Racing: Abdullah stays solo with Sunshack: The owner with the best recent record in the Derby relies on one of his French force at Epsom

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The Independent Online
THE SECOND colours of Khalid Abdullah, carried to success by Commander In Chief in last year's Derby, will be missing from the Classic line-up next Wednesday. Opera Score and Bal Harbour, two of Abdullah's three Epsom entries, were scratched yesterday, leaving only the Andre Fabre-trained Sunshack to represent the owner who has won two of the last four Derbys.

But that will read two of the last five by this time next week if the bookmakers' odds offer any guide. Though Sunshack will be steered around Epsom by Pat Eddery, the champion jockey and Abdullah's retained rider, 16-1 is widely available against his chance, reflecting the colt's unexpected defeat at Longchamp on his seasonal debut earlier this month.

Sunshack was considerably more prominent in betting on the Classic during the winter, his status as France's most convincing challenger sealed by a four-length success in the Criterium de Saint-Cloud in late October. That performance implied that stamina will be Sunshack's strong suit, but a typically sedate early pace at Longchamp last time did not allow him to bring it into play. That fact, and the slow start to the season which Fabre now seems to have shaken off, will offer some encouragement to Eddery and his supporters.

The jockey himself, however, was heard to mutter after Sunshack's trial that the son of Rainbow Quest is not blessed with Classic ability, and Eddery is rarely one to talk a horse down. It may be that Sunshack is running simply to give Abdullah something to admire in the paddock beforehand, and while Eddery's involvement should ensure that Sunshack starts at around 12-1, it is hard to argue that his price offers any real value.

Sunshack will be the only foreign-trained runner in Wednesday's field, following the news that Mohaajir, the sole Irish-based entry left in the Classic, will not run. Jim Bolger's colt has met with a minor training setback which will keep him out of action for about a month. A definite Epsom runner, though, is Michael Stoute's Foyer, narrow winner of the Glasgow Stakes at York two weeks ago, who will be partnered by Willie Ryan.

Foyer is not without a chance, though the two other runners in Sheikh Mohammed's colours, King's Theatre and Linney Head, stand ahead of him in the betting. Both are believed to prefer an easy surface and have attracted support in recent days as a result. But John Gosden, Linney Head's trainer, yesterday disputed the notion.

'People think that Linney Head is a soft-ground horse because it happened to be soft at Sandown (when he won the Thresher Classic Trial),' he said, 'but I think he'd be a better horse on good ground. In any case, I hope the ground dries out for the sake of the race.'

Though the going at Epsom is currently soft, Major Michael Webster, the clerk of the course, said yesterday that 'according to the forecast we have had all the rain we are going to have, so we are hoping conditions will improve before next Wednesday'.

Linney Head found new supporters with Coral yesterday and was cut to 8-1 from 10- 1. With most of the major contenders, and their jockeys, now apparent, ante-post betting is accelerating, and the same firm also adjusted the odds against King's Theatre, to 12-1 from 14-1.

(Photograph omitted)

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