Racing: Oath affirms Cecil's Derby strength

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The Independent Online
THERE HAD been an unusual omission from the Derby picture, the absence of influence from Henry Richard Amherst Cecil. That changed here yesterday. Indeed, there may be as many as three Epsom hopes to emerge from Warren Place in the next week. Oath began the process here yesterday when impressively collecting the Dee Stakes. He is down to as low as 14- 1 for the Blue Riband.

Cecil's hugely advertised Killer Instinct attempts to get off the mark at Nottingham today, while next week we may get to see Yaralino, who is 25-1 for the Derby with William Hill before a drop of his sweat has fallen on racecourse turf. All have been detected travelling sweetly on the Newmarket gallops. No wonder he looked like a happy old Henry yesterday, with a smile as wide as you would expect in this county.

Oath runs in the white bridle associated with the Thoroughbred Corporation. Its head, Ahmed Salman, insists on the apparel so that he can pick out his property easily on the racecourse. The headgear did not help him much yesterday as the owner was at home in Riyadh. He did, however, have the Dee Stakes piped over to him live.

He would have been pleased with what he saw, for Oath was always moving like a winner and like an athlete with even better days ahead. The bay colt scooted round effortlessly in fourth place until Kieren Fallon woke him with the definitive manoeuvre around the final turn. A gap of five lengths to the runner-up, Little Rock, soon emerged. "I was very impressed," Fallon said. "He's improved a lot since Newbury and could be anything. It's a good sign when a horse improves that much for a first run."

Oath is fortunate to have some serious cornermen. Cecil apart, the colt's affairs are managed by Willie Carson, a four-time winner of the Derby. "He's very suitable for the Derby because he's the right size and shape," the former jockey said. "He's well balanced and not very big. He travelled very well and quickened up off a strong pace. He's definitely good enough to run. The only doubt is whether he stays a mile and a half.

"On breeding he doesn't stay, but Kieren said he definitely wasn't stopping. This is the only horse from his direct family that's ever won at two. They are a slow-maturing family who get better as they get older.

"Here he's beaten a previously unbeaten horse by five lengths and Michael Stoute [Little Rock's trainer] looked very disappointed after the race."

His Newmarket neighbour didn't. "I really enjoyed that," Cecil said. "I thought he had a good chance. I wouldn't have come otherwise. He's pretty adaptable isn't he? He's neat and a very nice little horse."

Cecil expects Killer Instinct today and he is hardly downcast about the prospects of Yaralino, who has Classic winners on both sides of his pedigree. "He's by Caerleon out of a winner of the Irish Oaks [Wemyss Bight]," Cecil said. "We'll see how he works on Saturday, but he'll probably run in a mile and a quarter race at Newbury."

Warren Place was also successful yesterday with Chester House, whose laboured performance at odds-on in the Huxley Stakes will have done little for the major organs of a punter known as "the plastic bag man".

Roger Darlington, a retired Rolls Royce employee from Crewe, has made his name by wagering huge amounts of cash carried to the course in old shopping carriers. He had pounds 30,000 on Istabraq at Cheltenham and Punchestown and a similar amount on Chester House yesterday. He wasted pounds 3,429 by taking a price of 2-7 as the winner went off at 2-5.

Darlington has now won his last nine bets, yet William Hill are more than happy to take them and have even set up an account for old Rog to save him bringing all his money to the racecourse. Bookmakers have dealt with big odds-on punters before. They end up being the people you see sitting on the floor at tube stations, holding a puppy on a piece of string.

THE DERBY (Epsom, 5 June): Coral: 8-1 Adair, 10-1 Dubai Millennium, Montjeu, 12-1 Beat All, Brancaster, Commander Collins, Daliapour, 16-1 Oath; Ladbrokes: 7-1 Adair, 10-1 Beat All, Daliapour & Dubai Millennium, 12-1 Montjeu, 14-1 Brancaster & Oath; William Hill: 7-1 Adair, 10-1 Daliapour & Montjeu, 12-1 Beat All & Dubai Millennium, 14-1 others.