Racing: Dee splash for Cecil's Cicerao: A colt impresses at Chester but the day's delight is the rapid recovery of Declan Murphy

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The Independent Online
THE CHAMPIONS were in the enclosures rather than on the track here yesterday. While Manchester United's players tried their luck in the betting ring, the Dee Stakes, allegedly a Derby trial, was won by Cicerao, who is not even among the entries for Epsom.

This was the 181st year of the Dee, but its value as a Derby indicator disappeared at about the same time as the Ottoman Empire. Cicerao showed resolution rather than brilliance as he overhauled Rainbow Heights at the top of the straight before striding home by two-and-a-half lengths from of Waiting.

Henry Cecil, the winner's trainer, was unperturbed by Cicerao's absence from the Derby. 'He's a very lazy horse,' Cecil said, 'but keeps on improving and should win a Group race somewhere. He could also be supplemented for the French Derby'.

The legion of Warren Place three-year-olds jostling for a chance at Epsom seems to have been whittled down to two, King's Theatre and Bal Harbour, and both are expected to run at York next week. Bal Harbour, a useful juvenile last term, will make his seasonal debut in the Glasgow Stakes, a race used as a warm-up by Cecil for last year's Derby winner, Commander In Chief. King's Theatre, who was soundly beaten when favourite for the 2,000 Guineas, will attempt to reverse that form with Mister Baileys in Wednesday's Dante Stakes.

Dante was the last northern- trained Derby winner, so Mister Baileys, who is prepared in Middleham by Mark Johnston, was an appropriate favourite when Ladbrokes opened a book on York's Classic trial yesterday. The list reads: 2-1 Mister Baileys, 7-2 King's Theatre and Linney Head, 7-1 Erhaab, 8-1 Pencader, 12-1 Weigh Anchor; others on application.

Cecil should have a good idea of Erhaab's capabilities - John Dunlop's colt was an unlucky second to Cicerao at Newmarket last month.

Richard Hannon continues to increase his strike-rate and the Marlborough trainer supplied the first two home in yesterday's opening race. The result, however, was a good illustration of the pitfalls of attempting to assess horse flesh.

Silvester Kirk, Hannon's assistant, had watched both the yard's runners at morning exercise, and quickly formed an opinion as to which showed the greater potential. It was a judgement he supported with hard cash yesterday afternoon.

'Unfortunately,' he said after watching the 7-1 chance Queenfisher beat the 100-30 favourite Signs, 'I backed the wrong one.'