Racing's Basil Fawlty is Peter Walwyn, the squawky-voiced Lambourn trainer who is the most mimicked man in the sport. There are many who do the Walwyn vocal impression (though few can imitate the random clumps of hair he leaves on his face) and others who attempt the rolling walk with hands apparently borrowed from Kenny Everett swinging at the side. Walwyn takes all the ribbing about his mannerisms in good part, but, at the age of 61, he does not react kindly to criticism about his professional skills. The man who trained Grundy to win a Derby 20 years ago still has a keen eye and fire in the stomach, as anything small and furry around Lambourn, where he continues to hunt and shoot, will testify.
Last year, Walwyn swapped yards with Nick Henderson, moving from his beloved Seven Barrows to the smaller Windsor House. As this relocation co- incided with one of the trainer's quieter spells in 35 years with a licence, phrases such as "running-down" and "imminent retirement" were appended to the big man.
This season, though, Peter Tyndall Walwyn has risen and in Munwar, this afternoon's Lingfield Derby Trial combatant, he has a colt prominent in the Derby betting.
Munwar has employed his distinctive action - he scoots along like a water boatman on the pond surface - in some of the better races. Last year he won Newbury's Haynes, Hanson and Clark Stakes, which has Derby runners frequently on its roll-call, and last month he captured Newmarket's Feilden Stakes.
Munwar should win this afternoon but there are other horses representing interesting strands of form in Commoner, who was a length behind another Derby hopeful, Presenting, at Kempton, and Balliol Boy, who this week worked well on Newmarket's Limekilns gallop with a team which included the 1993 St Leger third, Edbaysaan.
Balliol Boy was third in the Classic Trial at Sandown two weeks ago, a race that delivered this week's Roodeye winners Pentire (Dee Stakes) and Luso (Chester Vase).
If Munwar does succeed, there will be increased confidence behind his nearest Newmarket pursuer, Flemensfirth, who contests France's premier Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) trial, the Prix Lupin, at Longchamp tomorrow. John Gosden's colt appears to have Solar One, supplemented for the Derby in March, to beat.
The Lupin, however, is not the most important race on the card. That honour belongs to two Classics that seldom go to foreign visitors. The last British winner of the Poule d'Essai des Poulains (French 2,000 Guineas) was a long time ago, indeed it was when Guy Harwood was still winning big races. His Recitation won in 1981. Turtle Island was a short neck away from breaking the trend a year ago, and the same stable tries again tomorrow with General Monash.
Also in the Classic is one of the Godolphin horses which have been living under the massive hair-dryer that is Dubai this winter. A horse called Vettori can only have one jockey.
In the fillies' equivalent, the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches, Godolphin send out the ex-James Fanshawe-trained Deceive, again to be ridden by Lanfranco Dettori, while Britain's sole representative is Michael Bell's Hoh Magic. She has to overcome an even more wretched travellers' record in the race as Culture Vulture's success for Paul Cole in 1992 was the first for Britain in 100 years of trying.