Racing: Queue forming to take on Oath

OATH, IT seems, scares no one. Henry Cecil's three-year-old will attempt to become the 11th Derby winner since 1970 to follow up in the Irish Derby at the Curragh on Sunday but, despite his decisive victory at Epsom, they are simply queueing up to take him on.

Montjeu, the impressive winner of the Prix du Jockey-Club (French Derby) on soft ground at Chantilly, is now likely to run following rain at the Curragh; Mutafaweq, the progressive winner of the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot last Friday, is likely to be supplemented for the race at a cost of Irpounds 77,500 tomorrow; and the connections of Daliapour and Beat All, runner up and third to Oath at Epsom, cannot wait to have another go.

Firm-ground reports from Ireland had put Montjeu's participation in doubt, but John Hammond, his trainer, said yesterday: "They had quite a lot of rain in Ireland last night. As long as it is not firm, Montjeu will run. If it is borderline either I or someone connected with the horse will walk the course. But we are keen to run. The horse is in good shape."

The going had been officially good to firm at the Curragh but Brian Kavanagh, the racecourse manager, reported it has been softened by the rain. He said: "The going is now good. We had 8mm of rain last night and the forecast is for unsettled weather."

Mutafaweq, who had Housemaster - only 31/4 lengths behind Oath when fourth in the Derby - eight lengths back in sixth when winning the King Edward VII - may be the one they all have to beat. Simon Crisford, racing manager to Godolphin, in whose colours Mutafaweq runs, said yesterday: "As far as Ireland is concerned, we are discussing it. Everything depends on how he comes out of his Ascot race in the run-up to the supplementary deadline on Tuesday. It's very encouraging that he appears to have come out of his race extremely well."

However, despite the wealth of opposition, the historical portents for Oath's double Derby attempt could not be better. In the 1970s, the Irish Derby was a Derby winner's benefit en route to tackling the older horses in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot on the last Saturday in July.

Nijinsky and Grundy, both Derby winners of quality, won the race on their way to Ascot in 1970 and 1975 respectively, The Minstrel and Shirley Heights - who was subsequently injured and never made it to Ascot - also completed the Epsom/Curragh double in 1977 and 1978.

Troy also used the Curragh contest as a stepping stone to Ascot in 1979, repeating his Epsom success over Dickens Hill in a manner best summarised by Michael O'Hehir, the late, great Irish commentator: "Here comes Troy, he's sailing past the lot of 'em."

It was a similar story in the 1980s. Shergar beat Cut Above, his subsequent St Leger nemesis, every bit as easily as he had beaten Glint Of Gold at Epsom in 1981 and, although Teenoso was only third to Shareef Dancer - a King Edward VII Stakes winner incidentally - on a much firmer surface than at Epsom in 1983, Shahrastani (1986) and Kahyasi (1988) completed the double.

In the 1990s, however, some Derby winners have been beaten or simply eschewed the trip across the Irish Sea. Quest For Fame, the 1990 Derby winner, could not cope with Salsabil, the 1,000 Guineas and Oaks winner, and the Aga Khan and Luca Cumani, the owner and trainer of Daliapour, can draw comfort from the fact that Dr Devious was turned over by St Jovite, second to him at Epsom, in 1992.

But Generous - the best Derby winner in the 1990s - beat Suave Dancer, the Prix du Jockey-Club winner in 1991 before winning the King George, and Commander In Chief won both races in 1993.

Over that 29-year period, Old Vic (1989) and Dream Well - last year's winner - have been the only French Derby winners to supplement their Chantilly gains at the Curragh.

Four of the last seven Irish Derby winners - St Jovite (1992, Jim Bolger), Zagreb (1996, Dermot Weld) and Desert King (1998, Aidan O'Brien) have been home trained but it is hard to see anything trained by the host nation joining them.

Although Coral, the only big firm betting on the King George, do not quote him, Oath will surely book his ticket for Ascot if he wins at the Curragh.

Royal Anthem, his stablemate who runs in the same colours, remains Coral's 4-1 joint-favourite despite his defeat by Fruits Of Love (7-1 with Coral) in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot on Friday. Daylami, who beat Royal Anthem in the Coronation Cup at Epsom, is the other joint-favourite.

n Judge Jane Stickels has admitted to a mistake which led to the wrong horse being awarded fourth at Lingfield on Saturday. After Monacle, first past the post, was disqualified and placed last in the opening race, the next five finishers should have been promoted a place. but Statajack (5- 1), sixth home, was placed fourth instead of the fifth Fourdaned (25-1).

Deborah Ross meets Robert Sangster, Review front

Ken Oliver obituary, Review, page 6


Nap: Clanblue Chick

(Nottingham 4.15)

NB: Trojan Wolf

(Nottingham 3.15)

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