Racing: Asmussen clears decks for Anchor

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The Independent Online
THE DERBY riding sweep featured a significant arrangement yesterday when the name of Cash Asmussen was inked in next to Weigh Anchor, who is as low as 7-1 for Epsom with Ladbrokes.

Some expected the colt to be ridden by Ray Cochrane, but the Ulsterman has pledged himself to the Guy Harwood stable. The jockey will hope his selection disproves the notion that only well-named horses win the Classic, as, on that score, Chocolat De Meguro would have the same chance as Fred Shufflebottom.

Paris-based Asmussen has made his name as a big man for big occasions, but has yet to win a Derby in seven attempts. The closest he has come was when Blue Stag had only Quest For Fame ahead of him four years ago.

Balding has knocked on his door for a Group race before (when Diamond Shoal won the Grand Prix d'Evry in 1983) and the faith endures. 'He's obviously a very high- class jockey,' the master of Park House said yesterday. 'Epsom is not an easy course to ride, but Cash is an international jockey and has enough experience of the track.'

Weigh Anchor has twice finished behind the Derby favourite, Erhaab, but Asmussen, who was at York for the second of those, in the Dante Stakes, puts forward a case for third time lucky. 'If he'd relaxed he'd have given the winner a tougher time,' the jockey said from Saint-Cloud yesterday. 'The Derby is wide open and I've got a very good chance.'

If he succeeds, Weigh Anchor will make Derby history. Never has a dynasty won the Classic in four successive generations and the colt follows his father, Slip Anchor, grandfather, Shirley Heights, and family patriarch, Mill Reef, around Tattenham Corner.

If bad names do not win top races, romantic stories often do and it was at Balding's Kingsclere yard, of course, that Mill Reef was prepared for his many triumphs. Asmussen will land at the Berkshire stable this week to ride work and will see the legacy of the great horse's achievements, a statue in the yard named after him and his lookalike, bright bay, great-grandson.

Like Mill Reef before him, Weigh Anchor will work up to Derby day on the Watership Down gallops (singularly appropriate considering his rider is the most garrulous of jockeys). 'Mill Reef covered a mile and a quarter about 10 days before the race, the furthest he'd ever been before Epsom, but with this horse we'll be covering a bit more ground tomorrow,' Balding said.

The final preparation will be as it has been for over 100 years at Kingsclere, along the Valley gallop laid down by John Porter. On Saturday, Weigh Anchor will follow the path carved into the undulations of the downs, a working ground hidden from prying eyes. Four days after that he will try to chart another path, the one leading into the record books.

Adrian Maguire injured his elbow when unseated in the maiden hurdle at Market Rasen yesterday. He gave up his remaining two rides but hopes to resume at Sedgefield today. Richard Dunwoody moved eight clear of Maguire in the jockeys' championship when winning on Castle Blue.

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