Racing: Pacemaker gives Alamshar an edge over O'Brien team

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The Independent Online

The countdown is getting into single figures now and those colts that wish to be taken even slightly seriously for the Derby will have to step out of line either this weekend or at York's Dante meeting next week.

The countdown is getting into single figures now and those colts that wish to be taken even slightly seriously for the Derby will have to step out of line either this weekend or at York's Dante meeting next week.

Out of line could aptly describe one supposed trial in the shape of Lingfield's version this afternoon. The Surrey course may have the geography of Epsom but its record as providing Blue Riband winners is fast becoming history. The trend seems most unlikely to be bucked today as the Group Three race is populated by six horses hardly fit to pull the carriages at Epsom Downs.

The real stuff comes at Leopardstown tomorrow in their Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial, a contest fit for its name. For the last three years now, the winner has received automatic right to go on to success at Epsom. That is the legacy that High Chaparral, Galileo and Sinndar have created.

The one deemed most likely this time around is another colt from the house of Sinndar, John Oxx's Alamshar. He will be afforded the use of a pacemaker in a bid to avoid a repeat of his defeat on this course a month ago.

Alamshar failed by half-a-length to peg back the front-running Aidan O'Brien pacemaker Balestrini in the Ballysax Stakes over this 10 furlongs. He had been set the sort of task which would have had Hercules bursting into tears. Despite his defeat, Alamshar did well to get anywhere near Balestrini, a fact not lost on several observers.

The subsequent support for Alamshar was such that he eventually supplanted one of this afternoon's rivals, Brian Boru, at the head of the Derby ante-post betting. As another proving ground is put before him, Oxx's colt is now 7-2 joint favourite for the Classic with another compatriot, the 2,000 Guineas winner, Refuse To Bend.

Now it is Alamshar who gets a pacemaker of his own, with Masandam from his Currabeg yard in the line-up to ensure a consistent rhythm to the €86,000 contest. Now we discover if Alamshar is the real deal. "We'll find out a bit more after the next race, we'll see if he's up to it but he's got to keep improving," Oxx said yesterday. "Every time Sinndar went out he was 7lb better than the last run."

The second of Alamshar's two successes last season came in the Beresford Stakes at the Curragh, in which he accounted for Brian Boru by a head. The O'Brien-trained runner-up seeks revenge on his seasonal debut tomorrow but he has to give Alamshar 7lb following his Group One win in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster last October. Seamus Heffernan takes the ride on Brian Boru as stable jockey Kinane will be on duty at Longchamp.

O'Brien also runs The Great Gatsby, fourth to Brian Boru at Doncaster, in the Derrinstown, while the six-runner line-up is completed by Cozzene's Honor and Napper Tandy.

There will be a three-pronged British challenge for the French 2,000 Guineas, the Poule d'Essai des Poulains, at Longchamp tomorrow.

Joining David Loder's supplemented Desert Destiny are Godolphin's Bourbonnais and the Gerard Butler-trained Elusive City. Indeed, the travellers outnumber the home contingent in the contest, as O'Brien lays down three cards. The Ballydoyle trainer, who was successful last season with Landseer, plays to the crowd by fielding the Tetrarch Stakes winner France, as well as Catcher In The Rye and Dalcassian.

The André Fabre-trained Clodovil, yet to be headed in four attempts, spearheads the local challenge after winning the main prep race, the Group Three Prix de Fontainebleau.

The French 1,000 Guineas, the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches, has also been well subscribed to by British stables. The four British fillies are Londonnetdotcom (Mick Channon), Crystal Star (Sir Michael Stoute), Pearl Dance (John Gosden) and Anyaas (Godolphin).

Criquette Head-Maarek's Etoile Montante, owned by Khalid Abdulla and the mount of Richard Hughes, may prove the top local contender. The Prix Lupin, the third Group One event on the card, is a very hot French Derby trial with the unbeaten Dalakhani, Super Celebre and O'Brien's Alberto Giacometti, all declared.

Back at Lingfield today, Coral's morning offer of 18-1 for On The Brink (3.45) deserves early each-way attention.