Racing: Derby prospects gain from Time: British-trained horses dominate an Italian Classic but the strands of form-book evidence for Epsom's big day become entangled

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The Independent Online
ENCOURAGEMENT for British racing and for the followers of at least seven horses in the Derby was generated in Milan yesterday as visitors secured a clean sweep in the Derby Italiano.

The Classic went to Paul Cole's Time Star, who gave hope to the connections of Linney Head and Khamaseen, who beat him at Sandown last month. The prospects of Erhaab, the better fancied stablemate of the latter, hardly dipped either.

Runner-up to Time Star yesterday, a length and a half back, was Overbury, who is intertwined in another course of the Derby spaghetti, having finished behind Foyer at York. And if you like Foyer, you must also like King's Theatre, the choice of Michael Kinane after he rode the pair on Newmarket's Limekilns last week.

Third, beaten a further two lengths, at the Capanelle was Peter Chapple-Hyam's Rubhahunish, who shares the same Manton yard as the Epsom-bound Colonel Collins, but has never been talked about in the same breath.

Both Erhaab and Khamaseen followed the John Dunlop formula on the Arundel all-weather gallop on Saturday. 'It was very satisfactory,' the trainer said. 'They did a good bit of work over the usual strip of about six furlongs.'

If the Sussex runners are beaten on Wednesday it will not be for the absence of experience from the men on top. Both their jockeys are grandfathers. Erhaab's pilot will be Willie Carson, who has won three of his 25 Derbys, while Khamaseen will be partnered by Lester Piggott, who has been coming round Tattenham Corner for almost as long as the running rail. This year it's Derby No 35 as Piggott aims to get into double figures as a winner.

Neither rider, however, has been giving Dunlop the benefit of his wisdom during preparation. Dunlop does not like racecourse jockeys on his trial grounds. 'Willie may have ridden plenty of winners for me but he has never been to Arundel,' he said. 'The last jockey of any description to ride here was Brian Rouse before he won the 1,000 Guineas on Quick As Lightning (in 1980).

Jason Weaver, on the other hand, will be competing in his first Derby when he sets out on the 2,000 Guineas winner, Mister Baileys. Mark Johnston's colt played virtual Epsom on Saturday morning as he was sent the wrong way round Middleham's High Moor gallop, with lead horse Surprise Guest, in an effort to simulate the pattern and gradients of the Surrey Downs.

'They didn't go very fast because we wanted to let him enjoy himself and see how he acted down the hill and round the bend, but he handled it better than expected,' Johnston reported. 'It was just a fast canter and he caught Surprise Guest without any difficulty.'

After his defeat in the Dante Stakes, Mister Baileys has been written off more times that Evel Knievel's motorbike fleet, but Johnston still clings to threads of belief. 'From the Monday before York, Millstream was the only horse to win for us for two weeks and we had a load of favourites turned over,' he said. 'Prior to that we could do nothing wrong.

'York is not the first time he has stopped like that. He did it many times on the all- weather earlier in the year, when he was not enjoying the surface he was working on. It is possible he didn't enjoy the hard ground at York after encountering similar conditions at Newmarket.'

White Muzzle, who won the Italian Derby last year, is the leading home player in a Coronation Cup of rare distinction on Friday. Among his opponents is a four-strong battery from France including Urban Sea, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner, and Intrepidity, who returns to Epsom for the first time since taking the Oaks 12 months ago.

Royal Ballerina, the runner-up to Intrepidity, leads an impressive Irish contingent, while the Germans field Monsun, the mount of Pat Eddery and winner of seven of his last nine races.

THE DERBY (Epsom, 1 June) odds of leading fancies: Coral: 7-2 Broadway Flyer, 4-1 Erhaab, 8-1 Colonel Collins & Linney Head, 9-1 Weigh Anchor, 12-1 King's Theatre, 14-1 Sunshack; Ladbrokes: 7-2 Erhaab, 4-1 Broadway Flyer, 7-1 Colonel Collins, 8-1 Linney Head & Weigh Anchor, 10-1 King's Theatre; William Hill: 100-30 Erhaab, 4-1 Broadway Flyer, 13-2 Linney Head, 9-1 Colonel Collins, 10-1 King's Theatre, 11-1 Weigh Anchor, 16-1 Sunshack, 20-1 Khamaseen & Mister Baileys.

CORONATION CUP (Epsom, 3 June): Ladbrokes: 7-2 Intrepidity, 9-2 Urban Sea, 5-1 White Muzzle, 7-1 Monsun & Right Win, 10- 1 Apple Tree & Royal Ballerina; William Hill: 3-1 Intrepidity, 9-2 Urban Sea, 5-1 White Muzzle, 7-1 Monsun & Right Win, 12-1 Apple Tree, Only Royale & Royal Ballerina, 14-1 Husband.

(Photograph omitted)