The bruises may be still gently yellowing on some Grand National bodies, but already we are on to the great race of the Flat racing season. A total of eight horses have been supplemented at a cost of £9,000 each for the Derby on 7 June and such was the calibre of the names announced yesterday that it seems almost seamless to switch from the Canal Turn to Tattenham Corner.
Bookmakers stepped away from counting their Aintree winnings to cut the price of half of those added to the Classic field, namely Alamshar, Battle Chant, Lateen Sails and Refuse To Bend.
Alamshar, whose trainer, John Oxx, won the millennium Derby with his only other runner in the Blue Riband, Sinndar, already has a victory to his name over the Epsom ante-post favourite, Aidan O'Brien's Brian Boru. Alamshar faces up to another Ballydoyle big gun on Sunday at Leopardstown, where Alberto Giacometti stands between him and victory in the notable trial race of the Group Three Ballysax Stakes.
On the same card, Dermot Weld's Refuse To Bend has the O'Brien pairing of France and Carpanetto with which to contend in the 2,000 Guineas Trial.
Battle Chant's supplementary at this penultimate stage (the last option is the £90,000 entry fee on 29 May) was received with less fanfare. Nevertheless, that does not stop Ed Dunlop dreaming about a colt who won his last two starts in 2002, including a Listed contest at Pontefract, by an aggregate of 15 lengths.
"He's won a Listed race by six lengths. We just thought we'd put him in there hopefully to see if he'll stay," the trainer said. "It's hard to tell if he'll stay as Coronado's Quest is a young stallion. Whether he'll stay the mile and a half no-one knows yet but he won a Listed race on soft ground over a mile as a two-year-old so who knows?"
The evidence may come as early as next week as Battle Chant is in the Craven Stakes, as well as the race for which the Newmarket contest acts as a trial, the 2,000 Guineas.
Godolphin are responsible for three of the Derby additions in the shape of New South Wales, Bourbonnais and Lateen Sails, the recent winner of their private trial in Dubai.
The last-named was formerly a protégé of the Henry Cecil academy until Sheikh Mohammed came a calling. The Warren Place trainer saddled just 30 winners last season and needs a decent campaign to keep his interest keen. Cecil cut an isolated figure on Newmarket's Warren Hill this week, a cigarette in his begloved hand as he supervised work atop the milky grey hack, Impresario, but he is happy with the well-being of his string.
We get a sighter this afternoon when Warren Place sends out its first runners of the season in Floreeda and Dawnus at Newbury. The latter runs in a fillies' maiden, while Floreeda, a half-sister to the Oaks winner Love Divine, runs in a contest won 12 months ago by Islington.
The immediate future for two who ran under the Martin Pipe banner in the Grand National is just to get better. Gerry Supple, who broke his right leg when Pond House's Burlu fell at Becher's second time round, could be out for three months.
"Gerry is in hospital in Liverpool still and since Saturday he has had an operation to pin his leg and also had two blood transfusions," Pipe said yesterday. "Iris Bleu [who was pulled up lame by Tony McCoy after the Chair] is still at the University of Liverpool and has been receiving treatment. He has no fractured bones and they have removed the splint that he has been wearing. He is comfortable and they are happy with his progress."
The National favourite, Shotgun Willy, is to compete in the Scottish equivalent at Ayr tomorrow. The nine-year-old was pulled up by Ruby Walsh after 21 fences at Aintree amid fears that he had burst a blood vessel. "He definitely runs," Paul Nicholls, the trainer, said yesterday. "He's been absolutely fine since Aintree and so long as the ground is good he'll run. He's come out of Aintree fine and contrary to reports he didn't bleed. Whatever was in front must have sprayed Ruby."
* Fire In Ice, who had failed to complete the course in her four previous starts over hurdles, faces being suspended from racing after again coming to grief at Ludlow yesterday. The jumping ability of the Brian Baugh-trained four-year-old filly will now be assessed by the Jockey Club. Fire In Ice attempted to run out at the first flight and unseated her jockey Xavier Aizpuru. She continued riderless and when she approached the same hurdle on the final circuit ducked out, taking Rebel Raider with her. The latter crashed into the hurdle's wing, giving her jockey, Warren Marston, a nasty fall.
THE DERBY (Epsom, 7 June): Coral: 4-1 Brian Boru, 7-1 Alberto Giacometti, 10-1 Hold That Tiger & Refuse To Bend, 14-1 Alamshar & Dalakhani, 16-1 New South Wales, 20-1 Chevalier, Muqbil, Powerscourt, Qais & Songlark, 25-1 Tomahawk; William Hill: 7-2 Brian Boru, 7-1 Alberto Giacometti, 10-1 Hold That Tiger, 11-1 Refuse To Bend, 14-1 Alamshar & Dalakhani, 16-1 New South Wales, 20-1 Chevalier & Lateen Sails, 25-1 Muqbil, Powerscourt & Songlark; Ladbrokes: 7-2 Brian Boru, 8-1 Alberto Giacometti, 12-1 Hold That Tiger, 12-1 Refuse To Bend, 14-1 Dalakhani, 16-1 Alamshar, 20-1 New South Wales, 20-1 Chevalier, 33-1 others.
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