Bankers ride to the rescue of Derby

Bankers have not had the best of public profiles lately but yesterday came news of a rescue package with the perceived modern-day villains the ones mounted on the white charger. International company Investec are to sponsor the Derby, saving the blushes of not only the Epsom management but the sport, for it would hardly have reflected well on racing if the world's most famous contest had not been considered a valid promotional lure.

The premier Classic has had only two previous sponsors: Ever Ready, who started in 1984, and Vodafone, whose 14-year association ended last year. South African-founded Investec, already involved with rugby in Britain, are to back the two-day Derby and Oaks meeting for the next five years.

The announcement comes just 32 days before the 230th running of the Derby, and two weeks after the completion of a three-year £38m development, including a new grandstand and an hotel, at Epsom.

This year's new Derby favourite, Saturday's 2000 Guineas hero Sea The Stars, received his first formbook compliment at the Curragh yesterday when Vocalised confirmed his own case for Classic glory in the Tetrarch Stakes. The Jim Bolger-trained colt, winner of last month's Greenham Stakes, took his record to four from five, his only defeat coming in the maiden won by Sea The Stars last August.

His experience showed as he coped better with the heavy ground than runner-up Chief Lone Eagle. He is one of the many Ballydoyle Derby entries; Vocalised is also in at Epsom but has the Irish Guineas later this month as his target.

One of last year's Derby disappointments, Curtain Call, started his four-year-old career with a clear-cut all-the-way success under another of the Curragh card's Group 3s, the Mooresbridge Stakes. With three of the 10 furlongs left the Sadler's Wells colt was kicked clear by Fran Berry, catching his rivals flat-footed, and though he idled in front and Famous Name finished strongly, he was still a driven-out three lengths clear at the line.

Even at Ireland's premier Flat track, Ireland's jumps champion trainer Willie Mullins proved unstoppable, adding the card's bumper, with Fionnegas, to his dozen victories at Punchestown last week.

Rainbow View, fifth as 8-11 favourite in Sunday's 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket, will now head for the Irish equivalent after emerging unscathed from the Rowley Mile fray on ground too firm for her taste.

The 1,000 Guineas second favourite Serious Attitude, seventh on Sunday, will revert to sprinting in future.

Chris McGrath

Nap: Compton Blue (3.10 Chepstow) NB: Eton Rifles (7.05 Catterick)

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