Injury may force Lammtarra to miss Irish Derby

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The Independent Online
Lammtarra, the Derby winner, is a doubtful runner in the Irish Derby at the Curragh on Sunday, the colt's owners announced last night. The news completed a miserable day for the Irish track, which earlier learned that Celtic Swing, the Prix du Jockey-Club (French Derby) winner, is no better than "50-50" to line up this weekend, owing to concern about fast going.

Simon Crisford, the racing manager for Godolphin, Lammtarra's owner, said yesterday evening: "Lammtarra was slightly wrong behind this morning. Investigations are being carried out to determine what the problem is. A decision will be made tomorrow regarding his participation in the Irish Derby." With just five days left before the race, Lammtarra's problem will need to be be very minor if he is to be risked in Ireland.

As for Celtic Swing, of all the things we expected of him when the season opened three months ago, perhaps the most unlikely was that his progress as a three-year-old could ever be boring. How many punters, though, will find themselves stifling a yawn at yesterday's news?

It's the will he or won't he routine again, and after Savill had walked the Curragh yesterday he estimated the chance that Celtic Swing will take his chance on Sunday as "no better than 50-50. The ground is currently good to firm but it is very hot, there is a drying wind and the weather is set fair for the rest of the week. The sheep and the cold spring have made sure that there is not a great cover of grass and it will be hard for The Curragh to get good racing ground."

Savill's reference to sheep is somewhat ironic, since if Celtic Swing runs instead in Sunday's Grand Prix de St Cloud, many observers will feel he has displayed about as much courage and endeavour as an average flock. As with the French Derby, his chosen assignment earlier this month, the Grand Prix is a Group One race, but very much an easy option since all the best three-year-olds will be in Ireland. Possible opponents at St Cloud include Luso, the Derby Italiano winner. Enough said.

At this rate, the only accolade of note which Celtic Swing will earn this year is honorary membership of the French Tourist Board. The vacillation of his connections seems all the more strange since Savill had previously stated that he simply wished to see ground "without jar" at the Curragh before he would allow Celtic Swing to run.

Brian Kavanagh, the racecourse manager, may not be the most impartial of witnesses, but he was adamant yesterday that ground without jar is precisely what he anticipates this weekend. "There's no rain forecast and we're experiencing a heatwave," Kavanagh said yesterday, "so we've been watering since Wednesday on a daily basis and we stepped it up a bit yesterday.

"Obviously, some horses want firm ground and others want it soft, but we're in the hands of the weather in that respect and our object all along would be to provide safe ground. There is no jar in it at the moment and it's up to us to keep it that way."

The amount of water currently pouring on to the track may not please everyone, of course. Lammtarra, after all, won the Derby impressively on firm ground, while Presenting, who finished strongly into third at Epsom after struggling down the hill, has a definite preference for a fast surface.

Both Celtic Swing and Daraydan, bought by Savill to make the pace for his French Derby winner, will be left in the Irish Derby at today's forfeit stage, with a final decision on their participation expected shortly before the final declarations must be made, at 10.30 on Friday morning.

Clive Brittain, Luso's trainer, will be represented at the Curragh by Korambi, 12th at Epsom, but "better than that" according to his trainer. Mark Johnston has booked Jason Weaver to ride Double Eclipse, who was just touched off in the Queen's Vase at Royal Ascot last week.

The prospect of a home-trained winner on Sunday will increase when Definite Article, trained by Dermot Weld, is supplemented for the Classic this morning. Weld will also be represented by Humbel, who finished sixth to Lammtarra at Epsom. However, Michael Kinane, who partnered the colt at Epsom, is likely to switch to Definite Article. If Celtic Swing is elsewhere, we will surely manage perfectly well without him.

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