Racing: Vote of confidence in Visindar to cope with Epsom experience

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The Independent Online

"You don't really know how they will handle a course like Epsom until you see them running on it," said Pat Downes, racing manager to Visindar's owner, the Aga Khan, "but he appears to be a very well-balanced individual and I hope it will not be a problem to him. The occasion, too, will also be a bit of an unknown, but for all his races so far in France he has shown a sound temperament. He is a very relaxed type so I would not anticipate that will be a problem either."

The thrice-raced unbeaten chestnut will be the 15th horse trained in France to start favourite for the Derby. Nine Gallic raiders have won, most recently Empery 30 years ago, but only three - Lavandin, Relko and Sea-Bird - as market leaders. Of Fabre's seven previous runners, none of whom finished closer than ninth, two - Pennekamp and Toulon - topped the betting.

In 11 days' time he will saddle 20-1 shot Linda's Lad as well as Visindar, as short as 6-4 to follow Shergar, Shahrastani, Kahyasi and his own sire, Sinndar, for the Aga. "André has never won a Derby and has had varying degrees of luck when he has had a runner in it," added Downes, "but he is taking some comfort from the fact the green and red colours know their way to the winning post.

"At the moment we are very happy with our horse. He has been very well since winning at Saint-Cloud and we just hope he turns up in top form on the day. We've seen all the trials now but it's difficult to know the merit of the form of each race until all those horses come together. Ours has ticks in most of the boxes and on the day we'll find out if he's good enough."

Downes confirmed that Riyalma, rather than her Sir Michael Stoute stablemate Sindirana, would be the likely Aga Khan colour bearer in the Oaks. The Selkirk filly is vying for second favouritism with another Stoute inmate, Short Skirt, behind Ballydoyle's Alexandrova.

One man who is taking no chances with the undulations of Epsom is Mark Johnston, who is to send his charge Atlantic Waves, generally 16-1 for the Derby, for a test-drive on the idiosyncratic contours on Thursday morning.

Though the son of Sadler's Wells, who pipped subsequent 2,000 Guineas third Olympian Odyssey in the Feilden Stakes at Newmarket on his three-year-old debut last month, won at undulating Leicester as a juvenile, he became slightly unbalanced going down into the Dip on the Rowley Mile before rallying up the hill and Johnston is keen to give him more match practice on a gradient.

Two horses, Motivator and Walk In The Park, availed themselves of the opportunity of an awayday offered by the Epsom authorities last year, and subsequently finished first and second in the real thing. "Whether that was significant I don't know," said Johnston yesterday, "but it's quite an omen. Experience of the track should be a positive thing and, all going well on Thursday, ours will be back next month. He has come on for his run at Newmarket and is in good form." Johnston will send a stablemate with Jaber Abdullah's colt, who will be ridden by Joe Fanning in his spin.

The 2,000 Guineas winner, George Washington, dominates a list of 19 confirmed at yesterday's five-day stage for Saturday's Irish 2,000 Guineas, one of nine Aidan O'Brien has at his disposal. The Danehill colt is the 2-7 favourite with race sponsors Boylesports to become the sixth horse to complete the double, the most recent being another Ballydoyle inmate, Rock Of Gibraltar, four years ago. Next in the market is the Kevin Prendergast-trained Decado at 4-1, followed by O'Brien's Marcus Andronicus at 6-1 and Newmarket fourth Araafa, one of three entries from Britain, at 12-1.

The stricken Kentucky Derby winner, Barbaro, who broke a hind leg in three places in Saturday's Preakness Stakes, was reported yesterday to be standing and eating in a Pennsylvania veterinary hospital after seven hours of surgery.

* Desert Orchid, now 27, will lead a parade of ex-racehorses at Newmarket's meeting on Sunday, having moved to the town with the trainer David Elsworth.

Chris McGrath

Nap: Bridge It Jo (Lingfield 2.10)

NB: Easy Air (Lingfield 3.10)

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