Racing: Bookmakers go with Swing: The favourite for next year's Derby is a short price to confirm his growing reputation at Doncaster on Saturday

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THE tomes published by Timeform are not noted for hyperbole - an entry for Pegasus might read 'promising, headstrong, wings may be an advantage' - so its verdict on Celtic Swing's success in the Hyperion Stakes at Ascot 11 days ago is worth repeating. It was, they decided, 'one of the best performances by a two-year-old outside Pattern company for many a year'.

Over-hyped two-year-olds are as much a part of autumn as the clocks going back, but the reaction to Celtic Swing's eight-length defeat of Singspiel set new standards. Almost before Lady Herries, the colt's trainer, had thrown a blanket over his back in the winner's enclosure, Celtic Swing was the ante-post favourite for the 1995 Derby. His price was laughable, but even at 12-1, bookmakers had little trouble finding punters prepared to back him, and only yesterday William Hill cut Celtic Swing to 10-1 for Epsom. In all the excitement, no one seemed to care that the also-rans at Ascot were hardly household names, even in their own yards, or that Celtic Swing has yet to contest a Group race.

The latter complaint, at least, will not survive the weekend, as Celtic Swing's next assignment is the Group One Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster on Saturday. It is a dizzying jump in class, but when the ante-post books opened, the bookmakers did not hesitate to make him odds- on for the season's last significant juvenile event. In the face of such expectation, anything but a convincing success will be seen as failure.

'It will certainly be nerve- wracking,' Lady Herries said yesterday, 'but obviously I'm looking forward to it. He's an exciting horse, though to be honest I didn't think he would be so impressive at Ascot. It was a pleasant surprise.'

Lady Herries is no stranger to the winner's enclosure at Epsom, having saddled Sheriff's Star to win the Coronation Cup in 1989, and recorded a Group One success in Germany this season with River North. She could never be accused of hogging the limelight, though, and while many trainers would bask in the glory of a Derby favourite, to her, you feel, the sudden publicity and interest are more of a necessary evil. In any case, there are few thoughts at present of Epsom in June. 'It's so early,' she said, 'it's ludicrous to make a horse such a short price when you've got eight months to go. So much can happen during the winter.'

The predicted good going should be in Celtic Swing's favour on Saturday, though a sudden change in either direction would be cause for concern. 'He doesn't want it too firm as he's suffered from sore shins,' the trainer said, 'and he wouldn't want a bog as he's such a good mover. He floats.'

A significant rival was removed from Celtic Swing's path yesterday when Paul Cole announced that both Montjoy, winner of the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot, and his lesser- fancied stable companion Precede would miss Saturday's race. 'Montjoy is finished for the campaign now after a couple of tough trips abroad,' Cole said. 'He will come back next year and could well be a 2,000 Guineas horse.'

The defection of Montjoy allowed the bookmakers to tighten the market on Saturday's race still further. Ladbroke's prices are typical: 4-6 Celtic Swing, 5-1 (from 6-1) Annus Mirabilis, 6-1 Juyush, 8-1 Don Corleone, 16-1 bar. Don Corleone won the competitive Houghton Sales Stakes at Newmarket recently, and the form was franked when Maid For Walking, second at Headquarters, won Redcar's big juvenile event. The 8-1 with Ladbrokes is surely an offer we can't refuse.

Alex Scott funeral, page 10 (Photograph omitted)

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