The Derby market, in the absence of 2,000 Guineas winner Frankel, is waiting for a seminal performance to emerge from the current round of Classic eliminators to capture the imagination anew. There may be one at Leopardstown this afternoon, or at York later in the week, but events at Lingfield yesterday will definitely not impact on next month's Blue Riband; neither Dordogne nor Hurricane Higgins, the first two home in the Surrey track's trial, is entered at Epsom.
Each is trained by Mark Johnson and though the trailblazing winner ran home straight and true under Neil Callan, the runner-up showed waywardness worthy of his namesake, at one point colliding with the running rail. Despite his antics, though, he was beaten only half a length. Next month's Royal Ascot meeting is likely to be the next date for either or both of the pair. "They'd have to be supplemented for the Derby and I think that's unlikely," confirmed Johnson. Dordogne runs under the banner of Sheikh Mohammed, who has more obvious candidates in Casamento and Genius Beast.
The 2,000 Guineas apart, the most significant domestic Derby trial is the Dante Stakes and in Thursday's renewal the first two in the Epsom betting, World Domination and Carlton House, are due to have their mettle tested by last year's Racing Post Trophy runner-up Seville. The last-named's trainer, Aidan O'Brien, took a trial at Chester last week with a perceived lesser light, Treasure Beach, and today sends Recital, a top-level winner in France last term but beaten on his seasonal debut, back to the fray in Ireland's key rehearsal. The Coolmore team uncovered another potential Epsom candidate when Pour Moi ran out an impressive winner at Saint-Cloud yesterday evening.
Lingfield's Oaks trial has a good record as a pointer – three years ago the runner-up Look Here went on to take the real thing and 12 months later the winner Midday was beaten a head at Epsom – and yesterday the unheralded Zain Al Boldan, from the Mick Channon stable, galloped into the big-race reckoning. The Poliglote filly matched Midday's winning distance of six lengths, finding a unsuspected burst of speed – she had previously scrambled home in a Folkestone handicap – as she romped clear of favourite Field Of Miracles to take her winning sequence to three from three. She is now around 12-1, from 66-1 to give owner Jaber Abdullah a first Classic.
A line was finally drawn yesterday under top-level jumping until next winter as Nicky Henderson notched a treble at the final session of the Punchestown festival – with Bellvano, Grandouet and Shakalakaboomboom – and Eradicate gave owner Alan Spence some compensation for Hurricane Higgins' defeat by winning the Swinton Hurdle at Haydock.