Leaf attracts a Derby flutter

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The Independent Online
The bushes were trembling violently on the Newmarket gallops yesterday and that was even after the wind dropped. Work-watchers scrambled away from their hides and towards their car phones following a hugely impressive trial by a horse that will run in the Derby in nine days' time.

Double Leaf was the name of the colt that mobilised the bargain hunters, and by the end of the day his Epsom price had contracted to 20-1 - from 33-1 - with Ladbrokes.

Michael Stoute's horse won on his debut as a two-year-old and his best performance - on the racecourse at least - was at York last month, when he was fifth, beaten less than three lengths, behind the Blue Riband favourite, Glory Of Dancer, in the Dante Stakes.

The son of Sadler's Wells will be partnered by Ray Cochrane, who has yet to ride him on the racecourse but was in the saddle yesterday on a Newmarket morning which opened with this year's trademark drizzle.

Double Leaf was sent the Derby way, left-handed, on the Limekilns round gallop, in company with his lead horse, Mellaby, and Desert Shot, whose rider, Greville Starkey, has a mixed scrapbook when it comes to the Blue Riband. When asked to display his qualities Double Leaf swept past Mellaby, and when the useful Desert Shot challenged, Double Leaf went 12 lengths clear.

Despite this virtuoso offering, word from Freemason Lodge still has it that Dr Massini, the Glasgow Stakes victor on the Knavesmire, remains Stoute's principal Derby hope. Another son of Sadler's Wells, he was seen stretching his joints yesterday in a three-quarter speed gallop, following his recovery from lameness.

A further recent inmate from the sick bay, Mark Of Esteem, emerged from his box yesterday and will resume fast work this weekend. The damp weather in Albion had to get to the Dubai-wintered horses eventually and Godolphin's 2,000 Guineas winner succumbed on Tuesday, when he was running a high temperature. A quick shake of the thermometer later, though, Mark Of Esteem seemed to be back in business. "He had a normal temperature this morning and is fine in himself," Simon Crisford, Godolphin's racing manager, said.

"We opted to give him another easy day today, so we gave him a lead out. He appeared to be very bright and we hope to have him back in tack tomorrow. You have to take it day by day, but, all being well, he will have some fast work at the weekend and we still hope to make it for the big race."

Godolphin also have the unbeaten Mick's Love stored away for Epsom, and a further bulletin from the gallops yesterday suggested their Predominate Stakes winner, Don Micheletto, will be supplemented for Sunday's Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) at Chantilly. "We are pleased both with the way he worked this morning and has come out of the race at Goodwood," Crisford said.

Peter Chapple-Hyam trains the sole British acceptors among the 15 entries for the French Classic - Astor Place and Polaris Flight, who is also in the Prix John Prat.

The Manton trainer may also supplement, however, and has High Baroque waiting for the call. The carrot - the prospect of uncovering a Classic winner; the downside - a late entry fee of 250,000 francs (pounds 33,000).

THE DERBY (Epsom, 8 June): Ladbrokes: 5-1 Dr Massini, Dushyantor, Glory Of Dancer, 6-1 Even Top, 7-1 Alhaarth, 8-1 (from 7-1) Mark Of Esteem, 14-1 Mick's Love & Storm Trooper, 16-1 Nash House, 20-1 Double Leaf & Shaamit, 25-1 others.