Racing: Bahr heightens girl power

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SHEIKH MOHAMMED has spent 20 years trying to find a colt to win him the Derby, so it would be one of the turf's richer ironies if he were to finally capture the one British Classic to have eluded him with a filly.

That prospect came into sharper focus yesterday when Bahr, the latest tanned talent from the Sheikh's Godolphin operation, won the Musidora Stakes, thus increasing the likelihood that Cape Verdi, the 1,000 Guineas winner, will go to the Derby rather than the Oaks.

It was a dogged little scrap between Bahr and Midnight Line, the favourite, up the last two furlongs of the Knavesmire, and at the post Bahr was just a neck to the good.

In the comments of those who know her best, however, there was a definite air of confidence that the result would be no different over an extra two furlongs at Epsom.

Bahr is now the 3-1 second favourite for the Oaks, with Midnight Line available at 9-2 with the Tote and Cape Verdi a 9-4 chance chance with the same firm. More significant, though, is the price of 2-1 with a run, which the Tote offers against Cape Verdi winning the Derby.

"We're really delighted with Bahr and she will definitely go to the Oaks," Simon Crisford, Godolphin's racing manager, said. "But they might both go to the Oaks. Each horse has to be treated as an individual and we will have to see how they thrive and bloom between now and Epsom.

``It will all become clearer at the end of the month, and we may not make a decision until 30 May [the day on which Cape Verdi will need to be supplemented if she is to run in the Derby].''

This does, of course, cause problems for both punters and bookmakers, since no-one with any sense will enter the ante-post Derby market until the question of Cape Verdi's participation is resolved. "If she runs, she'll be 3-1 favourite and it will be 10-1 bar," Mike Dillon, of Ladbrokes, said. "These are big races, but at the moment no-one wants to get involved."

Frankie Dettori, who rode Bahr yesterday, will face a dilemma of his own if both Cape Verdi and Bahr contest the Oaks. "She's a little thing with a big engine and she won well," he said. "I had to go on sooner than I wanted and that was helping Kieren [Fallon, on Midnight Line] more than me.

"It will make it a lot easier for me if the boss decides to split them up. If they both run in the Oaks, I'll have to scratch my head and make the decision as late as possible.''

It is difficult enough to predict the winners of races without trying to second-guess the intentions of their owners as well. In view of Godolphin's relative gloom about the abilities of their colts, however, it seems unlikely that an obvious Derby candidate will emerge from among them.

In the absence of her stablemate, Bahr would go to the Oaks with a favourite's chance. The odds against Cape Verdi being installed alongside the colts on 6 June (and with 5lb less on her back, too) are getting shorter by the day.