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Racing: History beckons a filly taking on the big boys

THE flying filly Cape Verdi is to take on history and the colts in the greatest test of them all, the Derby, at Epsom a week on Saturday. The 1,000 Guineas winner will attempt to become the first of her sex to capture the Classic since Fifinella in 1916.

Cape Verdi, who was expected to run in - and easily win - the Classic restricted to fillies, the Oaks, which has prize-money of pounds 200,000, will be put in the Derby at Saturday's special supplementary entry stage seven days before the race. It will cost her owners, Godolphin, pounds 75,000 to enter her for the Derby, which carries prize-money of pounds 500,000. Cape Verdi will have to finish at least fourth to recoup the outlay.

Cape Verdi's inclusion sets up an intriguing contest between Godolphin and their great rivals, the Irish team spearheaded by the Ballydoyle trainer, Aidan O'Brien. The green team expect to have the 2,000 Guineas winner, King Of Kings, an 11-2 chance with William Hill, in the Derby, and may also be represented by Second Empire (7-4 with a run).

Cape Verdi herself is a 9-4 shot, which will not appear dreadful value to those who watched her work thrillingly on the Newmarket gallops on Tuesday. "It's going to be a very difficult race for her but she's in tremendous form right now," Simon Crisford, the Godolphin racing manager, said yesterday. "If she can get to the races in the same condition that she is in now and the ground is in her favour then she goes there with a tremendous chance."

Crisford received the news that Cape Verdi was to be entered in a phone call from Godolphin's boss, Sheikh Mohammed, on Tuesday night. This is the fifth season of operation for the royal blue silks of Godolphin, which specialises in taking horses from Britain at the end of their two-year- old careers for a winter's nurturing in the Sheikh's Dubai homeland.

Cape Verdi was bought from Sheikh Mohammed's former No 1 adversary Robert Sangster last year for a reputed pounds 1m. News of her rapid progression filtered back from the Gulf over the colder months and the filly confirmed the reports with a five-length victory in the Guineas earlier this month. She now aims to go one better than Nobiliary, the last notable filly in the race when chasing home Grundy in 1975. "Sheikh Mohammed and Sheikh Maktoum [his older brother] are keen to take up the challenge," Crisford added. "This is great for horseracing and great for the Derby. But it's going to be a huge challenge because it's not just a question of whether the filly has got the class to win the race, which I think she has already proved.

"She has to have the run of the race and be lucky in running. There's going to be a lot of pushing and scrimmaging. And she's got to have the stamina to see out the 12 furlongs."

If Cape Verdi is successful she will complete a full set of Classics for both Godolphin and their rider, Frankie Dettori.

The announcement will cheer both Epsom and those who have supported the filly for the Derby, though there will be less delirium among punters who hold long-range vouchers for the Oaks, for which Cape Verdi was considered a near certainty. "Nobody said that ante-post betting was not a risky business," Crisford said. Now it is Godolphin themselves who are taking a risk.

Racing, page 29