reports from Goodwood
Sod's Law made it all but inevitable - and his starting price of 11- 8 implied as much - but the third straight Derby trial success for Pentire, the horse who is not even entered in the Derby, was not quite the stroll which some had anticipated.
All the better, though, for those sensible souls stretched out on the downland hillsides, who were probably in a mood to let the Derby take care of itself so long as the racing was close and the favourite obliged. In any case, squeezing home by a short-head and a neck from Istidaad and Fahal is hardly form with a Classic watermark, and when Geoff Wragg, Pentire's trainer, was asked afterwards if he regretted the colt's lack of an entry for Epsom, his denial scored nine out of 10 for credibility.
Nor will he be swayed by the fact that the French, as ever more laid- back about such matters than the British, allow late - if understandably pricey - entries for their Derby at Chantilly on 4 June. "I wouldn't even dream of supplementing him for the French Derby," Wragg said. "I think it would be unfair on the horse as I've given him three races in 23 days and the French race is in another 10 days or so. We could also supplement for the Grand Prix de Paris, but I think we'll probably go to Ascot for the King Edward VII to see if he gets a mile and a half."
Both Istidaad and Fahal remain in the Derby, but whether they will still be there after today's declaration stage must be doubtful (spendthrifts can take 50-1 about both with William Hill). The serious end of the Classic market was predictably untouched by yesterday's events, with the best prices being 6-4 Pennekamp (Hills and Ladbrokes), 5-2 Celtic Swing (Hills, or 7-4 with Coral and Ladbrokes if you want him "with a run"), 4-1 Spectrum (also Hills).
There were thoughts of another Derby trial winner who will not be at Epsom when First Island took the opening event. On his only start last year, First Island was unplaced behind Classic Cliche, who recently returned from a winter in Dubai to take the Dante Stakes. At the fairly remarkable odds of 33-1, First Island was the first leg of a treble for Michael Hills.
More surprising with each year is the recollection that no filly has followed up success in the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket with a win in the Irish equivalent. Harayir will be the latest to try to lay the hex this Saturday, when she will face a maximum of 10 opponents at The Curragh. Dick Hern, her trainer, may prefer the statistic which shows nine of the last 11 winners of this race orginating from British yards.
Harayir is not the only British challenger - Mick Channon's Fleet Hill is also expected to run, while Sheikh Marwan Al Maktoum, owner of Clive Brittain's Warning Shadows, has put up an IRpounds 18,500 supplementary entry fee to get her into the race (it sounds significant until you remember that pounds 18,500 for him is like a round of drinks for us).
The domestic challenge seems to rest with John Oxx, who expects to run Ridgewood Pearl, Kaytada and Mediation, while Collecta (John Hammond) and Ghostly (Pascal Bary) are likely to arrive from France. There is also news of a more significant French raider. Pennekamp worked left-handed yesterday, galloping for more than a mile with Carnegie, last year's Arc winner. Andre Fabre, the Continent's finest trainer, is applying the finishing touches.
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