The Derby: Fabre's Lad ready to fill the last glaring vacancy

Epsom is the one foreign field to have resisted France's master strategist - until Saturday

The first French winner of the Derby, Gladiateur, became known in his homeland as "the avenger of Waterloo" after his victory at Epsom in 1865, a full half-century after the affair in Belgium. It is probably entirely appropriate that the Chantilly-based trainer charged with ending 30 years of Gallic hurt on the Surrey Downs has the sobriquet "le petit Napoleon". Step forward André Fabre.

Fabre, 60, a former champion jump jockey, shares his stature with the great commander. He can emit a rather imperial aura, too; like many who are exceptional in their job and have worked hard and long to be so, he does not suffer fools and slights particularly well.

But it is as a tactician and strategist that Fabre probably has most in common with the Corsican military legend. He has been champion trainer in France for the past 19 years and has campaigned his élite troops at home and abroad with devastating effect. For instance, he is easily the leading European trainer at the Breeders' Cup meets in America.

But the Derby remains the one major global contest not yet on his CV. Fabre has tried and failed to win the world's premier Classic seven times; this year, in the 227th running, he has two weapons with which to try to put les rosbifs to the sword, the warm favourite Visindar, who is owned by the Aga Khan, and Linda's Lad, a 14-1 shot who carries the colours of the Irish property developer Sean Mulryan.

Only nine French-trained horses have won a Derby. Though Gladiateur was French-bred and French-owned he was housed in Newmarket and handled by an Englishman. The first to travel to victory from France was Durbar in 1914, the most recent Empery in 1976. Since then, 31 raiders have met defeat.

Visindar and Linda's Lad present marked contrasts. Visindar is the one with potential, the could-be-anything colt. The chestnut is unbeaten, and barely extended, in three runs, most lately a four-length success in a Group Two trial at Saint-Cloud. But in terms of experience he is still tender; he has never been involved in the hurly-burly of a big field, nor had to eyeball another horse at the sharp end.

Linda's Lad is the one who has been there, done that. The bay has raced eight times, lost and won in equal measure and, with three of his victories being achieved by a head or less, knows how to fight. A winner at the top level as a two-year-old, he proved his efficacy round a left-handed, undulating track by giving weight and a beating to his rivals in the trial at Lingfield two weeks ago.

"Visindar has done nothing wrong," said Fabre yesterday, "and has done everything easily. He is a well-balanced colt with a long stride, and his relaxed temperament should help him at Epsom. I was delighted by his first race this season but slightly disappointed at Saint-Cloud, where he did not win as well as I had hoped.

"Linda's Lad is very well suited by going left-handed and can travel easily in a fast-run race. He is a tough horse who never wins by far, but he wins, and is willing to battle.

"I have two runners, but perhaps the ideal horse would be a combination of the two. But we do not know the value of their form. Historically, it is usually the 2,000 Guineas that provides the best guide."

Fabre spent much of his youth in Germany, where his father was a diplomat, and graduated with a law degree but always planned horses as a career. While studying in Paris he would ride out at Maisons-Laffitte in the mornings and work as a plumber in the evenings.

Saturday will be the third time a colt from the empire he has built at 14 Avenue de Bourbon has started market leader at Epsom; the others have been Toulon, ninth in 1991, and Pennekamp, 11th 11 years ago. And although Fabre's pride would like a Derby, he is perfectly aware of the difficulties and disadvantages the race presents.

"It sets the standard," he said, "but because it is a beginning, it is run early in the year. And for a lot of horses it comes too soon. They have not yet reached the athletic potential that will enable them to stay the distance and handle the course, demands that they could cope with as more mature horses."

The record of some of Fabre's previous runners gives his view credence. Al Nasr, Toulon (in the St Leger), Sunshack (in the Coronation Cup) and Val Royal all went on to later Group One victories, but the careers of both Pennekamp and Cloudings were ended by injuries sustained at Epsom. "An owner can regret running in the Derby," he said, "and nowadays horses are so expensive that they cannot always be sacrificed on its altar. And although it may be a pity, in the modern era a 12-furlong race is not seen as necessarily ideal for a stallion prospect."

The Aga Khan, less bound than most by commercial constraints, has won four Derbys already, with Visindar's sire, Sinndar, Kahyasi, Shahrastani and Shergar. Linda's Lad will be a first Derby runner for the Dublin-based millionaire Mulryan, who helped fund London's 2012 Olympic bid. He and Fabre are both essentially private men, but their Franco-Hibernian alliance and the Sadler's Wells colt, proven in battle over the distance and on easy ground, can put them in the spotlight on Saturday.

MONTGOMERY'S TIPS

1 Linda's Lad
2 Septimus
3 Championship Point
4 Visindar
Longshot Mountain

EPSOM DREAMERS: FOUR WITH A SPECIAL DERBY MISSION

FRANKIE DETTORI
The nearest Britain's best-known jockey has come in 13 rides was on runner-up Tamure in 1995. He has partnered three favourites: Cape Verdi (9th in 1998), Dubai Millennium (9th in 1999) and Snow Ridge (7th in 2004). Now he rides seasonal debutant Winged Cupid.

KIEREN FALLON
Though he has a way to go to match Lester Piggott's nine victories, he has the outstanding current record with three wins, Oath (1999), Kris Kin (2003) and North Light (2004), from eight rides. He will try to make it three in four years, and his first for Ballydoyle, on Septimus.

BARRY HILLS
If anyone is due a Derby win, Hills is. He has saddled four seconds - Rheingold (1972), Hawaiian Sound (1978), Glacial Storm (1988) and Blue Stag (1990) - and since 1971 has failed to muster a runner only nine times. Relies on 2,000 Guineas third Olympian Odyssey.

TERRY MILLS
Before You Go will try to get Terry Mills into an exclusive club. Only two Epsom-based horses have won the Derby at their local track: Ralph Sherwood's Amato in 1838 and April The Fifth in 1932, owned and trained by the comic actor Tom Walls.

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?