Now Pennekamp chases greatness

Sue Montgomery looks forward to a Derby of Classic promise
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The Independent Online
EXCEPTIONAL horses, like buses, have a habit of appearing in pairs, and yesterday's wonderful battle between Pennekamp and Celtic Swing has set up a mouth-watering Derby.

The 2,000 Guineas field, with four unbeaten contenders, looked one of the strongest for many years beforehand, and although Britain's champion was unable on this occasion to confirm his status as the best in Europe, time may show he was unfortunate to be foaled in the same year as Pennekamp.

It is only in retrospect that horses can be fully judged, and Pennekamp's trainer, Andr Fabre, was quick to point out that the 2,000 Guineas is only the first step along the road to greatness. He will have to prove more, in the Derby and then all-aged contests like the King George and the Arc, before he can take his place alongside horses like Nijinsky, Brigadier Gerard, Mill Reef, Dancing Brave and Nashwan.

At present, though, Pennekamp is that most exciting of animals, a high- class miler with a devastating turn of foot and the potential, in terms of style of racing and breeding, to do better over middle-distances. His sire, Bering, was an outstanding runner whose colours were lowered only by another top-notcher, Dancing Brave, and is beginning to take high rank at stud.

Although Celtic Swing was unable to live up to the "wonder horse" hype, he lost very little caste in defeat and it should not be forgotten that Mill Reef was beaten in his 2,000 Guineas - by Brigadier Gerard - before going on to take Europe by storm.

Celtic Swing's connections have always maintained that 12 furlongs, rather than yesterday's eight, will be their boy's optimum distance. The only slightly ominous sign on the Rowley Mile was the sight of Celtic Swing's head going up as he was asked to lengthen downhill into the Dip. The gradient at Newmarket is nothing compared with what the crooked-legged colt will be asked to face on Tattenham Hill. Pennekamp, now 2-1 Derby favourite (Celtic Swing is 9-4), saved the bookies a fortune yesterday, but one man who backed him in a double with Epagris stands to net £500,000 if the filly wins today's 1,000 Guineas.

In the excitement over Pennekamp and Celtic Swing, the two who chased them home, Bahri and Pipe Major, should not be forgotten. The field is open for either to take high rank as milers.