Racing: Candy's dusty Derby aims shine again with Crystal

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The Independent Online
Henry Candy was just 35 years old, a trainer for a mere six years, when he sent Master Willie to Epsom for the Derby and watched the colt finish second to Henbit, beaten by a swiftly-diminishing three parts of a length. For four vital days during his preparation, Master Willie had taken neither food nor drink as he struggled with a throat infection, and that, perhaps, was all that separated him from racing's greatest prize.

The consolation for his trainer was that, having gone so close with almost his entire career ahead of him, another chance in the Classic would surely arrive sooner rather than later. And yet, while Candy's horses have taken races like the Oaks, King George and Dewhurst back to his Wantage yard in the 17 years since, far from getting another runner into the frame at Epsom, he has not even got one to the starting stalls.

That sequence, at least, should end a fortnight tomorrow, when Crystal Hearted, the Dee Stakes winner, takes his place in the field for the Derby, but having waited so long for another attempt at the race, Candy is understandably cautious about his colt's prospects.

"He won well enough at Chester," Candy said yesterday, a modest assessment given Crystal Hearted's winning margin of 13 lengths, "and he deserves to have a go. He's improving with every run and his jockey [Tony McGlone] is very bullish. Everyone in the yard loves it that we've got a runner, but I think we're also being realistic and we'd be happy if he could win some prize-money of some sort."

The unforgiving going at the Roodeye earlier this month contributed to the ease of Crystal Hearted's victory, but neither the faster ground he can expect at Epsom, nor the extra two-furlong trip of the Classic, is expected to count against him. "He's gone on fast ground before and he should act on the track all right," the trainer said. "The trip is unknown territory, there's plenty of staying blood on his dam's side but not too much on his father's, but I think he'll probably get it as he settles much better now he's had some practice. He just wanted a bit of racing, and he's growing up now."

Just 33 potential rivals remain as Crystal Hearted is prepared for the most important moment of his young life, the last hopeful remnants of the hundreds of colts who were entered as yearlings. Only one of those whose entries were confirmed at Tuesday's declaration stage is trained in France, Andre Fabre's 25-1 chance Cloudings, while all but one of Ireland's five contenders are stabled with Aidan O'Brien at Ballydoyle, where his namesake Vincent prepared six Derby winners. The Godolphin operation, whose horses theoretically represent Dubai but are based in Newmarket, has four entries, despite its recent struggle to find form. Stowaway, their most likely runner, is bracketed out with Crystal Hearted in the ante-post betting on 33-1. One name, though, is conspicuous by its absence. Henry Cecil will not - in 1997 at least - be adding a fourth Derby to his list of achievements.

Cecil seems more than likely to ease any disappointment 24 hours earlier, however, since his fillies Reams Of Verse and Yashmak are both still among the two dozen acceptors for the Oaks. Several of those declared yesterday are likely to be involved in the Irish 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh tomorrow, including Mingling Glances, Shell Ginger and Strawberry Roan, while Godolphin, responsible for two Oaks winners and a runner-up in the last three years, has three acceptors, Bint Baladee, Siyadah and Entice.

For Henry Candy, meanwhile, it is a time for patience and perhaps the occasional prayer. "Crystal Hearted is fit as a flea so he won't be doing anything dramatic between now and the Derby," Candy says. "As for nerves, I never suffer from them. Mind you, if you sent me a 4-6 shot, I could probably grow some."

DERBY ACCEPTORS (Epsom, 7 June): Apprehension (D Loder); Benny The Dip (J Gosden); Bold Demand (S bin Suroor); Casey Tibbs (D Weld, Irl); Cloudings (A Fabre, Fr); Crystal Hearted (H Candy); Desert King (A O'Brien, Ire); Desert Story (M Stoute); Entrepreneur (M Stoute); Fahris (B Hanbury); Fantastic Fellow (C Brittain); Ghataas (J Dunlop); Grapeshot (L Cumani); Haltarra (S bin Suroor); Happy Valentine (S bin Suroor); Isle Of Man (P Cole); King Of Swing (R Mandella, US); Monongahela (A O'Brien, Irl); Musalsal (B Hills); No Slouch (A O'Brien, Irl); Panama City (P Chapple-Hyam); Papua (I Balding); Perfect Paradigm (J Gosden); Plaza De Toros (A O'Brien, Irl); Revoque (P Chapple-Hyam); Romanov (P Chapple-Hyam); Silver Patriarch (J Dunlop); Single Empire (P Chapple-Hyam); State Fair (B Hills); Stowaway (S bin Suroor); Symonds Inn (J FitzGerald); Tanaasa (M Stoute); The Fly (B Hills); Yalaietanee (M Stoute).

OAKS ACCEPTORS (Epsom, 6 June): Attitre (C Brittain); Bint Baladee (S bin Suroor); Book At Bedtime (C Cyzer); Crown Of Light (M Stoute), Dangerous Diva (A O'Brien, Irl); Ebadiyla (J Oxx, Irl); Entice (S bin Suroor); Etoile (P Chapple-Hyam); Gazelle Royale (J Hammond, Fr); Graceful Lass (D Loder); Imperial Scholar (J Eustace); Intellectuelle (E Lellouche, Fr); Leo Girl (E Lellouche, Fr); Mingling Glances (A O'Brien, Irl); Mrs Miniver (P Kelleway); Reams Of Verse (H Cecil); Royale (A O'Brien, Irl); Sarayir (W R Hern); Shell Ginger (A O'Brien, Irl); Siyadah (S bin Suroor); Strawberry Roan (A O'Brien, Irl); Ukraine Venture (S Woods); Valagalore (B Hills), Yashmak (H Cecil).

n Today's meeting at Haydock has been abandoned due to waterlogging and tomorrow's televised card is subject to an 8am inspection today.