Racing: Show time for Sangster

Sue Montgomery discovers there is a great deal at stake in today's Classic

Today is crunch day for the team at Manton. Revoque, beaten favourite in the 2,000 Guineas, must win this afternoon's Irish version of the Classic to redeem the reputation he lost to Entrepreneur at Newmarket. And only a decisive victory will keep the needle in the scheduled re-match between the two colts in the Derby in 13 days' time.

Revoque, at present second favourite to Entrepreneur for Epsom, faces 11 opponents at the Curragh, among them his own stablemate, the progressive, well-regarded Romanov. And to add further intrigue to the plot, two more of Robert Sangster's talented squad of three-year-olds, Panama City and Single Empire, will be laying their credentials on the line in the Italian Derby in Rome at about the same time.

Their trainer, Peter Chapple- Hyam, said: "They're all still in the Derby, so it's a matter of having four balls in the air at once. And the order they come down in will decide our Derby plans. Whichever one runs the best will go to Epsom."

As far as today's race, over a mile, goes, the formbook says Revoque. The big, handsome bay, last year's top two-year-old, was arguably unlucky at Newmarket, when a nightmare passage up the Rowley Mile under John Reid lost the the cachet of a Group One Classic win and some considerable bets.

As far as the Derby, over half a mile further, is concerned, questions still remain unanswered. Revoque's sire Fairy King has already proved, with Helissio, that he can get a top-notch 12-furlong performer, but his dam is from a family best-known for speed. Chapple-Hyam said: "I can't say at this stage that he will definitely run in the Derby. The question of stamina does worry me, but I think if a horse is bred to truly stay a mile and a half, he may be a bit slow."

Romanov is regarded as a strong second string. He has progressed well at home since winning last month at Sandown, when he showed an excellent change of gear, despite running green. He is better-bred than Revoque; his half-sister Balanchine followed up her Oaks victory with a spectacular one in the Irish Derby.

Panama City, Revoque's galloping companion earlier in the year, was supplemented to the Derby, at a cost of pounds 8,000, before he relegated himself to duty in Italy by only scraping home in a slowly run Chester Vase. Chapple-Hyam is equally keen on the chances of Single Empire, a fast- ground specialist who disposed of a Godolphin Derby hope, Bold Demand, on 2,000 Guineas day at Newmarket.

Romanov was seconded to today's pounds 200,000 contest only three days ago. His homework convinced Sangster and Chapple-Hyam that he was up to making the jump to the top level rather than easier pickings at Kempton yesterday. The trainer said: "I thought he won very well at Sandown, but that he probably needed more experience. He will get that at the Curragh with its uphill finish. I don't expect him to beat Revoque, but he is a horse I have always thought a lot of, and he has improved a lot in the past month. Just how much, we will have to wait and see."

Chapple-Hyam knows the qualities required to win an Irish 2,000 Guineas, having taken three of the last five runnings with Sangster's pair Rodrigo de Triano (1992) and Turtle Island (1994), and Spectrum two years ago. It will be a serious setback if a fourth Guineas trophy is not nestling on the Manton mantelpiece by the end of today, and a big disappointment to those hoping that Revoque will turn up to make a race of it with Entrepreneur in the Derby.

The other two of today's runners still engaged at Epsom are the hot favourite's stablemate Yalaietanee, who took a ring-rusty Revoque's scalp over seven furlongs earlier in the season, and Fantastic Fellow. Both are bidding to atone for their disappointing runs in the French Guineas two weeks ago, when they finished fourth and fifth, but on the book they have something to find.

Two other members of the seven-strong raiding party from Britain will be watched with interest. Musical Pursuit had no chance to justify his trainer Mark Tompkins' high opinion of him when his saddle slipped in the first furlong in the Guineas. Royal Amaretto turned a 10- furlong contest at Newbury into a procession on his seasonal debut and is clearly very smart, but may not be suited by the drop back in distance on his first venture into Group One company.

Since 1988, when Prince of Birds became Sangster's last Classic winner trained by his great comrade in arms Vincent O'Brien, the Irish Guineas score has read England 6, USA 1, France 1. The home side's best hope to stop the rot seems to lie with the Tetrarch Stakes winner Desert King, owned, like Entrepreneur, by Michael Tabor.

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