Nevis stakes his claim for place in Classic reckoning

 

Another day, another Derby trial won by Aidan O'Brien. After Ruler Of The World and Magician at Chester, it was the turn of Nevis at Lingfield to confirm that the Ballydoyle team at least have quantity on their side in the run-up to Epsom, even if its quality will not be defined until the day itself, 1 June. It is a fair assumption, though, that Nevis will not be carrying the Co Tipperary stable's first colours; he won by nine lengths yesterday, but then so he should have, as his opposition was rendered negligible by the late withdrawal of the strongly fancied Greatwood.

To Nevis's credit, he did his job perfectly competently in unpleasant conditions, making all the running in driving rain and wind on ground made testing by the precipitation. He powered clear of his three rivals, headed by the maiden Elidor, in the straight and Ryan Moore, who had ridden Ruler Of The World and Magician, liked what he felt. "He travelled nicely and quickened away well," he said, "and he's another nice colt."

The son of Dansili's success caused barely a ripple in the betting, with a few firms making the token gesture of shortening him to 25-1. "The ground changing wasn't ideal," said Coolmore's representative Kevin Buckley, "but he'd travelled a long way to be here and there was no point in not running. At least he proved he stayed and has progressed through the winter, and we'll see what's what once the rest of the trials are over."

Next up in the series of Epsom eliminators is this afternoon at Leopardstown, where Nevis's stablemate Battle Of Marengo will bid to consolidate his position as one of Derby favourite Dawn Approach's chief market rivals.

The son of Galileo, a good winner at the Co Dublin track last month, should be properly tested by such as Loch Garman, like Dawn Approach trained by Jim Bolger, and First Cornerstone, both high-class juveniles.

Then at York comes the Dante Stakes, for which O'Brien has Mars and Indian Chief entered against the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Telescope, perceived as the best British challenger for the premier Classic and significantly supported after some sparkling recent homework in Newmarket.

Telescope runs for one of the Highclere ownership syndicates, as does Luca Cumani's charge Greatwood, ruled out of yesterday's contest because of the deteriorating ground, and the two colts may yet face off on the Knavesmire on Thursday.

The Derby Trial at Lingfield has produced eight winners who subsequently scored at Epsom, but none since High-Rise in 1998, though last year's winner, Main Sequence, did subsequently chase home Camelot. It is almost as long since a heroine of the Oaks Trial at the Surrey track went on to double up; Ramruma in 1999 was the most recent of six to have done so.

Like Nevis in the colts' race, the winning filly yesterday, Secret Gesture, routed her rivals, but unlike him she galloped up the Classic betting, now challenging the O'Brien candidate Moth for favouritism. Her trainer, Ralph Beckett, has used the Lingfield race, over very nearly the full Epsom distance and with similar switchback contours, to excellent effect before, when runner-up Look Here went one better at Epsom five years ago. Secret Gesture came home 10 lengths clear of Miss You Too, with Jim Crowley barely engaging third gear on the daughter of Galileo.

"I'm not sure she beat much," said Beckett, "but she showed us what we wanted to see. She's inexperienced but she was very professional and I'm sure she won't have a problem with faster ground."

The Classic focus switches today to Longchamp, where Richard Hannon heads the raiding party for the French equivalents of the 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas with the colts Olympic Glory, the likely favourite, and Havana Gold and the filly Zurigha.

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