Racing: Claxon rings out an Oaks warning

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The Independent Online
IT WAS warm and sunny here on Trundle Hill yesterday, unlike the first dreary afternoon of the meeting. Everything else was the same. The short-priced favourite, the biggest horse in the field, collected the Classic trial easily from opponents of dubious merit and was immediately cut in price for Epsom. For Dubai Millennium read Claxon, who is now 8- 1 third favourite behind Zahrat Dubai and Ramruma for the Oaks.

While John Dunlop's filly may not have shown the instant afterburn of Dubai Millennium, there was more to suggest she would last home the extra distance. Both go for their championships with strong each-way chances.

Claxon got warm in the preliminaries yesterday. We all did. She stiffened her legs when asked to enter the stalls and had to be hooded. When Claxon and Pat Eddery were eventually forced into their berth the jockey may have noticed an unexpected figure at his side. Willie Ryan was a late deputy on Henry Cecil's Insinuate as Kieren Fallon had been trapped in traffic on the way to the course. Eddery did not risk such trouble.

After a lethargic break, Claxon was swiftly rushed to the head of the field, a position she was never to relinquish. The challengers came and went and, by the end, Claxon was two and a half lengths clear and going away. "There was plenty left," Eddery confirmed. "Every time she sees one she finds a bit, she's that type of horse, and I'm sure over a mile and a half she'll be even better, without a doubt. The track [at Epsom] won't bother, she's got a good temperament and everything is there. I just hope she's good enough."

Dunlop now goes to Epsom with great hope in his heart. He confirmed yesterday that Lucido would be supplemented for the Derby and that the colt was the choice from several options for Richard Quinn (Pat Eddery for a Quinn cast-off, Salford Express, was the other notable Blue Riband booking yesterday).

Lucido's participation will not be without its expense for owner Hildegarde Focke. She now has to stump up pounds 75,000, having already met some of the early Derby fees. "It's a huge amount of money, far too much money, to supplement, and even then it's a full week before the race and a week's a long time in the life of a thoroughbred," Dunlop said. "Lucido was entered [in the Derby] as a yearling and we kept the entry going through last autumn, but there was a forfeit stage in February and we took him out.

"Having won his maiden at Salisbury we took him to Germany last back- end and he was beaten eight lengths by what was in fact the champion two- year-old of Germany [Sumitas] but you wouldn't have thought that was Derby form.

"But the trainer got it wrong, as they most often do. I made a cock-up but, on the face of the evidence at that stage, I thought we were doing the right thing. Horses always make fools of you." Lucido, the Lingfield Derby trial victor, does at least have reasonable prospects of retrieving some of his entry cost in what appears a particularly open year.

"He's a pretty good horse and all things are relative," Dunlop said. "We haven't got a Dante winner by six, or a Vase winner by seven or a Guineas winner in the Derby. We've seen Derbys in the past when there is a straightforward favourite and one would be surprised if it got beat. But you can't say that this year. There is nothing in the sort of league of a Nashwan."

Further Classic news was provided by Henry Cecil, who reported that his Enrique was back on course for Saturday's Irish 2,000 Guineas and a rematch with his Newmarket conqueror Island Sands following a scare on the gallops at Headquarters on Tuesday. "He worked very well yesterday but coming back he just pecked twice," the trainer said. "He had a little bit of bruising on his foot. We've taken everything out and taken the pressure off. He went for a swim this morning and he hasn't missed any work.

"We've still got three days to go but he's sound and it's all going the right way. I'm very pleased with him. He's in very good form and he worked beautifully yesterday. I think he's as well if not better than he was for the [2,000] Guineas. If he goes there and gets beaten there won't be any excuses."

THE OAKS (Epsom, 4 June): Coral: 6-4 Zahrat Dubai, 5-1 Ramruma, 8-1 Claxon, 12-1 Edabiya, 14-1 La Sylphide, Sunday Picnic. William Hill: 6-4 Zahrat Dubai, 5-1 Ramruma, 8-1 Claxon, 12-1 Edabiya, 16-1 La Sylphide, Sunday Picnic & Sunspangled. Tote: 11-8 Zahrat Dubai, 9-2 Ramruma, 8-1 Claxon, 12-1 Edabiya, Sunspangled, 14-1 La Sylphide & Sunday Picnic.

n The Levy Board yesterday decided against supporting the British Horseracing Board's new fixture proposals for 132 successive days racing next summer. The Board, responsible for providing financial assistance, is concerned over the effects on stable staff.

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