in the course of his 2,000 Guineas victory, is out, as is Albert Hall, who was second to Motivator in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster last season and ran in York's Dante Stakes this, both appointments suggesting Epsom was a natural stopping-off point.

A last-minute search is now being conducted to find the magnificent one among the Ballydoyle seven. The markets tell us that Gypsy King, whom insiders at the Ballydoyle yard tell us has always been O'Brien's idea of his Derby horse, is the one. But then there is also Grand Central, who ran in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial, the modern pointer to Blue Riband success. Grand Central has been beaten twice this season yet still the money comes for him. He must be some sort of gallops horse.

Also in the Ballydoyle herd are Falstaff, the early favourite to be the Derby pacemaker, the apparently exposed Indigo Cat and Almighty, as well as the more interesting Scorpion and Oratorio. The former is unbeaten, albeit after a single maiden race, and more will be known after he tackles another Derby consideration in John Oxx's Ehsan in the Gallinule Stakes at the Curragh on Sunday. Oratorio, the 2,000 Guineas fourth, runs in the Irish equivalent on the same card in another Ballydoyle block booking.

O'Brien saddles almost half the field in his domestic colts' Classic, with Albert Hall being found a place there, in addition to the less vaunted Showdance and Hills Of Aran. Also on a retrieval mission is Godolphin's Dubawi, a supposed wonder horse before the 2,000 Guineas but just another disappointment afterwards as he trotted home in fifth place.

Team Dubai appear to have a weak challenge for the Blue Riband itself as Dubawi is entered with another flop, the Predominate Stakes third, Belenus, as well as Shamardal, who is much more likely to go for the French version, the Prix du Jockey Club.

The owner with the mostest is Michael Tabor, who has four declarations in his own name and one with Sue Magnier, Sir Michael Stoute's Chester maiden winner, Mountain High.

The partnership is also represented by Mona Lisa in the Oaks, for which 16 fillies were declared yesterday, though they also have the option of supplementing Sunday's Irish 1,000 Guineas favourite, Virginia Waters, for £20,000 at the five-day stage (the Derby supplementary fee is a more meaty £75,000).

Also in the Oaks mix are the trial winners Eswarah, the ante-post favourite, Cassydora and Something Exciting, the last-named having scooped the Lupe Stakes at Goodwood on Wednesday. "Something Exciting is in good form and has come out of the race well," David Elsworth, her trainer, reported yesterday. "She's been led out for a pick of grass and has a great big smile on her face."

* Yesterday's meeting at Goodwood had to be abandoned after a thick sea fret descended on the track just before the first race. Officials at the Sussex venue tried in vain to save the card by delaying the opening race but were forced to abandon at 2.45pm, 35 minutes after the race had been due off.

Hyperion'S Selections For Today'S Other Meetings:

Bath: 6.20 Mister Right 6.50 Mujood 7.20 Von Wessex 7.50 Wingspeed 8.20 Cape St Vincent 8.50 Music Teacher

Stratford: 6.10 Party Games 6.40 Viscount Bankes 7.10 Natal 7.40 Jack Of Spades 8.10 Lord Beau 8.40 Sungates

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