Stoute out of time with injured Entrepreneur

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The Independent Online
Fans of the beaten Derby favourite Entrepreneur will be relieved to know that there were mitigating circumstances surrounding his defeat at Epsom. His trainer Michael Stoute yesterday revealed for the first time that the 2,000 Guineas hero carried an injury into what could now be considered a gallant, rather than disappointing, fourth place.

In confirming the colt's widely expected non-participation in Sunday's Irish Derby, Stoute said: "He returned from Epsom with a right-side hamstring strain. All other tests were negative, and intensive physiotherapy enabled him to resume cantering a week ago. But a weekend gallop determined that he would not be at peak fitness for the Curragh."

A pulled muscle of that sort - the injury site is in the curve of the leg above the equivalent of the human heel, the hock - is usually enough to stop most human athletes in their tracks, and would certainly account for Michael Kinane's post-Derby assertion that Entrepreneur was never travelling properly at any stage of the race.

It is to be hoped that the handsome bay recovers sufficiently to be given the chance to redeem his reputation on the track, rather than be hustled off to stud as a one-race wonder, for a fully-fit Entrepreneur could only add lustre to the season.

But any plans will remain under wraps. Stoute added: When his owners and I have decided on his next intended race, an announcement will be made."

With their star striker off the park, those owners - Michael Tabor and the back-up team headed by John Magnier, the powerful and influential boss of Coolmore, one of the world's biggest stallion stations - may ask another of their squad, Strawberry Roan, to pull on the Number 12 shirt at the Curragh.

An inspired 20 minutes of buying at the Houghton yearling sales two years ago secured both Entrepreneur (for 600,000 guineas) and Strawberry Roan (for 240,000 guineas) for the Tabor set.

A decision on whether or not to supplement the Aidan O'Brien-trained filly, at a cost of pounds 70,000, to the pounds 700,000 Classic before today's noon deadline will be made after she has worked at Ballydoyle this morning.

And with Oaks heroine Reams Of Verse also under consideration for a late entry, girl power could prove a potent threat to the colts. Although only three of the 31 fillies who have contested Irish Derbys this century have returned victorious, two of them were the last two to have run, Salsabil in 1990 and Balanchine three years ago. Spice Girls, eat your hearts out.

Both Salsabil and Balanchine were Oaks winners, like Reams of Verse, who actually covered Epsom's mile and a half in a faster time than the Eclipse-bound Derby winner Benny The Dip and his inches runner-up Silver Patriarch. The connections of Reams Of Verse, Khalid Abdullah and Henry Cecil, have runaway Ribblesdale Stakes winner Yashmak already entered in the Irish Oaks.

Strawberry Roan laid down her credentials with a fast-finishing second spot in her local 1,000 Guineas and, as a Sadler's Wells half-sister to Epsom and Curragh Derby winner Generous, the flashy white-faced bay lacks nothing in pedigree for the job. There is also a precedent in her family for beating colts: her cousin Triptych won the 1985 Irish 2,000 Guineas.

Even before Benny The Dip's absence next Sunday was announced, the bookmakers favoured Silver Patriarch, and the vibes emanating from Arundel about suitability of course and going for John Dunlop's charge, who will do his first strong work since Epsom this morning, continue in positive vein. The Derby form will also be represented by another grey, Barry Hills' fifth-placed The Fly.

The home side have won their premier Classic only twice in the past 10 years and, Strawberry Roan apart, their best chance may lie with Casey Tibbs, from the yard successful last year with Zagreb.

Last time out the colt ran unplaced in the French Derby but he is, according to trainer Dermot Weld, a bad traveller. His journey from stable to starting stalls of about a mile should pose no problems, but that from stalls to finishing post may be more problematical.