Racing: Gulland almost drops Vase

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The Independent Online
CHESTER was not a portentous stopping point for Harry Hotspur as he disputed Henry IV's right to the throne. He was killed soon afterwards during a battle at Shrewsbury.

A similar eventuality appears likely to befall the prospects of another visitor to the walled city. Gulland's main battle will be the Derby next month, but the way he scrambled home in the Chester Vase yesterday suggests ante-post supporters can already throw themselves, or their vouchers at least, on the sword.

Gulland started the day at 5-1 for Epsom, but this tarnished effort in victory meant he was pushed out to 14-1 (by William Hill). A peculiarity of the Derby market is that you can now get 10-1 the field, but there are three horses who would be quoted at shorter odds if their participation was confirmed. If Cape Verdi, Second Empire or King Of Kings is declared a runner in the next few days they will immediately become favourite.

Gulland's form had begun to look more worthy of Parkhurst than Epsom following the shabby runs of those that finished around him in the Craven Stakes. Nevertheless, he looked the part parading yesterday.

If dogs grow like their owners, then many racehorses are recognisable by the trainers which prepare them. Gulland was typically Geoff Wragg, a long, well-groomed colt with a distinguishing crested neck and noseband. There was another who looked like him, Ridgeway, his pacemaking stablemate.

The pathfinder ran no race at all though, negotiating each bend as if it had been buttered. "Paul [Eddery, the jockey] said the horse was watching the television [camera vehicle] all the way round and he wouldn't corner because he was ducking away from it," Wragg said. "He wasn't paying attention so he wasn't able to give Gulland a proper lead.

"The other fellow had to go on much sooner than he wanted to and that took the speed that you need at a finish away from him."

Gulland, a 1-2 shot, was actually forced to take up the running five furlongs out and by the entrance to the straight he looked as though he was going to detach himself from the field by some margin. Then it started to go wrong. "My horse got tired and the last bit just caught him out," Michael Hills said. "He quickened well turning in and then he just had a wander and a look at the crowd."

It was just as well that Chester's is the shortest run-in in the game otherwise Gulland would have been caught. The Glow-Worm, whose bottom had been warmed by Pat Eddery at the top of the home stretch, was in front a yard past the line. Gulland, on this day at least, appeared a non-stayer.

The Glow-Worm is not considered the swiftest Classic machine in Barry Hills's Lambourn garage (that honour belongs to Alboostan). Before yesterday his horizon stretched no further than the Italian Derby.

The first Chester Vase was a dead-heat decided by a toss of a coin and it now seems a similar process may be used to decide if Gulland runs in the Derby at all. "It's back to the drawing board and think," Wragg said. "It wasn't a very good race, a nonentity of a race. The chances are that we will go [to Epsom], but we'll certainly have to think about it."

Alex Ferguson's Queensland Star in the first ensured that the Manchester United trophy cabinet will have an addition this season (even if it is only a Cheshire cheese), and Robert Sangster registered yet another Deva winner with Casino Captive. Sangster informed us that while last year there were only three juveniles of Group class at Manton there were at least 12 in this year's batch. Sheikh Mohammed, this is for your attention.

THE DERBY (Epsom, 6 June): Coral: 8-1 Border Arrow, 10-1 Gulland, 12- 1 Haami & Xaar, 14-1 Greek Dance; Ladbrokes: 7-1 Gulland, 10-1 Border Arrow, City Honours & Haami, 12-1 Greek Dance, 16-1 Capri, Dr Fong & Saratoga Springs; William Hill: 5-1 Border Arrow, 8-1 Haami, 12-1 Xaar, 14-1 City Honours, Greek Dance & Gulland, 16-1 Capri, 20-1 Dr Fong.