Racing: Odds no barrier to All The Way

Click to follow
TO ILLUSTRATE the extraordinary bind in which the Derby market currently finds itself, consider this. The favourite for the 2000 Gold Cup at Cheltenham, 10 months and all manner of potential mishaps away, is an 8-1 chance. The favourite for the Epsom Classic, with no fences to clear and in less than a fortnight's time, is just a single point shorter. Unless an outbreak of equine plague sweeps through the first dozen names in the list, punters could wake up on 5 June faced by the most open Derby since Ki Ming started favourite at 9-1 back in 1951.

So with most of us searching high and low for the winner, it would be somewhat ironic if he turned out to be stabled less than two miles from the winning post itself. It is many years since an Epsom yard recorded a home win in the Classic, and the betting implies that this year's representative, All The Way, has precious little chance of bucking the trend as William Hill are quoting him at 50-1. Delve into his form, however, and you realise that were he stabled in Newmarket with a Cecil or Stoute, All The Way would probably be no more than a 16-1 chance.

Instead, it is Terry Mills, who has held a trainer's licence for less than a decade, who will send All The Way on the five- minute trip to the local track. And he will do so with a real belief that a place in the frame, at least, is not beyond him.

There are, of course, plenty of other trainers who think the same about their colts, but Mills can at least be certain of two things: he acts on the track, and he stays the trip. He may also feel that the race owes him. A few years ago, he was the underbidder when a horse called Dr Devious went through the sales ring.

Anticipation has increased in Mills's yard in recent weeks, as All The Way has shown steady improvement on the gallops after his last outing, a victory over 12 furlongs at Newmarket on 2,000 Guineas day. Prior to that, he failed by three and a half lengths to give the 5lb fillies' allowance to Ramruna - who is now the second favourite for the Oaks. Horses who finished well behind him there have since come out and won.

"Since his last win, his improvement at home has been extravagant," a stable spokesman said yesterday. "He will definitely stay, in fact he'll stay further than Epsom will test him, and he's been round the course and handled the bend with no effort at all, because he's a natural athlete. Now, we're just praying for fast ground."

Johnny Murtagh, who will be in the saddle on Saturday week, was on another outsider 12 months ago, but when he struck for home on Sunshine Street with two furlongs to run, it seemed for a moment that he might hold on. The tactics will be similar this time around, with the important difference that he will kick for the line almost as soon as the stalls open.

"We would want to be in front from the start," the spokesman said. "A lot of horses' positions in the market are based on paper-thin form, or their trainers' names, and there will probably be a high percentage of non-stayers. The biggest problem could be whether he has the mid-section speed to hold his position, but if he can, they'll have a real fight to get past him in the straight. He stays, he acts on the track and the ground. Put all that in the melting pot and you might just come up with an in- the-shake-up run."

When it's put like that, you realise that it might just happen. And if it does, Mills and his staff can celebrate as fiercely as they please, safe in the knowledge that home is only a brief crawl away.

n Epsom's clerk of the course, Andrew Cooper, yesterday forecast good going for the Derby meeting which starts a week on Friday. "After a dry, breezy weekend we now have genuine good ground," he said.

n Peter Chapple-Hyam has confirmed that his 2,000 Guineas fourth, Brancaster, is on course for the Derby after the colt worked over a mile and a quarter at Manton yesterday. His stablemates Commander Collins and Bienamado are also possible runners but a decision about their participation will be taken later in the week.

Nap: Law Commission

(Newbury 6.55)

NB: Shadiann

(Newbury 8.55)