Racing: Even Top patched up for York comeback

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For anyone who supported Even Top in the Derby, his form book entry makes gruesome reading. The colt was caught in a hurricane of scrimmaging after three furlongs, bumped then hampered, and also struck into, returning with an ugly gash behind. The stars were such that he was lucky to avoid being hit by a rocket that June day.

Even Top has not run since the Classic, a position which will change at York next Tuesday when he participates in either the Great Volitigeur Stakes or, more probably, a hugely competitive International Stakes.

Mark Tompkins's runner has taken much time to recover from his Epsom buffeting, especially as he should not have run in the race at all. "He only came sound on the Thursday before the Derby after a poisoned foot, he was crippled," Tompkins said yesterday. "He wasn't right at all in the race and people should just forget about it. I should never have run him and if it hadn't have been the Derby I wouldn't. Epsom told us nothing.''

It may be then that Even Top is better judged on his previous display, in the 2,000 Guineas. That afternoon he narrowly failed to overhaul Mark Of Esteem, and had Bijou D'Inde just behind, in a finish that was decided by the camera. The third has since collected the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot before giving Halling a Hallowe'en of a fright in the Eclipse.

As the Sandown first and second are priced at 5-2 and 7-2 respectively for the International by Coral, it may be that Even Top's ledge at 12- 1 is erring on the side of generosity.

Even Top was in dry dock before the Blue Riband with a fissure in his hoof, an injury which is not expected to grow out until next year, when the plan is to keep him in training. The problem remains in a diluted form, but at least Even Top has managed to get himself out on to the gallops. "He's still got a crack in his foot and a patch on it, but he is very well at the moment, working properly and in good form," Tompkins added. "The last two bits of work he's done have told us he's back to his best."

Between Halling and Bijou D'Inde in the betting is First Island, whose Sussex Stakes victory last month was not franked when the runner-up, Charnwood Forest, crept home fourth in the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville yesterday. The winner here was Spinning World, who supplied a sixth victory in the last 10 years in the Group One event for the Niarchos family, the sponsors of the race. He held off the challenge of Vetheuil and Shaanxi.

Charnwood Forest, a Godolphin-owned horse, was ridden by Lanfranco Dettori, who reported: "The ground was a little slower than he would have liked and he just ran out of gas." Britain's other representative, Mark Johnston's Gothenburg, set the pace for much of the journey but was furthest behind at the point that mattered most.

First Island gets a lift from Deauville as his stablemate at Geoff Wragg's Newmarket yard, Sasuru, won the Prix Guillaume d'Ornano. Sasuru captured the Group Two contest by a short-head from Android.

INTERNATIONAL STAKES (York, Tuesday): Coral: 5-2 Halling, 11-4 First Island, 7-2 Bijou D'Inde, 7-1 Grape Tree Road, Valanour, 10-1 Spectrum, 12-1 Even Top, Tamayaz, 25-1 Glory Of Dancer, 100-1 Punishment.

Ladbrokes : 9-4 Halling, 100-30 First Island, 7-2 Bijou D'Inde, 6-1 Spectrum, 7-1 Valanour, 10-1 Grape Tree Road, 14-1 Definite Article, Even Top, 20- 1 Glory Of Dancer, 100-1 Punishment.

William Hill: 5-2 First Island, 11-4 Halling, 3-1 Bijou D'Inde, 8-1 Spectrum, Valanour, 11-1 Even Top, Grape Tree Road, 14-1 Definite Article, 25-1 Glory Of Dancer, 100-1 Punishment.