Some might wonder that two mature and successful men should attach such importance to a title which does not even come with a trinket for the sideboard, but be fully assured that they do.
Just a quarter of a point separated Halling and Bosra Sham when the books opened yesterday, with the former, who has won his last eight races on turf, slightly favoured at 6-4 with Coral and Hills. Bosra Sham is 7-4 with Ladbrokes, while the pair's closest challenger in the market, John Oxx's tough and much-travelled filly Timarida, is all of 6-1 with the Tote. With the likes of First Island, the Sussex Stakes winner, and Even Top available at 12-1 and 14-1, the odds imply that it is about 1-3 that one of either Halling or Bosra Sham will prevail.
Yet how often has an alleged two-horse race proved to be anything but? And how often too has the mischievous, unwanted guest at the feast been Paul Kelleway, whose belief in his own ability remains fierce, regardless of the long line of empty boxes which greets him at his Newmarket yard each morning. He delights in succeeding at the highest level when everyone from his fellow trainers to the bookmakers has written him off, and the Champion Stakes, in which he will saddle Glory Of Dancer, could hardly be better suited to one of Kelleway's smash-and-grabs.
"You know me, the bigger the windmill," the trainer said yesterday, but behind the humour there is real confidence that Glory Of Dancer will run a big race this weekend. The form book seems to agree, despite an insulting quote of 50-1 with Coral and Hills, since Kelleway's colt has been running with great credit in Group One races ever since his fourth place behind Shaamit in the Derby. He was short-headed in the Grand Prix de Paris, fourth in the Arlington Million and third to Timarida, beaten less than two lengths, in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown last month.
"He's always been a bit unlucky," Kelleway said. "He got shuffled back in America, while in the Derby he ran too freely and would probably have done better if he had been shuffled back. In Ireland, the winner gave us a bump, and I don't think the jockey [Olivier Peslier] read the race too well, and in the Grand Prix de Paris it was just a crime. He looked the winner all through the race, was ahead a stride from the post and the other horse found a gap and nodded right on the line."
Peslier will again take the ride this weekend ("they'll go in a straight line," the trainer said, "and there won't be too many of them, though these Flat jockeys could get trapped in a walkover"), the only French connection in a race which has crossed the Channel several times in recent years. One of those winners, Triptych, spent the week of the race stabled with Kelleway before her victories in both 1986 and 1987, while the trainer took all the credit himself when Swiss Maid beat Hawaiian Sound in 1978.
"She was one of my favourites," he recalls, "because she hated going into the stalls. Monty Roberts, she'd have eaten him for breakfast, and Harry Wragg was offering 33-1 that I'd ever get her to go in. I did it, but then I've been in this game since I was 11."
It is a profession in which Kelleway has long believed that "ability and achievement aren't worth a glass of water", but both he and his horse are due a change of luck. With eight runners expected to go to post, the 50-1 each-way about Glory Of Dancer is impossible to resist. The heavy- hitters may expect a two-cornered fight, but the unheralded bantamweight may yet put them both on the floor.
n The Epsom Race Committee yesterday announced a new seven-day supplementary entry stage at a cost of pounds 75,000 for the 1998 Derby in an attempt to enhance the quality of the race by allowing late-maturing horses the opportunity to run.Reuse content