Racing: Springs reigns in a Dante inferno

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The Independent Online
THE Dante Stakes was meant to clarify the Derby picture but the fist was still going down on top of the set at the Knavesmire yesterday following a most inconclusive Classic trial. Saratoga Springs took the contest, principally by avoiding the melee that consumed three of his rivals, but the Derby he contests may not even be the one over the Surrey Downs.

The Irish winner is one of three colts from his yard who may turn up at Epsom next month. King Of Kings and Second Empire are also in the equation, but gleaning Aidan O'Brien's stable selected was not an easy process yesterday. Some considered him non-committal, but he wasn't as equivocal as that.

O'Brien said he would have to discuss the matter with stable connections, as he would the suggestion that he may abandon the jumps side of his operation next season. They're going to get through a lot of hot beverages and digestives at Ballydoyle over the next few weeks. "No horse is confirmed for their next run," O'Brien confirmed, or failed to confirm if you like, yesterday. "They're all in and it's all open."

Saratoga Springs' journey over the Irish Sea had been delayed by fog and he was not best pleased by the wait judged on his skittish display in the paddock. When the lead got trapped in his bridle the colt's demeanour did not improve.

Around the Irish horse, others were better behaved. The calm Border Arrow looked so long it appeared as if a welder had put in an extra section amidships. His chequered and patterned rump and flanks gave the impression of a mobile compendium. Teapot Row, as his name might imply, was short, though he was definitely not stout. The slight colt went to the front on sufferance once the three chestnuts and three bays emerged from the stalls.

At the three-furlong marker he conked out. That left City Honours in front, but he was quickly joined and passed by Dr Fong. These two then lurched to the inside and became involved in a Dante inferno with Border Arrow. City Honours managed to extricate himself best from this barging match, but by then Saratoga Springs had sneaked past on the outside. It looked simple. But it wasn't.

"He's tough and a hard ride and he tried to pull up with me," Michael Kinane, the winning jockey, reported. "You have to be tough with him and give him a clip. He was tired when he was pulling up. He's the worst horse at home but he does it out there on the track."

Saratoga Springs is a developing creature and certainly behaves like a teenager at his Co Tipperary digs. "He doesn't work at home," O'Brien said. "He's a lazy horse. He just eats and sleeps and this is the first time he's had to do a bit. I don't think there is a bottom to him. We certainly haven't seen it yet and they don't come any tougher than this horse. He's won over seven furlongs and he's shown a lot of speed, but he's so lazy he'd get most trips."

It is less easy to be convinced about King Of Kings' staying aptitude, and his next venture in the Irish 2,000 Guineas will not tell us more. Second Empire's challenge is to regain fitness after a pulled muscle. "It's very slow with him and we're just hoping that he goes forward every day and he doesn't take a step backwards," O'Brien said. So Aidan does have problems of a sort, but only the ones every other trainer in Europe would wish to endure.

Derby betting

Horse C H L

Cape Verdi *9-4 *2-1 *2-1

Second Empire - *9-2 -

King Of Kings - *5-1 -

Saratoga Springs 6-1 11-2 6-1

City Honours 5-1 7-1 7-1

Gulland 8-1 - 8-1

Haami 10-1 - 8-1

Croco Rouge 14-1 14-1 14-1

Greek Dance 14-1 14-1 10-1

Border Arrow 14-1 7-1 25-1

Dr Fong 14-1 14-1 25-1

*- with a run


NAP: Elnadim

(York 2.35)

NB: Capri

(York 3.40)




2.05: LIDO, who shaped well on his seasonal debut, is handily drawn in stall six and should go close. Risque Lady is the danger.


2.35: DANETIME, sure to be fitter for his Newmarket pipe-opener, is expected to prove a top class sprinter this year. Elnadim may pose most problems.


3.10: PERSIAN PUNCH, who won well on his reappearance, looks the best option. Busy Flight may be the chief stumbling block.


3.40: GREEK DANCE, most impressive last time, can enhance his Derby claims. Capri is a potent threat.