Racing: Cape to cope with distance

The Derby: Favourite may possess that rare blend of both speed and stamina
Click to follow
Sue Montgomery

says the 1,000 Guineas winner may be even better at the Derby trip

THE best occasion of the sporting year, now less than a week away, has been given a delightful extra frisson by the participation of the 1,000 Guineas heroine. The decision to let Cape Verdi attempt to make history in the 219th Derby has added a genuine focus of interest that should bring public attention to the great race for all the right reasons.

If she can transfer the brilliance she showed over a mile at Newmarket a month ago to the mile and a half at Epsom then those lucky enough to join the throng on the Downs on Saturday may witness something special. Doubts have been expressed about her ability to last home on the grounds that she has shown too much speed over shorter distances, but to be able to do just that is one of the hallmarks of a top-class horse.

Her pedigree is certainly that of a middle-distance performer; she is by Caerleon, already responsible for a Derby winner, Generous, out of a half-sister to the Breeders' Cup Classic winner Arcangues by the Arc winner Sagace. And she seems to be blessed with a perfect racing temperament.

For only the second time this century the two Guineas winners will meet in the Derby at Epsom. Back in 1912 it was the 1,000 heroine Tagalie who came out on top, with Sweeper back in seventh place.

King Of Kings would be the first 2,000 winner since Nashwan in 1989 to follow up in the Blue Riband and although stock by his sire Sadler's Wells generally stay well this one's optimum trip may be around a mile. He is so far the only confirmed runner from Aidan O'Brien's powerful Tipperary yard; decisions will be made about Second Empire, a controversial third in the Irish Guineas eight days ago, and Saratoga Springs after the latter has run in this afternoon's Prix du Jockey-Club.

Sadler's Wells has been European champion stallion for seven seasons (a 20th-century record) but has yet to sire a Derby winner. He has gone close, with three runners-up in the last four years; this time round his best chance of success may rest with Greek Dance, who created an excellent impression at York when he won the Glasgow Stakes. The colt showed a good turn of foot and is sure to stay, being a son of the Yorkshire Oaks winner Hellenic.

Haami, an eye-catching fifth in the 2,000 Guineas, is another who will be suited by the step up in distance, being by one Derby winner, Nashwan, out of a half-sister to another, Erhaab.

The three who have proved themselves over the Derby trip are The Glow- Worm, Gulland and High-Rise, winners of the trials at, respectively, Epsom, Chester and Lingfield.

If Cape Verdi was a colt and had won the 2,000 Guineas in the style in which she took the 1,000, we would be looking no further for the Derby winner, and it would particularly ill behove this racing correspondent to get sexist. She can set the middle- distance standard for the year; Greek Dance, Second Empire - if he runs - and Haami can give her most to do, with City Honours, a staying-on second to Saratoga Springs in the Dante Stakes, a worthy long-stop for Godolphin.

On Friday, the field for the 220th Oaks is likely to be small but select. Midnight Line, going for a Henry Cecil hat-trick in the race, will have a pacemaker to help her turn the tables on her narrow Musidora Stakes conqueror Bahr, representing Godolphin, who took the 1994 and 1995 runnings.

Both, though, may have to give best to High And Low, runaway winner of the Cheshire Oaks. Khalid Abdullah's attractive, progressive daughter of Rainbow Quest can finally end Barry Hills' long Epsom drought.

The European Derby season gets under way this afternoon at Chantilly with a competitive edition of the Prix du Jockey Club. Saratoga Springs should make a bold bid to become the first Irish-trained winner since Caerleon in 1983. Croco Rouge, winner of the Prix Lupin, is the best-fancied of the home side, and it would be no surprise if Mudeer, held by both on the book, could turn the tables despite a recent minor foot injury.

But the best value may be found in the progressive Sayarshan, unexpected, but impressive winner of the Prix Hocquart a month ago. Whatever, the winner will have a couple of hard acts to follow; the last two winners were the exceptional pair Peintre Celebre and Helissio.

Less than an hour later seven British raiders - headed by Godolphin's Central Park and Mutawwaj, Peter Chapple-Hyam's Chester Park third Distant Mirage - contest the Derby Italiano in Rome in an attempt to export the prize for the sixth year in succession.