Racing: Colt ready for Derby hurdle: The trainer of a 500-1 chance in the Blue Riband could have the last laugh

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The Independent Online
WHEN YOUR runner in the Derby is on offer at 500-1, it helps to have a sense of humour. Robin Dickin, who will saddle Colonel Colt at Epsom in 12 days' time, is well equipped. 'It would be amusing after the Derby,' Dickin said yesterday, 'especially if he'd won it, to say, well, that's got him nicely wound up for the Finale Junior Hurdle at Chepstow.'

Success in the greatest Classic would more probably render Dickin, and every spectator on the downs, speechless. Study the form book, though, and it is possible to glean some evidence that, while Colonel Colt certainly deserves a big price, 500-1 is an insult. On his seasonal debut in the Glasgow Stakes at York last week, Dickin's colt finished fifth, beaten 10 lengths, by the race-fit Foyer and Overbury, and only five adrift of Henry Cecil's Bal Harbour. He finished strongly and will be much better suited by the extra two furlongs at Epsom. Lightly raced animals can also show sudden improvement. Terimon, at 500-1, and Blue Judge and Blues Traveller, both 150-1 chances, have been placed in the Derby in the last five years.

An equivalent performance by Colonel Colt may be unlikely, but it is certainly not unthinkable. 'He ran very well at York, especially as he was so green,' Dickin said. 'He was very backward as a two-year-old, and though he wintered very well he's still backward now. It's a shame the Derby's not 10 or 12 weeks away to have him at his best, but we thought we've come this far, so let's give it a go.'

Anyone tempted to risk 50p at 500-1 this morning will take an unusually strong interest in the Upper Crust Maiden Stakes at Newmarket a few hours later. On the advice of Michael Roberts, who rode Colonel Colt at York, Dickin decided to give his horse another run before Epsom, to add to his experience rather than his fitness. Roberts also predicted that the Derby contender 'won't finish last'.

The former champion, who was aboard Terimon when he finished runner-up to Nashwan, also agreed to ride Colonel Colt in the Classic if he had no other commitments. The former champion seems sure to be required elsewhere, though, and Dickin is considering Brian Rouse and George Duffield as replacements. 'The horse will be very inexperienced,' the trainer said, 'and the last thing I want is an inexperienced jockey as well.'

Colonel Colt was 497 points adrift of Erhaab, the Derby favourite, in yesterday morning's betting, but by the evening the gap had shortened to just 496 1/2 . Coral surprisingly eased Erhaab by half a point, to 7-2, where he now shares favouritism with Broadway Flyer. Erhaab's convincing success over Mister Baileys - confirmed a Derby runner yesterday - in the Dante Stakes last week appeared to have cemented his position at the head of the market, and such a sudden shift in the opposite direction is somewhat alarming. Caution is recommended until his well-being is confirmed.

There are certainly no health warnings surrounding Colonel Colt. 'He's screaming his head off and he's really well,' Dickin said. The trainer is also preparing to revive the early-Eighties practice of snap retirements after success in the Blue Riband. 'It would be very nice if he could win it,' Dickin said. 'I'm looking forward to not having to work again.'