Racing: Gardens follows Classic path

Franklins Gardens emerged from the Derby scrum to become the shortest-priced domestic contender for the Epsom prize after a battling victory in Lingfield's trial yesterday.

Franklins Gardens emerged from the Derby scrum to become the shortest-priced domestic contender for the Epsom prize after a battling victory in Lingfield's trial yesterday.

The Mark Tompkins-trained colt, named after the Northampton rugby union ground, was made 16-1 by the Tote to convert this half-length success over Let Me Try Again in the Blue Riband, although the son of Halling's Classic chances were rated roughly twice as remote by Hills at 33-1.

Franklins Gardens followed up his win in Epsom's 10-furlong trial last month in similar style, leading three furlongs out before battling on gamely under Darryll Holland to beat off a persistent challenge. He will now go straight to the Derby with credentials akin to those of Tompkins' St Leger winner, Bob's Return, who won the Lingfield trial 10 years ago before finishing sixth to Commander In Chief at Epsom, although the Newmarket trainer's current Classic vehicle boasts a tighter cornering action.

"When Bob won here, the race was pretty much the same and he just held on by a neck," Tompkins said. "They are fairly similar horses and he will go to Epsom now, but I can't see him winning it. I would reckon he will be fifth or sixth but he could just be a Leger horse. We know he handles the track at Epsom and there will be nothing trying harder than him. He is a real fighter."

Holland would be happy to renew the partnership in the Derby, even though "he's not the quickest out of the stalls. I thought I'd give him time to find his feet and he came good at the top of the hill, and I just knew I was on something special coming down. I knew the way the horse was going that they wouldn't get by me. He's very, very tough. He repelled the challenge at Epsom and he's just done the same today. He stays and long term it would be the Leger for him.

"He's won two trials and beaten the best around. We've not seen Aidan's [O'Brien] yet or Godolphin, so we'll have to wait and see. But if they rang up for me to ride him I'd love to," Holland added.

He is likely to be disappointed, though, as the name of Tompkins' stable jockey, Ted Durcan, whose return from injury is imminent, is pencilled in alongside Franklins Gardens for the Derby card on 7 June. "Ted is almost there now and he will be back on Thursday or Friday next week," Tompkins said. "He will be riding Franklins Gardens at Epsom."

Connections will not have long to wait to see how the opposition from the O'Brien and Godolphin camps shapes up, with major Derby trials at Longchamp and Leopardstown today.

The Irish test, the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial, which has been won by the last three Epsom victors, Sinndar, Galileo and High Chaparral, will be all the more informative after Alamshar, the Derby second favourite, was cleared to face five rivals, including O'Brien's Brian Boru. The John Oxx-trained three-year-old was found to have an abscess on a hind leg last Tuesday, but a stable spokesman said yesterday: "He definitely runs. The foot has come right and his blood is right."

Lingfield's Oaks Trial went to the John Dunlop-trained Santa Sophia, who ducked left under pressure when challenged by Henry Cecil's Midsummer, the 6-5 favourite, but kept going once straightened out by Pat Eddery to gain a length-and-a-quarter victory. Neither filly holds an Epsom entry.

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