Racing: 214th Derby: Tenby's fallibility to be laid bare by Barathea: The favourite's odds are those of a champion but his form is unconvincing and the way is open for an upset at Epsom this afternoon
If, as expected, Tenby goes off at 4-7 there will have been only eight horses to have run at shorter odds. Henry Cecil's colt will be more fancied than Nashwan, more fancied than Shergar, and even more fancied even than Nijinsky.
Yet the form book shows that he has no right to such cramped odds. In two uncompetitive races this season, Tenby has beaten just six different horses, none of which has caused a disturbance in the top forum of Group races.
Instead, the little bay owes his advanced position to the fact that he is unbeaten, and almost unbeatable according to his trainer and Pat Eddery, the colt's his regular jockey.
Eddery has made Tenby his chosen one above two other animals trained by Cecil and owned by Khalid Abdullah, Armiger, who may run in Sunday's Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby), and Commander In Chief, the Warren Place second string today.
Commander In Chief will have to drag an onerous statistic around the course with him, for not since Morston in 1973 has a horse unraced at two taken the Derby. Certainly, Eddery considered the colt much too callow a customer after riding him to a narrow victory at York.
Much the same as Tenby, Commander In Chief has a reputation built on a 100per cent record and warm assessments from his training camp. His home workouts have always been impressive, but, for the first time today, he moves from weights in the garage to the Mr Universe stage, and the occasion may be too much for him.
Cecil has won the Derby twice, but today's Classic features a man who has saddled as many Epsom winners as the rest of the trainers put together, Vincent O'Brien.
The master of Ballydoyle House has been associated with names such as Sir Ivor, Nijinsky and The Minstrel in his victories on the Surrey Downs, and today links up yet again with a human whose name, who, for most many people, is probably racing itself, Lester Piggott.
Since the partnership's glory days on the cusp of the 1970s, in the late Sixties and Seventies, the faces have grown more lined and bedtimes have been brought forward. Victory for them here would repeat the vision that has recently flickered into the minds of romantics after lights out.
Their representative this year is Fatherland, who, like The Minstrel in 1977, comes to Epsom after earning Piggott's selection by running into the frame in the Irish 2,000 Guineas. Like many before him, Fatherland is sent into battle with doubts over his stamina. The reputations of countless fast horses have been buried in the Epsom straight, but, just occasionally, like Dr Devious Sir Ivor last year, in 1968, good animals can eke out their speed. stamina.
O'Brien has a clear view of his colt's prospects. 'The advantages for Epsom are that the horse has a good action, is well balanced and has show shown good form in Group One races,' he said. 'The disadvantage is that he may not stay the distance.'
Similar doubts are transported in the thoughts of held by Luca Cumani, whose Barathea beat Fatherland in the Irish Guineas, two weeks after finishing runner-up to Zafonic in the Newmarket Guineas. In that race, Barathea showed acceleration; today he also has to display application.
'Going into the Bushes in the Guineas, Zafonic was behind me and I thought that if anything came past me now it must be a hell of a horse,' Michael Roberts, Barathea's rider, remembers. recalls. 'And Zafonic did. My fellow quickened up really well but Zafonic quickened up even better and on the day he was a great winner,. But if he hadn't been there I would have been the great winner.'
While the crowd reaction tomorrow will suggests the decisive moments are contained within come in the Derby's final furlong, of the Derby, Roberts knows the overriding passage key period will have occurred well before then. By the time the main crest is reached and the swirling descent that is Tattenham Corner lies below, the South African will realise his fate.
'I'll have to nurse him to get the trip and that's going to be the key,' he said. 'The horse is going to need to be relaxed up the hill and then coasting coming down the other side.
'If I'm still there and running 1 furlongs out then Tenby is going to have to be very good to beat us. I've got speed, whereas the other horses are gallopers.'
Barathea also has the promise promises of rewarding to reward Sheikh Mohammed's for his multi-million pound investment in the sport. The world's most powerful owner since usurping Robert Sangster has never even reached the frame in the race he values above all others. Sangster himself is still around and has two runners today, one of which, Cairo Prince, has all the hallmarks of being the best outsider.
Cairo Prince's trainer, Peter Chapple-Hyam, has run horses against Tenby and Commander In Chief and knows the former to be superior, but has no form line to the one proven horse in the highest echelon, Barathea.
The choice for punters then in the 214th Derby is quite clear: it is Fatherland for the sentimental, Tenby for the unoriginal and BARATHEA (nap 3.45) for the sensible.
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