Racing / 214th Derby: Commander pulls rank on Tenby: A rookie runs away with the premier Classic as the favourite fails

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The Independent Online
THE EXPECTED trainer and the expected owner, Henry Cecil and Khalid Abdullah, stood in the Epsom winners' circle after the 214th Derby yesterday. But not the expected horse.

Tenby had been the colt that most had come to celebrate as Flat racing's new champion, but it was his back-up in the pink and green silks, Commander In Chief, who wrote his name on the Classic scroll. Tenby, his tongue hanging out and his legs quivering, finished 10th.

The oldest horse in the race (foaled in January 1990) had been beaten by the youngest (born May 1990), an animal who only realised his purpose in life four months ago. In beating his stable-mate, the 4-5 favourite, Commander In Chief destroyed another statistic: that horses unraced at two rarely win a Derby (Morston, in 1973, was the last). Too immature to compete as a juvenile, the white- nosed colt began serious cantering only in February, but was such a keen student that by the time the stalls opened yesterday three victories were in the log.

A scrambling win in the last of those had persuaded Pat Eddery, that his Derby favour should lie elsewhere, with Tenby. Riders commonly pick the wrong mount, but seldom is it as costly as for Eddery, who will have gone to sleep last night knowing he had tossed away the opportunity of a fourth Derby.

The man who profited from this misjudgement is first in Cecil's directory of riders to call on for the big occasion, the Irish champion, Michael Kinane.

Kinane's early manoeuvres yesterday were guided by the need to keep the fledgling Commander In Chief out of trouble. But by the time the climb into Tattenham Corner arrived, he knew his mount had grown up just as his main danger was shrivelling. 'He really knuckled in there coming down the hill,' the jockey said. 'I asked him to race and he really did it well.

'There was never a danger coming round the home turn and when I went for home I saw Pat (Eddery) hit the panic button on Tenby and I knew he wouldn't be in the shake-up.' One shake of the reins and Commander In Chief was there though, and he stretched out for a three-and-a-half length win from the 150-1 shots Blue Judge and Blues Traveller.

Further behind were fancied horses who were betrayed by their genes, Barathea and Lester Piggott's mount, Fatherland, both of whom exhausted their stamina some way out.

Barathea's eclipse provided yet another Derby reverse for the world's leading owner, Sheikh Mohammed, who can hardly have been placated by seeing the man he tried to sign as his retained rider earlier this season take the laurels. Kinane preferred to stay in Ireland.

Surprisingly, despite his overall achievements, Cecil had not won a Classic for four years. But this was his third Derby and he can see more coming. 'I think the Derby is a most extraordinary race and very difficult to win for the first time,' he said. 'But once you win it you know you can do it again, which we will before I retire.'

The horse's health permitting, Cecil will run Commander In Chief in the Irish Derby, and he expects the colt to be an even more awesome opponent as the summer progresses. 'He was backward last year, so he should go on improving,' the Newmarket trainer said. 'Let's hope he'll make a King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes horse.'

Cecil also expects a fighting return from Tenby, who was reported to be clinically sound by the racecourse vet after the race but was also given a dope test.

Commander In Chief's victory was also a balm for Khalid Abdullah, who had seen the colt's sire, Dancing Brave, finish an unlucky second here seven years ago. Dancing Brave may complete a unique feat of fatherhood this week. Commander In Chief's win followed Sunday's Italian Derby success of another of his brood, White Muzzle, and his family is strongly represented in this Saturday's Oaks and the following day's Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) by Wemyss Bight and Regency (both Abdullah-owned animals), respectively.

But there will be no more of Dancing Brave's progeny coming on line for Abdullah. Following the ineffective results of the stallion's first two crops, he was sold to Japan. The Saudi owner is sorry to have lost his favourite, but sees further good prizes and youngsters being provided by yesterday's winner.

'Dancing Brave has been my best middle-distance horse, but Commander In Chief will run him close,' he said. 'Both on the racecourse and at stud.'

Paying customers at Epsom increased from 35,697 last year to 42,861. The total crowd was 106,186, up from 94,660.

----------------------------------------------------------------- PLACINGS AND PRICES IN THE DERBY ----------------------------------------------------------------- 1. COMMANDER IN CHIEF bay or brown Dancing Brave - Slightly Dangerous M J Kinane 15-2 2. Blue Judge bay colt Rainbow Quest - Water Splash B Raymond 150-1 3. Blues Traveller bay colt Bluebird - Natuschka D Holland 150-1 Also ran: 4-5 fav Tenby (10th), 8-1 Fatherland (9th), 11-1 Barathea (5th), 15-1 Bob's Return (6th), 16-1 Planetary Aspect (12th), 25-1 Desert Team (11th), Geisway (13th), 40-1 Wolf Prince (8th), Shareek (15th), 50-1 Cairo Prince (4th), 150-1 Redenham (7th), Zind (last), 200-1 Canaska Star (14th). -----------------------------------------------------------------

Racing, page 37