Racing: Victory for Brittain against Ireland's Almighty

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The Independent Online

For a trainer with a supposed scattergun approach to placing his horses, Clive Brittain has a sniper's precision in the Chester Vase. The Newmarket man saddled Luso to win the Derby trial a decade ago, Dutch Gold in 2003 and, yesterday, Hattan completed a hat-trick from his last three runners in the race.

For a trainer with a supposed scattergun approach to placing his horses, Clive Brittain has a sniper's precision in the Chester Vase. The Newmarket man saddled Luso to win the Derby trial a decade ago, Dutch Gold in 2003 and, yesterday, Hattan completed a hat-trick from his last three runners in the race.

The Vase does have history as a Blue Riband pointer. Shergar (1981), Henbit (1980) and Hyperion (1933) have gone on to complete the double, and Brittain, perhaps uniquely, believes their company is about to be swollen. "He's won a trial, so why not?" he said.

There were, in fact, reasons aplenty. The race was run in a time seven seconds outside standard and culminated with four horses separated by barely a length. Odds of 33-1 for the Derby are widely available about Hattan and, just over an hour after his success, the chestnut was overtaken in Epsom betting by the winner of a Roodeye maiden. Mountain High is down to as low as 20-1 and raises the intriguing possibility that Kieren Fallon and Sir Michael Stoute could win a third successive Derby.

For now, though, Brittain can dream. Hattan may have been a maiden after three runs, but he swiftly matured yesterday, in one mind at least, into a beast which may fill the one missing British Classic in his trainer's portfolio. The Italian Derby is also a consideration for the colt which comes from a lineage much revered by Brittain.

"This is the family of Warrsan, Luso, Cloud Castle and Needle Gun and you don't take them on or bully them," he said. "You fall in with them and do what they want to do. In return they'll give you 110 per cent if you respect them.

"This horse was working well at home, but, on his first run he was the original cigar horse [almost refused to come out of the stalls at Newmarket]. On his second run he got very shut in at Newmarket, which is hard to do but we managed it. Then, at Sandown, he got knocked all over the course.

"I am so pleased for this horse because he is a tough little devil. He's got guts and he's still learning. When he really gets going he'll find another gear."

At the age of 71, Brittain's sheer relish for the job is undimmed. This is the man who sent out the 500-1 shot Terimon to finish second to Nashwan in the 1989 Blue Riband. He is not going until he goes one place better. "The Derby is one of the few races I've never won," he said, "and I'd like to win 10 before I retire so I'd better get a move on."

Chester was once the fortress site of the 20th legion (valeria victrix), which spent much of its time suppressing the uprising of the army led by the warrior queen, Boadicea. The repelling this week has been of the modern troops sent over the Irish Sea by the Ballydoyle stable.

The rather hopefully named Almighty was Hattan's immediate victim yesterday, a performance that did not disappoint his trainer, Aidan O'Brien. "He ran a lovely race," O'Brien said. "It was a big step up from his first run and we're getting there. He has to be on the Derby short list now."

It seems that O'Brien holds the key to a rather fuzzy Blue Riband picture. The Dante Stakes at York next week should clarify as his Albert Hall comes into contact with the ante-post favourite, Motivator. And, before then, there is the appearance of Gypsy King, supposedly the colt Ballydoyle have long assessed to be a proper Derby horse.

That reputation will be investigated in this afternoon's Dee Stakes here. "He's in good form," O'Brien said. "I think he's fit enough and hopefully sharp enough. Our ground has been very bad and we haven't done much quick work with him. We don't even know our pecking order. Like everyone else, we're about to find out."

Hyperion's selections for today's other meetings:

Lingfield: 2.20 Lucid Dreams 2.50 Green Park 3.25 Dancing Mystery 3.55 Presumptive 4.30 Celticello 5.00 Whirly Bird

Hamilton: 6.10 Wainwright 6.40 The Keep 7.10 Last Pioneer 7.40 Peppermint Tea 8.10 River Of Babylon 8.40 Piccolomini

Richard Edmondson

Nap: Day Flight (Chester 2.30)

NB: Chateau Nicol (Chester 3.00)



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