Racing: Armiger in footsteps of a noble tradition: The Flat Season comes under orders at Doncaster today and Richard Edmondson makes his predictions for the Classic races ahead

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The Independent Online
AT THE start of every Flat turf season the usual question is: which horse will win the Derby? This year the proposition is which Derby will the horse win?

The horse of 1993 will almost certainly be Armiger, Henry Cecil's unbeaten colt who rounded off last season with a thrilling victory in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster.

In beating a Group One field by six lengths that day, the chestnut stirred memories of two previous winners of the race, Vaguely Noble and Reference Point, who went on to burn their names into the sport's annals.

Armiger may do the same, but the venue is as yet unclear, as the his career is running parallel with another smart horse trained by Cecil and owned by Khalid Abdullah, Tenby.

The plan is for the pair to take in the Derby and the Prix du Jockey Club, but which runs at Epsom and which at Chantilly has yet to be decided. There are powerful arguments, though, to suggest Armiger will be the animal swooping around Tattenham Corner on 2 June.

Tenby already has French form to his name, having raced away with the Grand Criterium at Longchamp. With his capacity for winning at the end of a trip, it would seem logical to return him to the Continent.

For all his qualities, Tenby has yet to produce a captivating performance such as Armiger laid out for us at Doncaster. And if Armiger is the top horse he must go for the top race, the Derby on the Surrey downs.

The son of Rainbow Quest ricked his back on the Newmarket gallops recently, but is reported to be back in full work. When he is confirmed as Abdullah's No. 1 middle-distance colt, and Tenby is saved for foreign duty, his current Derby odds of 5-1 will vanish.

The Saudi owner also holds a strong hand in the 2,000 Guineas, for which his Zafonic is a short-priced favourite. However, there have been reports that the colt has not proved the most malleable of customers on the Chantilly gallops and it may pay to look for value elsewhere.

The beacon in this department is Barathea, who, like Armiger, clocked a spectacularly fast time last season. This horse is believed to be one of the best athletes ever to fall under the aegis of Luca Cumani, and at double- figure odds, he looks the one to be on.

The French have sound prospects in the first Classic, the 1,000 Guineas, and not only because their horses have the benefit of being prepared in warmer climes during the spring. Elizabeth Bay, who is trained by Andre Fabre, is their leading candidate.

The one with the top portfolio though may be Sumoto, who is working well after spraining a hock last season. The Mtoto filly beat Sayyedati with some authority on her only outing last season, and the runner-up is now the ante-post favourite.

The Oaks, as usual, is the most difficult of the Classics to evaluate, and on the thin evidence so far, Barry Hills's Yawl, who can be expected to improve with age, looks the safest conveyance. By the time she gets to Epsom, though, racing may be celebrating the arrival of a new superhorse. A horse called Armiger.

1,000 GUINEAS (Newmarket, 29 April):

William Hill: 5-2 Sayyedati, 6-1 Sumoto, 14-1 Elizabeth Bay, 16-1 Bashayer, 20-1 Criquette, Marina Park & Sueboog, 25-1 Felucca, Lyric Fantasy, Queen's View & Thawakib, 33-1 others.

2,000 GUINEAS (Newmarket, 1 May):

Ladbrokes: evens Zafonic, 10-1 Barathea, 20-1 Blush Rambler & Placerville, 25-1 Chaddleworth, Inchinor & Storm Canyon, 33-1 Ardkinglass, Basim, Beggarman Thief, Desert Shot, Firm Pledge, Ivory Frontier, Pembroke, Silver Wizard, Wharf & Zieten, 40-1 others.

THE DERBY (Epsom, 2 June):

Coral: 5-1 Armiger, 7-1 Tenby, 16-1 Barathea & Taos, 20-1 Placerville, 33-1 Desert Shot, Urgent Request & Woodchat, 40-1 others.

THE OAKS (Epsom, 5 June):

Coral: 10-1 Yawl, 12-1 Bashayer & Sayyedati, 14-1 Criquette, 25-1 Love Of Silver, 33-1 others.

(Photograph omitted)

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