Racing: Fenton backs Speciosa's Oaks claims

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It was back to reality for Micky Fenton yesterday. Still on a high after winning his first English Classic on fairytale filly Speciosa, the afternoon's work for the 34-year-old journeyman was five rides in the rain at Kempton's all-weather banded meeting, with a third place in the opening sprint the nearest he came to victory.

The bread-and-butter of earning a living was a far cry from the glory on the Rowley Mile 24 hours before, but the 1,000 Guineas memories, and the celluloid evidence, will not be erased. "Before the race I did think she'd be hard to beat," he said, "and the way the race went I hardly saw another horse and it felt great. But looking at the tape, she won even easier than I thought."

Speciosa's next target has yet to be confirmed but Fenton feels the Irish edition of the Guineas in 19 days' time would be a realistic option, despite the filly's tendency to run left-hand-down. The mile at the Curragh is a dog-leg right. "There would be a worry about the track," said the rider, "but if it was easy ground, when they tend to come towards the middle and stands side, that might not be too bad.

"She would go there as favourite and it would be hard to see anything beating her, even if she did come off a straight line. She would be the best filly I've ridden and she's very, very good." Although not in the first flight of fashion at élite levels, Fenton's talent keeps him in demand - only six jockeys have ridden in more races than he this year - and Speciosa was not his first Group One success. He struck up a fine partnership with the Hughie Morrison-trained veteran stayer Alcazar last year and sealed it by winning the Prix Royal-Oak at Longchamp, and five years ago, on Zanzibar for Michael Jarvis, he took the Italian Oaks.

Fenton would like Speciosa to take her chance in the original version of the premier filly Classic, a contest for which the daughter of Danehill Dancer would have to be supplemented. "She has become pretty settled in her races now," he added, " and if she was going to stay a mile and a half anywhere it would be at Epsom. She has got the tactical speed for the course and she is such a tough filly to get by. I can see her just galloping them into the ground like she did at Newmarket."

Our heroine, a feisty miss, was full of herself yesterday despite her exertions in the Rowley Mile mud and living up to her Fen Tigress epithet. "She was a bit sharp this morning," said trainer and part-owner Pam Sly, "We put her out in a play pen on the grass but she got a bit agitated so we had to fetch her back in again. But we'll keep turning her out each day and hopefully she will start to relax a bit."

With the first mile Classics in the formbook, the Derby is now coming into sharper focus, with an assortment of significant trials - at Chester, Lingfield and Leopardstown - looming. The ground on the Roodeye, where the three-day meeting opens tomorrow with an 18-strong, maximum-field Chester Cup, has eased to the good side of firm after steady rain, with more forecast.

In a French Derby prep at Longchamp yesterday the André Fabre-trained Gentlewave lost his unbeaten record by inches after Christophe Soumillon drop-ped his whip a furlong out. With his rider only able to slap his mount's neck with his hand - the colt, whose stablemate Visindar, the Epsom joint-favourite, reappears at Saint-Cloud on Monday - was caught late by outsider Numide.

The answer to the quiz question about Martin Pipe's final winner has turned out to be Acambo, at Haydock on Saturday. From today, the Pond House runners will be officially trained by the 15-times champion's son David, whose first runner in his quest to beat his father's 4,182 domestic victories will be Standin Obligation, who makes his chasing debut at Kelso.

Chris McGrath

Nap: Ionian Spring (Chepstow 2.40)

NB: Plantaganet

(Exeter 7.25)