Racing: Savill proclaims an era of Swing: The Turf's pantheon may be ready to receive a new member as Triple Crown plans await an awesome juvenile

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Sport is nourished by the arrival of greatness, which appears to come in even, if spaced-out, rotation. Football has had Pele and Maradona, boxing Louis and Ali, and racing enthusiasts could argue they are fairly near the front of the queue again.

Dancing Brave, the champion of 1986, is perhaps the last horse to earn a place in the stables around the back of the pantheon, and the celestial grooms may already be preparing for the next horsebox.

Celtic Swing's astonishing juvenile performances, which culminated in Saturdays's 12- length success in the Racing Post Trophy, have impressed many, but none, it seems, as much as his owner, Peter Savill.

Before winter has even reached us, Savill has mapped out a programme for 1995 which majors on the Triple Crown, with a few other baubles thrown in for good measure.

'My idea of what his campaign should be next year would be the Craven (Stakes, at Newmarket), to give him a pipe-opener and experience of the course, followed by the Guineas and then straight for the Derby,' the owner said yesterday. 'Then it would be the Irish Derby and the St Leger if he showed he was staying a trip.'

This agenda will be discussed at the Newmarket Sales today with Celtic Swing's trainer, Lady Herries (Anne to her owners), when there will be a fair degree of cynicism in the conversation. Both know that a single microbe or gallops flint could puncture this hot-air balloon of a dream in an instant.

This was partly why Kevin Darley, Celtic Swing's jockey, was told to push his mount out to the line on Saturday. Even if the colt emerges from his box next spring with a leg missing, he is now at least likely to have the accolade of champion two- year-old of 1994 to his name.

The dark brown colt may, of course, justify the skyscraper aspirations held for him. He certainly looked the part on Town Moor in the parade ring, his hide gleaming like oily coal. In the same arena, questions about his temperament appeared to be answered when his lad gave him the opportunity to misbehave by stopping to talk with a friend over the rail.

Celtic Swing reacted to this as a veteran steeplechaser might, surveying the scene lazily before stooping for a munch of grass.

The bookmaker reaction has been extreme. The man from William Hill appears to have been delivered next year's papers already, as he makes Celtic Swing a 2-1 chance (from 10-1) for the 2,000 Guineas and a 7-2 prospect for the Derby. It could be argued that if such confidence is proved correct, it will be a just reward for Savill.

As the wealthy folk guides in glossy magazines suggest, Savill, in the wider realm, is not a natural magnet for pity. He is thought to be worth about pounds 35m. Yet since he first owned a horse in 1977, the Caymans Island-based publisher (as he is always known in the trade press) has done his bit for spreading the wealth.

Savill has had 500 horses through his hands, and has never been under any illusions as to the nature of the game he has dabbled in. 'It's impossible to get anywhere near making ends meet,' he said. 'If you're buying horses consistently you are unquestionably going to lose money.

'My training bill (spread among 17 trainers) alone is over pounds 500,000 and I buy about 25 horses a year at an average of pounds 20,000, so we're up to pounds 1m. You can't justify it on financial grounds. It's an extremely expensive hobby, which, fortunately, I'm able to afford.'

Despite his wealth, Savill has seldom had thoughts of top- hat days at Epsom flooding his mind. 'I just happen to be lucky enough to have finally got a horse that seems to be top class,' he said. 'I never thought for a moment I would have a horse as good as this. I've never thought I'd have a horse that was good enough to run in the Derby, never mind be the favourite.'

From the moment Celtic Swing passed the post at Doncaster, however, the pressure was to find his Epsom Achilles' heel. The first offering came at Newbury just 25 minutes later when Peter Chapple-Hyam's colt Spectrum won impressively by 10 lengths. It is going to be a long old winter.

David Chappell is doubling his stable strength to move into David Elsworth's former yard at Whitsbury Stables, near Salisbury. He is leaving Blewbury in Oxfordshire, where he rents 15 boxes, to take up a two-year lease at the yard where Desert Orchid was trained. 'It is a big challenge,' Chappell said.

(Photograph omitted)

Comments