Like the Royal Family, short-priced Epsom favourites are pursued for the smallest hint of fallibility, and when Henry Cecil's colt started showing signs of discomfort on Sunday evening the rumour-factory started production.
The 2-5 chance was reported to be suffering from colic, an abdominal condition which can be fatal in racehorses, but in Tenby's case was little more than indigestion. 'You know what people are like, they go into a pub and spread rumours and before you know where you are you have a scare,' Cecil said yesterday. 'Just because a horse has had a tummy ache for half an hour three weeks before a race, it's not going to make any difference. There's nothing wrong with him and he's back to normal.'
Tenby's problems may have arisen after supplementing his diet. 'He probably ate a bit of straw on Sunday morning and got a tiny bit of bellyache,' Cecil said. 'He was slightly uncomfortable at six o'clock but I treated it and by eight o'clock he was 100 per cent. He went out to exercise today and he'll be cantering tomorrow.'
Cecil, however, was concerned enough to have stable staff sit up all night with Tenby, though the diagnosis which invariably means the most, from the bookmakers, suggests that this, almost literally, was just a hiccup on the path to 2 June.
The Big Three left the favourite untouched (he remains 2-5 with Coral and Ladbrokes) on another becalmed day in the ante-post market. Punters are now unwilling to support such a short-priced horse, but also unable to find a credible alternative, a position which has persuaded William Hill to offer prices without the favourite.
Barathea, on 3-1, leads this book, though Saturday's Irish 2,000 Guineas has yet to convince many that his stamina will stretch to 12 furlongs. Nevertheless, a spokeswoman for the colt's trainer, Luca Cumani, confirmed yesterday that Barathea would be left in the race at today's forfeit stage.
Epsom, however, is struggling to attract a substantial chorus line for Tenby and two others drifted out of calculations yesterday. True Hero is 'very unlikely' to run, according to his trainer, John Gosden, while Baron Ferdinand's victory at Bath proved one thing to Roger Charlton: that the Beckhampton trainer's colt is not good enough for the Derby.
Armiger, who lost his unbeaten record in the Prix Lupin at Longchamp on Sunday, may be good enough for a Derby, but only if Ian McCaskill regularly spreads black shapes across the map.
The chestnut has escaped blame from his trainer for Sunday's effort, though the same cannot be said of those who told Cecil the ground was spongy and others who have belittled the horse. 'I was puzzled because they said the ground was good to soft and it was very fast,' he said. 'Over a mile and a quarter he just can't handle that, he's got to have soft ground over a mile and a half or he's no good, is he?
'He changed his legs eight times down the back straight, he had to make all the running, and was still expected to win on ground he can't do it on. I don't think everybody should start knocking him because of that. One minute they say he's a very good horse, the next minute they've changed their minds.'
Cecil refuses to both rule Armiger out of Epsom or concede that back problems earlier in the season may have resurfaced. 'He's been very well and he's been working very well and if there's anything wrong with him he wouldn't have won at Chester (in the Vase),' he said. 'He's just a completely different horse if the ground is right for him.'
Today's Classic trial, the Predominate Stakes at Goodwood, is unlikely to move the sedated Derby market, though tomorrow's Lupe Stakes may have an effect on the Oaks lists.
Bashayer, from Dick Hern's Lambourn yard, has been withdrawn from the race and now goes straight to Epsom, but pointers will be provided by John Dunlop's Gisarne, who was backed to 20-1 (from 33-1) with William Hill yesterday, and Yawl, another whose health has been discussed with little regard to the Hippocratic oath. Barry Hills's filly has now recovered from a minor bout of coughing and will have to go close to justify Oaks odds of 8-1.
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