Odds shorten on a Classic romance

The way Lady Herries planned it, Kevin Darley would take Celtic Swing out of the gate smartly and then tuck him behind the front-running Art Of War while keeping a wary eye on what Willie Carson was up to on Bahri from John Dunlop's in-form stable.

When the pace fell below expectations a tactical amendment was called for. Darley eased Celtic Swing to the front and it was all over bar the shouting.

In thoroughbreds the progression from two to three years is the equivalent of 15 to 20 in humans. Some make it, many don't. Maturity can bring disappointment. Unfulfilled talent is the oldest story in sport, yet one we don't linger over for long.

Celtic Swing maintained a burgeoning reputation when Darley brought him home easing up in the Greenham Stakes, but is he destined for immortality? The question could be found in the relief shown by the handsome colt's connections. ``I'm glad it's over,'' said Lady Herries. She was flushed and her hands trembled slightly. A long winter of waiting.

A perfect temperament adds to the interest in Celtic Swing. Inevitably, there are anthropomorphic suggestions. Poses at the sight of photographers. Shows off. In Darley's words, ``alert and aware of what he is doing''.

What we have here is a racehorse and not one of impeccable breeding. Thus, there is a measure of scepticism. When the Ladbrokes' odds-maker, Mike Dillon, quoted Celtic Swing at evens for the Guineas he left some doubt in the arena. Apparently, there was no great rush to snap up a price generous by comparision with the odds-on offered by rival bookmakers.

Of course, support for Celtic Swing is essentially romantic. Racing needs a superstar, one to pep up interest in the Derby, and presently the colt Peter Savill bought for around £20,000 carries more expectations than any contender since the ill-fated Shergar.

Probably, Savill and Lady Herries are beginning to understand that it is never easy for those in the spotlight. There are good and bad points to having a potential champion. Sensibly, Savill shows no inclination to get carried away by unblemished form and public attention. On the basis that Celtic Swing could come up against three other unbeaten horses (Pennekamp, Diffident and Painter's Row) in the Guineas he expects it to be a memorable encounter. ``It should be a hell of a race,'' he said when surrounded by interrogators.

There was class in Celtic Swing's performance, only four- tenths of a second separating him from the course record over seven straight furlongs. But it didn't tell some greatly experienced observers of my acquaintance more than they already knew. ``It's far from ridiculous to think about opposing him,'' one said, ``because there are still questions to be answered.''

One is how well Celtic Swing will act on testing ground. Another relates to Epsom's tricky undulations. After chasing the winner home in second place, Willie Carson put in tuppence- worth of mischief, claiming that things would have turned out differently had he been able to settle Bahri earlier. This prompted Darley to declare that the Scottish veteran resides on a different planet.

Darley was entitled to be dismissive of negative deliberation. He has the ride and, so far, things have gone swimmingly.