Racing: A Derby dream runs out of puff

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The Independent Online
THEY say, quite unfairly, that the Predominate Stakes is a poor guide to the Derby. For since Troy won here in 1979 on the way to the Blue Riband it has become one of the most definitive pointers to Epsom in the calendar. Anything that runs in the race has got absolutely no chance on the Surrey Downs two weeks later.

This consistency was maintained yesterday when Rabah, Hamdan Al Maktoum's second string, won the Listed contest, beating his owner's better-fancied runner, Mutamam, into second place. Rabah's prospects at Epsom are compromised by the fact that he will not run in the race. Mutamam might.

The latter should have reappeared in the Newmarket race won by Dr Fong (in which Rabah finished last) but he bruised a heel at exercise. From then on Mutamam was on a crammer as he cantered morning and night, and it was clear yesterday he had not spent enough time under a blanket with his torch.

Mutamam did all the childish things you expect from a horse making his three-year-old debut. He pulled, he hung and he changed legs, and, by the time he got the idea, Rabah had flown for a half-length victory.

Afterwards, Mutamam exhibited the distress of the unfit. If the big, bad wolf had puffed like he did, all three little piggies would have been out on the street. "He's blowing more than any horse I've run this year, but it was disappointing all the same because, to be quite frank, if you're going to run a horse in the Derby you want to see a bit better than that," Alec Stewart, the trainer, said.

Rabah was probably feeling the exertion as well as his jockey, Pat Eddery, was suspended for three days for using the whip with excessive frequency. Richard Hills was even naughtier in the following contest and banned for five days for irresponsible riding aboard Volley.

Rabah's yard is likely to be represented in the Blue Riband by Haami, the 2,000 Guineas fifth, beaten two and three-quarter lengths by King Of Kings. Haami has some fast relatives and the main concern is his ability to last out 12 furlongs. "It's awfully difficult to tell whether he'll get a mile and a half but he showed in the 2,000 Guineas that he has got serious Classic speed," John Dunlop said of the horse who is 12-1 for Epsom with William Hill. "If you've got a good horse, they're probably good horses over six furlongs at two and, hopefully, over a mile and half at three.

"He looked a real threat at the furlong marker [in the Guineas] and then ran on a little one-paced. But over a mile and a half it might be different because he might hold his position and use his serious Classic speed. There is only one way to find out, and that's at Epsom."

Others to make their way into the Derby pending tray yesterday were Courteous and Second Empire. The former, the winner of the Sandown Trial, may now be switched from Chantilly to Epsom and is quoted at 25-1 with William Hill.

Second Empire was the Derby favourite until he damaged muscles and has been slow to recover. However, he impressed at work yesterday and may even contest Saturday's Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh.

It could be a good weekend for Aidan O'Brien's local burglar to get his sack out as all Ballydoyle seems to be on its way to the races. The wunderkind has six of the 15 runners in the colts' Classic including King Of Kings, though both he and Second Empire are not certain runners. O'Brien also has five entries in Sunday's Irish 1,000.

The Newmarket winner Fa-Eq has been supplemented by Godolphin for Saturday, when Britain's most potent challenger may be the French 2,000 winner, Victory Note. His trainer, Peter Chapple-Hyam, has won the race three times in six years and what he saw on the gallops yesterday persuaded him that his percentage may improve further.