Swan is on song again

Mixed meetings, as the joint scouts and guides camp testifies, are invariably the best. Sandown's Whitbread and Derby trial meeting on Saturday was of typically transfixing standard and should have satisfied all spectra of the sport to burping level.

The Whitbread itself was quite a relief for Charlie Swan, who partnered Life Of A Lord to success. The Irishman has suffered the vicissitudes of his craft during the last week. If Swan had gone into a gypsy caravan before the Punchestown Festival the crystal ball would have rolled off the table and on to his foot. He registered no winners, five seconds, and two suspensions.

But then came Life Of A Lord and recognition for Swan and the gelding's trainer, Aidan O'Brien. "There is no bullshit with him," Swan said, which makes you wonder how O'Brien got a job in racing in the first place.

The young trainer has now made serious inroads into British racing, following Urubande's victories in the Sun Alliance Novice Hurdle and the Aintree Hurdle. If any inferiority complex existed it will have evaporated, and British trainers will, once again, fear the name of O'Brien on these shores.

Little these days can be gleaned from Sandown's Classic Trial as John Gosden usually wins it and then definitely does not win the Derby. Santillana pounced for Stanley House on Saturday and he will struggle to conquer at Epsom as he is not entered. The thought of a supplementary stage to get all the best horses into the race has yet to enter the great minds of the strategists trying to heave the Classic back on to its pedestal.

Spectrum disappointed in the Derby last year before proving a top middle- distance colt later in the season. His first run of 1996 was in the Prix Ganay yesterday when he finished fourth behind the Aga Khan's Valanour at Longchamp. Clive Brittain's Luso was runner-up.

On Saturday, at the Curragh, Gothenberg won the Tetrarch Stakes by six lengths for the Kingsley House yard of his trainer, Mark Johnston. Not only had the colt brought home a Group Three prize, but he also paid a 2,000 Guineas compliment to his galloping partner Bijou D'Inde, who treats Gothenburg as though he has forgotten to take his slippers off on work mornings at Middleham. This impression was confirmed when Bijou D'Inde thrashed his stablemate Polar Eclipse in a racecourse gallop at Ripon yesterday. On the strength of this William Hill cut the colt to 16-1 (from 25-1).

Bosra Sham could probably win the 1,000 Guineas on three legs, but after a canter at the weekend it now appears she will have a fourth in operation on Sunday. "She's fine this morning and the foot is healing," Henry Cecil, the filly's trainer, said. "Obviously you can't just wave a magic wand and everything be all right as the foot is bruised, but it is progressing.''

Bosra Sham may now face a brace of Bints, following the news that both Bint Shadayid and Bint Salsabil will probably take on the short-priced fav-ourite. Bint Shadayid, a definite runner in the Classic, was among three plane-loads of Godolphin horses from Dubai which accompanied the dawn over Britain this morning.

With the party was Godolphin's new assistant, Tom Albertrani, who is supposed to be abetting the string's named trainer, Saeed Bin Suroor. As many believe Bin Suroor does little more than unscrew the flasks on cold mornings on the gallops, Tom may be in for a busier time than he expected.

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