Racing: Tenby back in stride for the Derby: The favourite for the premier Classic rediscovers his zest for work at a crucial point in his career

 

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The Independent Online

Tenby, the Derby favourite, and his stable-companion Commander In Chief came through their final workouts for the race in pleasing style on the Limekilns gallops here yesterday morning.

Henry Cecil, trainer of the Khalid Abdullah-owned pair, was more than satisfied with the colts who showed their paces under their Derby jockeys.

The occasion attracted a large audience, no doubt partly because Tenby had seemed to some to lack sparkle in his work the previous Saturday. But any Jonahs watching were disappointed.

Ridden by Pat Eddery, Tenby covered the strip with Wharf (Willie Ryan) and Placerville (Tony McGlone). The trio went a fair clip with the Derby just a week away; Eddery had Tenby behind the others but close up and in the last quarter-mile the diminutive bay took it up smoothly on the bridle and finished just ahead, not asked much but looking on very good terms with himself.

Tenby stands just 15.1 hands, but is strongly made and his size is not the first thing that hits the eye when he is extended in action. His stride at the gallop is the equal and more of a bigger animal, not flashy but effective. He is an extremely efficient little machine.

Commander In Chief, with Michael Kinane in the saddle, started off in company with Allegan, but had drawn well clear by the time he reached the watchers. Wharf and Placerville, who goes for the Prix Jean Prat at Longchamp on Sunday, are more serious trial tackle than an eased Allegan, but Commander In Chief's progress from big raw baby to a serious racehorse in the space of six weeks is a credit to his trainer.

Cecil, looking as pleased as a man with the first two in the Derby betting might, said: 'They are both in very good form, and both jockeys were delighted. Pat said that Tenby took a real hold and gave him a good feel.'

The third of Abdullah's Classic musketeers, Armiger, was not on show on the Limekilns, but taken to the racecourse side of town where he worked on the Rubbing House Equitrack gallop under Kinane. Armiger is likely to join Tenby and Commander In Chief among the five-day Derby declarations, but the high-actioned chestnut needs cut in the ground and would not be Epsom-bound unless the heavens open.

The Limekilns, an open, gently sloping triangle bounded by the roads to Bury St Edmunds and Thetford at the northern extremity of the town, contains Newmarket's most sacred gallops. The underlying ground is light and porous, and the area is forbidden in wet weather, so it never becomes cut up, resulting in a unique soft, springy turf. Yesterday morning, grey and cold, was hardly redolent of early summer, but more than 100 hardy types - connections, journalists, photographers, touts and just plain fans - turned out to see the Derby favourite.

The warm-up acts, John Gosden's massive string, and Michael Stoute's Derby candidate Shareek rated barely a glance from any but the full-time work-watchers as the appearance of the stars drew nigh.

Cecil, resigned to the massive interest in Prince Khalid's colts, sportingly called out for the benefit of the uninitiated the names of the rest of the string as they swept by in twos, threes and fours. As the trainer moved around on his skewbald hack so the gallery followed, and when he abandoned the pony for more conventional horse-power to get across town to watch Armiger, the entourage of cars that set off in his wake was worthy, in length if not in speed, of an East End funeral.

Lester Piggott has rejected the ride on Gisarne, the Lupe Stakes winner, in Saturday week's Oaks. Gisarne is trained by John Dunlop for Tony Hart, a tax official who won her for a year in a raffle. Cash Asmussen may take the ride on Gisarne, while speculation mounted that Piggott might partner Yawl, 4-1 favourite in one list, in place of Darryll Holland.

(Photograph omitted)

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