Racing: Munwar takes the Celtic option

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The Independent Online
As a big day for Britain approaches, a new candidate, with a new programme, threw his hat into the ring yesterday. Munwar, Peter Walwyn's colt, is to run in the Irish Derby on Sunday.

Walwyn's original intention had been to bypass the Curragh race, which promises to reveal which is the nation's best horse, but plans changed this week as the field took shape. Walwyn and Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, Munwar's owner, decided to shelve dropping down a division in favour of a more attacking policy.

"When we learned of the setback to Lammtarra [the Derby winner who had been expected to run in Ireland] we decided to leave him in the race and, with ground conditions in his favour, we will let Munwar run," Walwyn said. "He is very well and I can't believe the ground will not be firm on Sunday. It's going to be a great race in the end and maybe the course will suit Munwar so that he can use that long stride of his."

Those who believe the plains of the Curragh will suit Munwar better than the undulations of Epsom, where he was ninth, can consider a rather juicy price of 16-1 about Willie Carson's mount with Labrokes. The same firm reported scrums in the offices yesterday trying to back Celtic Swing, and they make the Prix du Jockey-Club (French Derby) winner the favourite at 7-4 from 2-1.

Lady Herries's colt worked yesterday morning in the hands of Kevin Darley, who had not seen the horse since his Chantilly victory. Absence had clearly made the heart grow fonder as the jockey returned with armfuls of compliments. "We're very pleased with him," Darley said. "He seems very strong and happy in himself and looks a million dollars.

"Peter Savill, [Celtic Swing's owner] has walked the ground at the Curragh and he's happy with it. As long as there's no jar it shouldn't be a problem. Celtic Swing's form has been stamped, but we will be taking on plenty of Group One horses and it looks tougher than the French Derby."

Lammtarra's absence robs us, for the second time this summer, of a clash of the titans, but the comparison between Celtic Swing and Presenting, who was beaten less than two lengths at Epsom, should give compelling evidence as to which is the leading Classic colt.

That Sunday's race has rare strength in depth was advertised yesterday when Clive Brittain removed his Korambi from considerations. Confident Clive would normally expect to get a runner in the frame even if the three horsemen of the Apocalypse were at the head of the market. "The Irish Derby hotted up when the three supplementaries [Classic Cliche, Winged Love and Definite Article] came in, otherwise it would have been worth running for the place money," the Newmarket trainer said.

A clean race, in one sense at least, is almost certainly guaranteed. More than 150 random drug tests for jockeys in Britain over the last nine months have provided not a single positive result. This contrasts harshly with France, where a number of leading riders have been found guilty of using hard drugs. One of their number, Dominique Boeuf, who won the Cravache d'Or, the French jockeys' championship, in 1991, was in court in Amiens yesterday.

Boeuf's original custodial sentence of three years was whittled down to six months, which he can serve at his own discretion over the next two years. In addition, the terms of confinement have allowed him to leave prison during the day and return at night. The punishment is little more than a tweak of his little red nose.

IRISH DERBY (Curragh, Sunday) Ladbrokes: 7-4 Celtic Swing, 5-2 Presenting, 5-1 Definite Article, 6-1 Winged Love, 10-1 Classic Cliche & Court Of Honour, 12-1 Annus Mirabilis, 16-1 Munwar, 25-1 Humbel, Oscar Schindler, 33-1 Double Eclipse, 150 others.

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