Rival camps stake out Derby ground

RACING: Pennekamp's connections warn Epsom not to dampen hopes of a Classic rematch with Celtic Swing by excessive watering
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The Independent Online
RICHARD EDMONDSON reports from Chester

Phase two of the match between Celtic Swing and Pennekamp is already well under way, with neither horse playing a role. Following Peter Savill's announcement that Celtic Swing will not run at Epsom if there is no juice in the ground, Pennekamp's connections responded yesterday by suggesting the Surrey ground should not be tailored for just one horse.

Edward Gillespie, the managing director of Epsom's owners, United Racecourses, has said that the sprinklers have already been turned on in an effort to produce good ground.

Epsom is keen to attract an animal of Celtic Swing's magnetism but will upset the men behind his main rival if seen to be tilting too far to accommodate the colt. "We don't mind if it's good ground, but we wouldn't want it very soft," Anthony Stroud, the racing manager to Pennekamp's owner, Sheikh Mohammed, said yesterday. "We want the ground to be fair to all parties.

"We don't want watering and then a thunderstorm just beforehand making it an artificial surface. I just hope they water to respect all the horses that are competing in the race."

Much of the debate at the Roodeye yesterday was on whether Celtic Swing should run in the Derby. Robert Sangster, who has owned two winners of the race, thought he should, as did Clive Brittain, who won the Chester Vase with Luso. The colt is not in the Derby (though he is in the Italian version), but Brittain was happy to discuss Epsom despite barracking from a racegoer who took exception to the trainer's orange, flecked jacket. "I thought the horse ran a tremendous race," Brittain said. "When he hit the dip his head went up, not because he was ungenuine but because he was shocked by it. He did well to get so close to the winner.

"In the Derby you get more time to adjust to the rises and turns, so I wouldn't tear up a Celtic Swing ticket if I had one."

Willie Carson is in the other camp and believes the colt should be saved for either the French or Irish equivalents. "There is only one Derby but you don't want to end up with no horse," the jockey said. "Half the horses that run in the Derby are never the same again. They don't come down the hill and end up with chipped bones and damaged shoulders.

"If you look at Kevin [Darley, Celtic Swing's rider] he's facing downhill on the horse. The horse's backside is higher than his front and that means he's always on the foreleg. That wouldn't help going round Tattenham Corner. Epsom is the worst place to run a Derby, but it's also the greatest test of a throughbred."

Carson's judgement had taken a blow on Sunday when he selected incorrectly between Harayir and Aqaarid in the 1,000 Guineas. It now seems unlikely that the fillies will give the Scot a chance to make a fool of himself again in the Oaks, as the latter is almost certain to be the sole representative the pair's owner, Hamdan Al Maktoum.

"At this stage it's unlikely that Harayir will run in the Oaks," Angus Gold, the racing manager to Sheikh Hamdan, said. "She will concentrate more on a mile in races such as the Irish 1,000 Guineas and the Coronation Stakes. We might well try her over further later. Aqaarid will go for the Oaks and goes straight to Epsom."

About the only person in the winners' enclosure who was not asked for a view on Celtic Swing was David Platt, the England football captain, who watched his Il Doria finish second in the opener. Platt, who was accompanied by his Sampdoria team-mate Roberto Mancini, flew back to Genoa last night without commenting also on the suitability of those who made him captain of the national team.

THE DERBY (Epsom, 10 June): Coral: 11-1- Pennekamp, 2-1 (with a run) Celtic Swing, 7-1 Munwar, 8-1 Presenting, 10-1 Spectrum, 12-1 Salmon Ladder, 16-1 Diamond Mix; Ladbrokes: evens Pennekamp, 2-1 (with a run) Celtic Swing, 7-1 Munwar, 8-1 Presenting, 12-1 Salmon Ladder & Spectrum; William Hill: 4-5 Pennekamp, 8-1 Presenting, 10-1 Munwar, 12-1 Salmon Ladder & Spectrum.