Benny The Dip, a colt named after Damon Runyon's sneak thief, yesterday earned his right to take on the 2,000 Guineas winner at Epsom with a fluent victory here in the Dante Stakes. He led from start to finish to ensure it was those behind him that were finding the pockets on this occasion.
Benny The Dip is now as low as 7-1 for the Blue Riband, which did not seem likely when he returned from his last race, Sandown's Classic trial, in the grip of malady. "He came back with mucus flying out of his nose and coughing," John Gosden, the winning trainer, said. "There was a discharge after the race and he blew for 40 minutes, quite a distressed blow, and none of our horses do that. A lot of credit must go to the vet [who should also be a Runyon character with the name of Benoit Hendricks] because you can't train sick horses that are full of mucus. Full marks to him as it's been more of a veterinary issue than a training issue.''
Benny The Dip looked anything but infirm in the paddock yesterday, however. He was the Michael Howard of the field, a dark figure, with just a single dab of white between his eyes for contrast. He was the first to spring from the stalls as Olivier Peslier embarked on a ride of rare mastery. The French champion cranked up the pace by well-disguised increments and challengers peeled away as he surged up the straight to success by two and a half lengths. At the line came the first manual gesture as the rider waved to the crowd in celebration. Then there was a Churchillian action as Peslier denoted this was his second Dante (he won on Glory Of Dancer last year) and finally a high five with the winning trainer.
"We didn't monkey about and we went out there to see if he could stay and he outstayed them," Gosden said. "We wanted to find out about his stamina so there was no point fiddling about at the back, waiting and trying to pounce, as that wouldn't have told us anything. In the Derby I would expect to see him handy to the pace but certainly not on the lead. The lead up here is the toughest in the country for a horse because they view the whole stands in the open, having listened to the previous race being run. If you've got a nervous horse he'll unravel at York, but in a way I wanted to do that here to see how he'd handle Epsom.''
Before Peslier was back on terra firma he was questioned about Benny The Dip's capacity to extend his range at Epsom. "That was the first question I asked him because I like to have a jockey's immediate gut feeling on something like that," Gosden said. "I don't like them to go back into the weighing room and think about it.
''Olivier felt that he wasn't on a dying horse who was running out of gas today. I worry about a mile and a half, but you've got to go to Epsom to find out.''
There will be a few discoveries on 7 June and Gosden himself is as keen as anyone to learn whether Entrepreneur is as brilliant that many imagine him to be. "If Entrepreneur is this superb champion then we are all running for second place," the trainer said. "If he runs to his Guineas form and stays a mile and a half like his sister we are all running for second place. But, hell, there's good money in that and I seem to spend all my time running second and third in the Derby [Tamure, Presenting and Shantou have all reached the frame] so I might as well do it again."
THE DERBY (Epsom, 7 June): Coral: 11-10 Entrepreneur, 5-1 Revoque, 7- 1 Silver Patriarch, 10-1 Benny The Dip; Ladbrokes: 4-5 Entrepreneur, 9- 2 (with a run) Revoque, 7-1 Benny The Dip, 8-1 Silver Patriarch, 16-1 Fahris & Shaya, 20-1 othersReuse content