Racing: Niarchos pays for Irish duel: 75,000 pounds ensures that Hernando meets Commander In Chief on Sunday. Richard Edmondson reports

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The Independent Online
THE DERBY decider was confirmed yesterday when Commander In Chief and Hernando, the Classic winners from Epsom and Chantilly respectively, were announced as runners in the Irish equivalent at The Curragh on Sunday.

This match of the top middle-

distance colts in Britain and France mirrors the Anglo-French contest of two years ago, when Generous, the Derby winner, beat his continental counterpart Suave Dancer.

France, in fact, may have more runners than Britain on Sunday as Regency, like Commander In Chief the property of Khalid Abdullah, may also make the journey from Criquette Head's Chantilly stable. All eight of the other entries are home-based.

'We're open-minded at the moment, but it is possible that Regency will join Commander In Chief in the Irish Derby,' Grant Pritchard-Gordon, racing manager to the Saudi owner, said, adding that Regency's alternative target was the Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp on the same day.

'We're looking at the weather in both countries,' he said. 'We wouldn't want to run Regency on firm ground as he disappointed on it in the French Derby (when fifth to Hernando). At present the ground is more suitable in Ireland - it's yielding there but on the firm side in France. Regency will certainly be running on his own merits in Ireland, don't forget there is around IR pounds 120,000 on offer for finishing second.'

Hernando persuaded his owner, Stavros Niarchos, that he should part with a pounds 75,000 supplementary fee to get him into the Irish Derby when he worked well yesterday morning for his regular jockey, Cash Asmussen. The partnership went 2,000 metres on the Parisian gallops with four stablemates from Francois Boutin's Lamorlaye stables.

Boutin is a poorly man, but is happy to contest the Classic vicariously through Hernando. 'He worked well and, with the going good, there is no reason not to go,' he said. 'The horse is much better than me.'

Commander In Chief, like Hernando a colt who did not race as a two-year-old, will be aiming to extend his unbeaten sequence to five and become the eighth Derby winner in 18 years to confirm his supremacy in Ireland. Henry Cecil's colt will complete his preparation for The Curragh on the Newmarket gallops this morning.

British bookmakers make the race a virtual match, and the best of the home contingent is assessed to be John Oxx's Massyar, a 14-1 chance who won the Group Two Gallinule Stakes at the course earlier this month. The Currabeg trainer may also be represented by Foresee, who finished fourth in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot last week, while Jim Bolger, who won the race 12 months ago with St Jovite, has a three-strong team led by Desert Team.

Another member of Khalid Abdullah's team, the 2,000 Guineas winner Zafonic, is now likely to make a British curtain call in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood next month.

The 1,000 Guineas winner, Sayyedati, is expected to be among the opponents for Andre Fabre's colt, whose schedule goes on to take in the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville in August and the Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita in November.

This venture ends speculation that Zafonic might drop down to the sprint distance of the July Cup to further test his formidable powers. 'There seemed to be a groundswell of opinion that that would be his next race,' Pritchard-Gordon said. 'But, although he was entered, we never announced that he would go to Newmarket.'

THE IRISH DERBY (The Curragh, Sunday): Acceptors: Commander In Chief (trained by H Cecil, ridden Pat Eddery), Desert Team (J Bolger, C Roche), Foresee (J Oxx, --), Hernando (F Boutin, C Asmussen), Lord Bentley (J Bolger, W R Swinburn), Massyar (J Oxx, M Kinane), Porterstown Boy (D Weld, P Shanahan), Regency (C Head, --), Shrewd Idea (M Kauntze, W O'Connor), Sirsan (M Grassick, R Hughes), Via Parigi (J Bolger, K Manning).

Betting: Tote: 11-10 Commander In Chief, 7-4 Hernando, 7-1 Regency, 12-1 Massyar, 14-1 Desert Team, 20- 1 Foresee & Shrewd Idea, 100-1 others; William Hill: evens Commander In Chief, 7-4 Hernando, 7-1 Regency, 14-1 Massyar, 16-1 Desert Team & Foresee, 20-1 Shrewd Idea, 100-1 others.

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