Racing: Three more colts join richest Derby yet


"The thoroughbred exists because its selection has not depended on experts, technicians or zoologists, but on a piece of wood - the winning post of the Epsom Derby. If you base your criteria on anything else you will get something else, not the thoroughbred"
Federico Tesio, the breeder of Ribot, the undefeated winner of 16 races in the 1950s.

"The thoroughbred exists because its selection has not depended on experts, technicians or zoologists, but on a piece of wood - the winning post of the Epsom Derby. If you base your criteria on anything else you will get something else, not the thoroughbred" Federico Tesio, the breeder of Ribot, the undefeated winner of 16 races in the 1950s.

It may not be the best Derby winner we see scuttling past Tesio's winning post on the Surrey Downs this Saturday, but it will certainly be the richest.

Indeed, in attempting to fulfil the Italian's assertion that the blue riband is at least the most prestigious contest in this part of the world the Epsom executive will now preside over the richest race ever staged in Europe. Following the addition of Dutch Gold, Kris Kin and Norse Dancer at yesterday's supplementary stage (at a cost of £90,000 each) the prize pot for the 224th Derby has swollen to £1.47 million.

Dutch Gold, who is trained in Newmarket by Clive Brittain for Sheikh Marwan Al Maktoum, won the Group Three Chester Vase last time out to earn a place in the premier Classic. "Dutch Gold is in very good form," the trainer said yesterday. "He'll be going there with a big chance."

Kris Kin, who lives just across the lane from Dutch Gold at Sir Michael Stoute's Freemason Lodge stable, was another to stamp his credentials at Chester, in the Group Three company of the Dee Stakes.

Norse Dancer belied odds of 100-1 to finish a close third to another Derby aspirant, Refuse To Bend, in the 2,000 Guineas. Jeff Smith, the owner of turf luminaries such as Chief Singer, Lochsong and Persian Punch, believes the David Elsworth-trained colt could be the best he has ever had.

Connections of Summerland, who was six lengths behind Dutch Gold in the Vase, are waiting to see if their colt makes the race. There are 24 runners still left in but there is a safety limit of 20, and if more than that number are around on Thursday at the final declaration stage, the lowest-rated will be balloted out. "He will be declared. We are keen to run him but he might not get in. He's on the borderline," John Gosden, Summerland's trainer, said yesterday. "The horse worked this morning and worked well. His [Saint-Cloud] form links in well with Alberto Giacometti. Our horses are firing at the moment but we need to get in."

Alberto Giacometti is one of five horses still in the race trained by Aidan O'Brien (Balestrini, Brian Boru, Handel and The Great Gatsby are the others). If O'Brien saddles all five, it would be unprecedented in the recent history of the Derby and take him ahead of the men who have had four runners in a single year since 1965, namely Ryan Price (1975), Sir Michael Stoute (1994), Saeed bin Suroor (2000) and Barry Hills (2001).

O'Brien, who also aims to make history by being the first trainer to saddle three consecutive winners of the Derby following the exploits of Galileo and High Chaparral, is represented principally by Brian Boru. The Sadler's Wells colt was only third on his Leopardstown reappearance but O'Brien is not downcast. "We were happy with his run," the trainer said yesterday. "It was obviously his first competitive race this year. It was a little bit slower than we would have liked but he came home well and we've been happy with him since."

This will not be a Derby with a short-priced favourite, as there is no Nijinksy, Shergar or Nashwan in the field. Indeed, the identity of the market leader come Saturday afternoon remains a wrestle between the Irish colts Brian Boru, Refuse To Bend and Alamshar.

With the ground riding good, with good to firm patches, Johnny Murtagh, the rider of the last-named, believes conditions have swung in his favour. "The ground is good at the moment and I hope it stays like that," the jockey said.

Murtagh has already won the Blue Riband twice, with Sinndar, trained like Alamshar by John Oxx, in 2000, and High Chaparral. He sees their likeness in this year's conveyance. "Alamshar's a good balanced horse and I think he saves the best for the track, so he has quite a few similarities to both Derby winners I've ridden," Murtagh added.

"They have to have everything at Epsom. They have to have speed, stamina and most of all they have to have attitude and the constitution for such a big day, because it's massive." Especially the money.

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