Racing: Meadow to mow down opposition

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The Independent Online
OF the trio of Derbys this weekend, only one is definitely for dogs, though those of a cynical nature might suggest otherwise. The richest of the three is tomorrow's Irish Derby at The Curragh, worth some pounds 426,000 to the winner; the most historic is the so-called Pitmen's version, the Northumberland Plate, being contested for the 154th time at Newcastle this afternoon. And between them is the Greyhound Derby at Wimbledon tonight.

City Honours, second in the real thing three weeks ago, will be following in some distinguished footsteps as he goes for consolation. In the past 25 years, 14 Epsom runners-up have attempted to go one better in Ireland and four - Meadow Court, El Gran Senor, Law Society and St Jovite - have succeeded. In the same period nine French Derby winners have attempted the double, with successes from Assert and Old Vic.

Dream Well (3.55) represents the Chantilly form this time, and on the book the race does look a match. Both horses stay well, which they will have to do, given the testing underfoot conditions they will have to face. The Pascal Bary-trained Sadler's Wells colt may have a better turn of foot than the Godolphin representative and can become the first French- based, French Derby winner of Ireland's premier race.

The home side have taken the prize for the past two years but their defence does not look up to coping with the big two this time. The best of them at a decent each-way price may be progressive Campo Catino, who has taken the same route so far as last year's runner-up Dr Johnson, his stablemate and one with whom he is compared favourably.

The Irish Derby will be televised by both BBC and Channel 4, but only those with dishes or cables can see the Northumberland Plate from their armchair. The two-mile handicap, with a maximum field of 20, is as tricky a puzzle as ever to unravel, but three suggested against the field are Symonds Inn (3.50), Cyrian and Opaque. There have been occasions when Symonds Inn has looked as if he would be at home in traps rather than stalls, but he has always been highly regarded by his astute trainer, Jimmy FitzGerald, and ran an encouraging staying on- second over a shorter trip at Gosforth Park last month.

Cyrian is one of several to make a quick reappearance after running at Royal Ascot. The presence of his Paul Cole stablemate Windsor Castle, last year's winner but a flop in the Gold Cup, keeps him attractively weighted and he was not given a hard time once his stamina ran out in the Ascot Stakes. Opaque, who needs to be held up, is in sparkling current form, as is his jockey Lindsay Charnock.

French Connection (4.20) missed his date at the Royal meeting when the cut for the Britannia Handicap was made one horse above him, but he can pick up quick consolation for Jack Berry's in-form stable in the UK Land Estates Trophy. The three-year-old got up close home to beat Lucayan Indian at Haydock a month ago and has scope for further progress.

The feature at Newmarket, the Van Geest Criterion Stakes, is probably the classiest affair of the day and should provide an opportunity for Hidden Meadow (3.45). The four-year-old aquitted himself well at Epsom when chasing home subsequent Queen Anne Stakes winner Intikhab. Rabi, who caught a similar tartar in Diktat on his last appearance, is the obvious danger.

Unusually the Greyhound Derby, worth pounds 50,000 to the winner, will have only five runners as one of the final qualifiers - whittled down from an entry of 200 - tried to bite a rival and was thrown out. Toms The Best is the favourite to live up to his name.

Sunday's cards and Hyperion's selections will appear in tomorrow's Independent on Sunday