Racing: Val heads for Derby

FOLLOWING A stylish victory at Longchamp yesterday, Val Royal is to attempt to become the first French winner of the Derby since Empery 23 years ago. Andre Fabre's unbeaten colt emerged as a leading contender for Epsom by making all the running to beat Fils de Viane half a length in the 91/2-furlongs Group Three Prix de Guiche.

Olivier Peslier never had to get serious with Val Royal, who raced on testing ground after heavy rain. The third, Tijiyr, was a further three lengths back in a field of five. Val Royal is now a 16-1 chance with the Tote for the Epsom but was cut to 8-1 by Ladbrokes. Jean-Luc Lagardere, the colt's owner, said: "He never got out of a canter. The logical thing is to go to Epsom." Peslier said: "He should stay the Derby distance, but it's still an open race."

Michael Kinane's name was yesterday linked to the vacant ride on Housemaster in the Derby. But the Irishman could be required by the Aidan O'Brien stable or by Godolphin for Adair.

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