Voyagers Quest to sail in

at Newmarket
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The Independent Online
The Classic focus switches to France this afternoon, where the second of the European Derbies, the Prix du Jockey-Club, is staged in Chantilly's incomparably elegant setting. And the performance of the leading challenger from Britain, Voyagers Quest, will come under more than usual scrutiny, for the colt's two immediate victims when he won the Sandown Trial last month were a pair who are prominent in the betting for Saturday's real thing, Benny The Dip and Silver Patriarch.

On the strength of that performance, Voyagers Quest will be among the leading fancies today, and victory would have a pleasing symmetry. Five years ago Jenny Craig bought for her husband Sidney's birthday a pounds 1.4m racehorse (Dr Devious) which promptly won the Derby, and last week the American millionaire repaid his wife the compliment by purchasing Voyagers Quest as a birthday gift for her. For trainer Peter Chapple-Hyam, too, there would be a certain satisfaction in a win, for last year his ill- fated Polaris Flight, later killed in the Arc, was beaten a head.

The galloping track at Chantilly will suit Voyagers Quest and, though the son of Dyanformer has shown good form on easy going, his trainer does not feel the rapidly drying ground will pose a problem.

The prize, however, is a notoriously difficult one to wrest from the French, only Assert and Caerleon (for Ireland) and Old Vic and Celtic Swing (for England) having ever done so. Both Voyagers Quest's compatriot Perfect Paradigm and the Irish hope Casey Tibbs step up in class and may favour softer ground.

The home side's defence will be led by Peintre Celebre, none of whose connections - owner Daniel Wildenstein, trainer Andre Fabre and jockey Olivier Peslier - has, extraordinarily, yet won a Jockey-Club; Shaka, up from the provinces; his Prix Hocquart runner-up Oscar; and Fabre's other runners Diamond Mix and Arabian King.

Voyagers Quest, who will leave for the United States after the race, will stay the 12 furlongs well and can bow out of Europe on a winning note. Oscar and Shaka can give him most to do.

At Newmarket much of the interest was of a non-competitive nature. Khaled Abdullah has won two Derbys, but never yet an Oaks despite some near misses, and his Reams Of Verse, odds-on favourite for the fillies' Classic, looked splendid as she and her Henry Cecil-trained stablemates stretched out on a strip of the gallops parallel with the racecourse.

Reams Of Verse (whose Musidora runner-up Vagabonde Chanteuse was a close third in France yesterday) seems likely to put her owner's record straight on Friday, unless the Irish Guineas runner-up Strawberry Roan, one of 15 Oaks declarations yesterday despite indications from her trainer Aidan O'Brien that she was a doubtful runner, turns up at Epsom.

The Derby favourite Entrepreneur has his final serious spin at Newmarket this morning, and the "what-will-Frankie-ride?" question was answered when Dettori announced that he will partner Bold Demand, a winner at Sandown after chasing home Single Empire, for Godolphin. The Italian, who steered home Nightbird in the Charlotte Stakes yesterday as the timely revival of the blue colours continued, will be on Siyadah in in the Oaks, with Kevin Darley on Bint Baladee.

Dettori was given a great reception after landing the gamble of the day on Blue Goblin in the Coral Sprint Handicap. The grey, backed from 5-2 to 11-10, surged clear to win the contest easily.

At Stratford, Stately Home made history as he became the first 20th century novice to win 10 chases in a season.

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