Swing win fails to electrify

RACING: Owner's decision vindicated as 'wonder horse' proves to be in his element in the French Derby, but not in a class of his own
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Such was the volume of rain pouring into Julian Wilson's microphone as he interviewed Peter Savill after the Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) here yesterday that both must have been in considerable danger of electrocution. But Savill at least would have been cheeky to complain. Over the previous couple of days the French elements had done their job, easing the ground to allow Celtic Swing - albeit narrowly - to win a Derby, and Savill's decision to run the colt in France in preference to the British equivalent at Epsom next Saturday had been at least partly vindicated.

Yet Celtic Swing is still only a Derby winner and after yesterday's far from effortless half-length defeat of Poliglote that is surely all he will remain. Neither Savill nor Lady Herries, Celtic Swing's trainer, would firmly rule out a run at Epsom for last season's leading two-year- old, but both will be well aware that ideas born of post-race euphoria are generally as sensible as those prompted by drink. Ladbrokes, usually the best judges, do not even include Celtic Swing in the Derby list "with a run".

Savill, though, could hardly be blamed for his near-delirious mood, after a Classic which was certainly not the procession some had expected. Kevin Darley, Celtic Swing's jockey was flawless, poised behind the leaders as they went down the back, keeping clear of the trouble which earned Michael Kinane who was riding Affidavit, a four-day ban for impeding Flemensfirth, and then calmly finding an ideal position on the home turn.

"I've gone second well into the straight," Darley said, "and then I kicked him in the belly and he found a length for me. The horse on the fence [Poliglote] stuck to his guns well, and looked like outstaying me at one time, but my fellow was just idling a little."

Spectacular it was not, but while the half-length margin was never going to increase, it never seemed likely to shrink either. Winged Love ran on into third, a short-head behind Poliglote, while Classic Cliche came from almost last turning into the straight to finish two lengths further back in fourth.

The hard-luck story is almost a classic in itself, but the one offered for Walter Swinburn's mount had the ring of conviction. "He was in a good position but then he got penned in and had to drop back,"

Simon Crisford, racing manager for Godolphin, the colt's owner, said: "He did well to get so close to the winner from such an impossible position, and might not be without a chance in a rematch."

To be fair to Celtic Swing, however, this was probably not a race which anything was going to win by a distance, particularly after the withdrawal of Fifty Four, who had been expected to act as pacemaker. It was also wishful thinking to expect a repeat of his wide-margin victories as a two-year-old, against a high-class field including several colts who are now his equal in terms of physical development.

Assuming that thoughts of a run at Epsom will indeed be rejected, the Irish Derby is now the logical target for Celtic Swing, though Lady Herries was adamant yesterday that the colt will not run at The Curragh on 2 July if the ground is fast, which is not an unusual state of affairs in early July, even in Ireland. "This is the ground he likes and the ground he will use his stride on," she said, as the reality of her first Classic success slowly sank in and her heels disappeared into the squelching home straight rather more quickly.

And this, surely, is the reason why Celtic Swing may never be a champion in the true sense of the word. For all his juvenile brilliance and yesterday's victory, he is apparently a top-class horse only when the conditions suit him, and the sort of track and going he needs do not generally prevail at the height of the Flat racing summer or at many of the best courses.

There was always a danger that his demolition of the field in the Racing Post Trophy last October was being taken too literally.

Despite the short-nose second of Annus Mirabilis, the distant runner- up at Doncaster, to John Gosden's Torrential in the Group One Prix Jean Prat here yesterday, that point of view is ever harder to dismiss.

1m 4f Group 1 Les Emirates Arabes Unis

Prix du Jockey-Club

1. CELTIC SWING brown colt Damister - Celtic Ring K Darley

2. Poliglote bay colt Sadler's Wells - Alexandrie F Head

3. Winged Love bay colt In The Wings - J'ai Deux Amours O Peslier

Also ran: Classic Cliche (4th), Flemensfirth (5th), Diamond Mix (6th), Affidavit (7th), Rifapour (8th), Walk On Mix (9th), Indian Light (10th), Commoner (11th). 11 ran. Distances: 1/2, sht-hd, 2, sht-hd, 2. (Trained by Lady Herries for P Savill). Pari-Mutuel: win 2.00; places 1.80, 2.30, 5.30. DF: 17.30. NR: Fifty Four.