Racing: Refuse To Bend back in line as champion

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The Independent Online

This season's forgotten Classic hero is likely to jog a few memories in France today. Refuse To Bend, who lost his unbeaten record in the Derby after winning the 2,000 Guineas like a potential champion, steps back into the big-time in the Prix du Moulin, the penultimate Group One stop on the élite miling circuit in Europe. With no dominant presence in the division, the title is up for grabs and it may be that first impressions were, after all, best.

The Dermot Weld-trained colt was hailed as a superstar after his effort on the Rowley Mile, but his dull performance at Epsom, where he could cope with neither the contours of the track nor the step up in distance, blanked him from many minds.

Given ample time to recover from the experience by the consummately canny Weld, he re-emerged quietly at Leopardstown last month to take a Group Three contest with the minimum of fuss and all his old élan.

On the same afternoon, Six Perfections beat her Pascal Bary stablemate, Domedriver, in a higher-profile heat, the Prix Jacques le Marois. The Deauville heroine is absent today, but her short-neck runner-up does duty and five of those behind that day reoppose him: Telegnosis, who finished third; Special Kaldoun (fourth); Nebraska Tornado (sixth); Clodovil (eighth); and Lohengrin (10th).

Statue Of Liberty, Ballydoyle's candidate, can progress after his head second to Reel Buddy in an apparently sub-standard Sussex Stakes. But the main danger to Refuse To Bend, who will have the assistance of a pacemaker, is likely to be the four-year-old filly Bright Sky, whose defeat by Falbrav in the Prix d'Ispahan and victory over Six Perfections in the Prix d'Astarte stand close inspection.

Although relatively unglamorous, the Grosser Preis von Baden is ignored at the punter's peril with the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in mind. In recent years, winners like Lando, Pilsudski, Borgia, Tiger Hill and, most conspicuously, Marienbard 12 months ago have subsequently performed with credit in the Paris showpiece. Next Desert, last year's German Derby winner, is another horse expected to issue a few reminders today. Systematic and Mamool challenge from Britain and Black Sam Bellamy from Ballydoyle.

A forgotten horse, a forgotten race and an almost-forgotten Classic will be renewed on Saturday. Now into its fourth century, the venerable race still provides a formidable and important test, and a fine spectacle.

The field for the 227th St Leger will be set on Thursday when factors like going will be more apparent. Brian Boru, the Aidan O'Brien-trained favourite, will not be inconvenienced by the forecast rain; the ground was soft when he acquired winter Derby favouritism by winning the Racing Post Trophy on Town Moor last year.

The son of Sadler's Wells has not fulfilled middle-distance hopes, but he ran a solid trial for the longest, oldest and toughest Classic when touched off last month by his stablemate, Powerscourt, in what is traditionally one of the best trials, York's Great Voltigeur Stakes. The third that day, Hawk Flyer, bidding to break Sir Michael Stoute's duck in the race, and the progressive filly Moments Of Joy can follow him home.

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