Racing: Sir Percy and Hala Bek may yet challenge Visindar at Epsom

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The Independent Online

The bookmakers seem to have got it into their heads that Visindar cannot be beaten in the Vodafone Derby, with one firm now as short as 11-8 about the French colt, but the home defence is rallying in heartening fashion. It now seems possible that Sir Percy and Hala Bek will make it to Epsom on Saturday, despite their troubled preparations.

In terms of experience, they could scarcely have less in common. Sir Percy was the most accomplished juvenile in Britain last year, and ran second to George Washington in the 2,000 Guineas on his reappearance, whereas Hala Bek has had only one start, winning a maiden at Newbury last month.

Michael Jarvis had to scratch him from the Dante Stakes at York last week after a dirty scope, but yesterday was able to gallop the colt for the first time since and afterwards kept the door to the Derby open. "He worked a mile and Philip [Robinson] was very happy with him," Jarvis said.

"He passed his lead horse but he's a horse that just does enough. He is inexperienced, and ideally we could have had another run somewhere, but when I saw the conditions for the Dante I wasn't too sorry we weren't there. We are all keen to go, as long as we feel the horse is A1 - you don't win Derbys half-cock. He has had a setback, but was pretty fit before those few days off."

Sir Percy was jarred up by the firm ground at Newmarket but Marcus Tregoning has been sounding increasingly positive over recent days. Exercised conservatively, the colt has apparently been moving with fluency but his trainer wants to give him a more searching test before committing him to Epsom. His gallops were too wet yesterday, but Tregoning is optimistic that he will be able to work Sir Percy this morning.

It would be a terrific boost to the Classic if Sir Percy were to line up. Certainly his form is more solid than Visindar's, and there is no way bookmakers would be offering 10-1 but for the doubts over his participation.

Morale in his stable was heightened by the debut success of Samorra at Goodwood yesterday, where listed races were won by Blue Monday and Sonny Red. Winner of a Newmarket maiden on his debut, the latter picked up again when menaced by Chief Editor and Richard Hannon may run him in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot granted easy ground.

Hannon said of Sonny Red: "He hit a bit of flat spot and had a look at the other horse, but picked up again and said 'Cheerio'."