Racing / Derby Focus: Sixteen stake a claim against Tenby: Fears that the premier Classic might be reduced to a romp for the favourite prove groundless

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FORECASTERS who believed that opposition to Tenby would shrivel to single figures and that the favourite would start at odds of around 1-3 have got their predictions wrong even before the runners reach the post for the 214th Derby. A total of 17 horses were left in Wednesday's race at yesterday's five-day declaration stage, while Tenby has gradually drifted from 2-5 to 4-6 in the betting.

The feeling that Tenby is certainly beatable and, even if he is not, that there are no automatic candidates for the lucrative place positions, seems to have encouraged trainers to stand their ground with horses that are way out of their depth. Seven of the 17 are quoted at odds of 100-1 or more by William Hill and they are most likely to influence the result by creating obstacles for the better runners to negotiate.

The rain which has swept the South-East has also played a part as the prospect of Armiger lining up as Khalid Abdullah's second representative alongside Tenby has been enhanced by the possibility of soft going. Although the official going remains good it is good to soft in the last four furlongs.

All the major bookmakers have reintroduced Armiger into the betting. Coral quote him at 8-1, but the 9-2 and 5-1 offered by William Hill and Ladbrokes respectively look safer propositions as they include a non-runner-no-bet clause. Armiger still seems more likely to head for the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly as Epsom would hardly suit his build and switching Commander In Chief to accompany Abdullah's Regency at Chantilly would require a hefty fee for his supplementation. No decision is likely to be made before Monday.

There were no surprises among the nine names to disappear from the reckoning, although the withdrawals of Dernier Empereur, Enjoy Plan and Reveur Du Nord have produced the unusual situation of a Derby without a French-trained runner. In contrast, the Irish will be well represented through Vincent O'Brien's Fatherland and the Jim Bolger-trained pair Blue Judge and Desert Team.

The easing conditions may also influence Peter Chapple-Hyam, who could add Cairo Prince to his team of Planetary Aspect and Zind as he attempts to emulate last year's success with Dr Devious. All three worked satisfactorily together at Manton yesterday with Zind, who scrambled home from a chaser, The Laughing Lord, at Ayr on Monday, trying out the visor with which he will be fitted on Wednesday.

DERBY ACCEPTORS (with latest riding plans): Armiger (runs only if soft ground); Barathea (M Roberts); Blue Judge (B Raymond); Blues Traveller (D Holland); Bob's Return (P Robinson); Cairo Prince (runs only if soft ground); Canaska Star (A Munro); Commander In Chief (M J Kinane); Desert Team (C Roche); Fatherland (L Piggott); Geisway (C Asmussen); Planetary Aspect (J Reid); Redenham (T Quinn); Shareek (W R Swinburn); Tenby (Pat Eddery); Wolf Prince (L Dettori); Zind (-).

WITHDRAWALS: Advocat, Dernier Empereur, Desert Secret, Enjoy Plan, Foresee, Great Cabaret, Reveur Du Nord, Salatin, Tales Of Hearsay.

BETTING: Coral: 4-6 Tenby, 7-1 Fatherland, 8-1 Armiger, Barathea & Commander In Chief, 16-1 Planetary Aspect, 20-1 Bob's Return & Geisway, 25-1 Desert Team, 33-1 Wolf Prince, 50-1 Zind, 66-1 Cairo Prince, 100-1 Blues Traveller, Redenham & Shareek, 150-1 Blue Judge & Canaska Star.

Ladbrokes: 4-6 Tenby, 5-1 (with a run) Armiger, 7-1 Fatherland, 8-1 Commander In Chief, 10-1 Barathea, 16-1 Planetary Aspect, 20-1 Bob's Return & Geisway.

William Hill: 8-13 Tenby, 9-2 (with a run) Armiger, 7-1 Commander In Chief & Fatherland, 12-1 Barathea, 14-1 Geisway, 16-1 Bob's Return & Planetary Aspect, 25-1 Wolf Prince, 33-1 Desert Team, 100-1 Blue Judge, Cairo Prince, Redenham & Shareek, 200-1 Blues Traveller, Canaska Star & Zind.