Racing: Fahris on the scent of Epsom conquest

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The Independent Online
Preparing a horse for the Derby is supposed to be about gallops and feeding regimes and a little slice of luck, and one thing the traditional build-up is not supposed to involve is drilling a hole in your star colt's skull five weeks before the race.

So if it is true, as some insist, that Derby winners always have a heartwarming triumph over adversity somewhere in their life story, then Fahris should surely be a lot shorter than 16-1 to win the greatest Classic on 7 June.

Fahris took up a prominent place in the ante-post betting for Epsom after his three-length defeat of Panama City, the subsequent Chester Vase winner, in the Fielden Stakes at Newmarket, but started to drift when news emerged from Ben Hanbury's yard of his urgent visit to the local vet.

"Three weeks ago he had a bout of bad sinus," Hanbury said yesterday, "and we had a drill a hole in his sinus to release all the phlegm and mucus. But that's all cleared up now, he's back in full work, and he worked today over nine furlongs and went very well.''

The colt's rapid recovery is excellent news, not just for Hanbury but also for anyone who would like to see Entrepreneur seriously tested on the Downs on Saturday week.

According to the stopwatch, Fahris's success in the Fielden was a performance of great merit, particularly for a colt making his seasonal debut, and as a son of Generous, Hanbury's runner should also test the almost sacrilegious idea, popular in some quarters, that Entrepreneur could win the Classic even if he fails to truly stay the trip.

"The Guineas form has taken some knocks recently," Hanbury says, "and a horse race is a horse race. Look at the number of even-money chances and odds-on shots that get beaten every day.

''I'm not disputing that he's the one we all have to beat, but you never know how they're going to feel on the day, or whether they'll have bad luck in running.

''There'll be a big field for the race, and I'm really looking forward to it, I've got a good chance.''

Hanbury's anticipation is all the greater because Fahris will be his first runner in the Derby (just as Shaamit, incidentally, was Willie Haggas's first attempt at the race 12 months ago).

"It's very exciting," he said, "I've been training for more than 20 years and had lots of good horses and three Classic winners, but never even a runner in this race. Bin Ajwaad would probably have started favourite for it four years ago but he broke his left leg when he was second to Kingmambo in the French 2,000 Guineas.''

The trainer inherited Fahris from the now-retired Tom Jones, for whom the colt made two encouraging appearances as a juvenile, but even then his middle-distance bloodlines promised much better things to come as a three-year-old.

"The one thing I know that Fahris will do is stay, so hopefully he'll be going on at the end and Entrepreneur will be stopping. All he needs now is just two more bits of work, and then we just have to keep fresh and well.

''Everyone with a runner, Michael Stoute included, is just trying to get them there in a good frame of mind, happy and relaxed.

''But the trainer will be a bit tense, I can tell you.''