Racing Commentary: Eddery speedily steers from Fantasy: Home work alters perceptions for the Guineas with Wharf emerging as the improving candidate

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The Independent Online
HE OFTEN tedious drum roll that precedes the first Classics is almost at an end and over the weekend came the first meaningful bulges in the Guineas curtain.

The gallops reports of early spring rarely prove to have relevance to events on the Rowley Mile, but with the first Classic now just three days away, the outcomes of morning exercise become more significant.

Foremost among these informative spins was the piece of work produced yesterday by Lyric Fantasy at Salisbury racecourse. Ironically, Richard Hannon's filly may have gone too speedily for Pat Eddery, as the Irish jockey decided to plump instead for Secrage, whom he had ridden on Friday on the Beckhampton gallops of Roger Charlton. This was an obvious message that Lyric Fantasy, who will still take her place in the line-up, possibly in the hands of Michael Kinane, is thought incapable of eking out her stamina to a mile.

There are also question marks against Secrage, who was third in the Fred Darling Stakes at Newbury on her seasonal debut 10 days ago. 'I think we made too much use of her first time up,' Charlton said yesterday. 'She's not going to make the running this time but whether that will make much difference I don't know. Pat's riding her presumably because he hasn't got anything else to ride and I'm just hoping to sneak a place.'

Secrage, though, does have better prospects than Marina Park, who will not even make the race after injuring herself in the Nell Gwyn Stakes. Mark Johnston's filly is now expected to be dropped back to sprint distances.

Another disappointment from the Nell Gwyn, Sayyedati, the market leader with Elizabeth Bay for the 1,000 Guineas, seems to have recovered from her Newmarket exertions. 'She worked very well on Friday and I've got her back to her best,' Clive Brittain, the filly's trainer, said. 'She's put all the weight back on that she lost after the Nell Gwyn.'

The gallop of the weekend for the colts' first Classic, the 2,000 Guineas, was produced by Henry Cecil's Wharf on Saturday. The Craven Stakes runner- up may be in the sort of form to give the Guineas favourite, Zafonic, another colt owned by Khalid Abdullah, a run for his money.

'He did a strong bit of work with two older horses and Ardkinglass and spread- eagled them,' Cecil said. 'I would like to think he will run very well.'

Lofty aspirations are also entertained for Silver Wizard, the Free Handicap fourth who will attempt to add to Lester Piggott's tally of 30 Classics. 'He did a nice piece of work yesterday and he pleased me,' Geoff Lewis, the horse's trainer, said. 'He has improved since Newmarket and come in his coat.'

John Gosden, who already has Emperor Jones in the Guineas, could never report great things about the other horse he will now run in the Classic, Pembroke. 'He is a very idle horse at home,' the trainer said, adding that Willie Carson would take the ride.

Gosden informed that True Hero, his Classic Trial winner at Sandown on Saturday, had emerged from the race successfully and would now go for the Lingfield Derby Trial. The stable's main Derby hope, Taos, is pencilled in for the Dante Stakes at York, where he may come up against the Epsom ante- post favourite, Tenby.

Tenby was pulled out of the Classic Trial by Cecil on Saturday because of the soft ground and will go instead for the Newmarket Stakes at Headquarters on Friday. 'Tenby probably would have won,' Cecil said. 'But he ran once on very heavy ground last year. He's only tiny and I didn't want to risk him on it again at this stage of the season.'

This unbeaten colt is one prong of the trident of Derby aspirants at Warren Place. 'My potential Derby horses are Tenby, Armiger and Commander In Chief, who is impressing me and beginning to work very nicely,' the trainer said.

The last-named appears next in the Culford Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday followed by the Glasgow Stakes at York, while Armiger's programme will involve either the Chester Vase or Lingfield Derby Trial.

Cecil's Placerville dropped from the stable's vanguard when second to True Hero on Saturday, but at least had a defence new to the chunky tome of trainers' excuses. The wheels of the colt's horsebox caught fire on the M25 as he made his way to the course.

'I am not making excuses but being involved in a fire and having to be hoisted by crane off the carriageway didn't help,' Cecil said. Even Reggie Perrin would have struggled to come up with a tale such as this on his late arrival at Sunshine Desserts.