9 May 2004

Jockey is full of praise after his mount Percussionist booked his place for the Derby following an emphatic win at Lingfield

Percussionist threatens to beat a famous old Derby drum after winning Lingfield’s Gallagher Group Derby Trial by 10 lengths from the favourite, Hazyview, in nothing short of startling style.

For Percussionist carries the green and blue silks of the late Robert Sangster, whose death last month at only 67 robbed racing of many years of buzz and laughter. The last horse to have won the Lingfield Derby Trial by as far as 10 lengths was Slip Anchor, who went on to win the Derby by seven lengths under Steve Cauthen in 1985.

Coincidence backers could do a lot worse than take the 40-1 still available for Percussionist to emulate the Epsom triumphs of The Minstrel and Golden Fleece in the Sangster livery.

When the ground is riding as soft as it was at Lingfield yesterday it is easy to decry the form. But it can come up soft at Epsom too, as indeed it did for the 1983 Lingfield Trial winner Teenoso when he sauntered home for Piggott’s ninth and last Derby at Epsom a month later. Besides, Percussionist has plenty of things going for him. He is beautifully bred, by Sadler’s Wells out of a good mare called Magnificent Style. Unlike many of his Epsom opponents he is an absolutely proven stayer. And yesterday’s drubbing of the highly rated Hazyview could hardly have been more emphatic.

In fact, if Percussionist had kept straight over the last two furlongs instead of altering course violently to starboard he would probably have doubled his winning distance. On the face of things this bodes ill for an attempt down an even steeper slope than the Lingfield incline. But a glimpse of Percussionist’s eyes as he came past us a furlong out and Frankie Dettori’s verdict should give the still inexperienced three-year-old the benefit of the doubt.

“He was shying away from the tracking TV camera,” Dettori said of his partner, on whom he had attacked the pace-setting Hazyview to such an extent a full half-mile out that the pair soon had the Irish challenger Five Dynasties in all sorts of trouble behind them. “The camera was mounted on top of a truck running on the all-weather track to the left of us and once he caught sight of it he kept hanging away to his right.”

To us spectators it was a remarkable sight. Percussionist’s left eye glaring white as he lugged almost at 45 degrees towards the stands’ rail. At one stage Dettori was forced to give his horse five quick slaps to straighten him out but still had 10 lengths in hand at the line.” He won’t be a problem at Epsom because he came round the bend and down the hill all right,” Dettori added. “He would lack a bit of speed and class compared to Snow Ridge [Dettori’s Derby booking] or American Post. But he stays and gallops and on soft ground would be a contender.”

The winning time of 2 min 38.2 sec was perfectly respectable for a four-runner race on this ground and was three seconds quicker than the Fillies’ Trial won by the Aidan O’Brien-trained Baraka, albeit with Jamie Spencer still hard on the brakes.

In this race Dettori was again in the Sangster silks on a John Gosden-trained runner but hard though Bowstring tried, the rangy Baraka was cantering over her in the straight. Jamie Spencer was looking across at Dettori and mouthing: “Work harder, work harder,” happy to be coasting home on a Ballydoyle winner after the One Cool Cat Classic tribulations of last weekend.

Baraka had disappointed in her only run last season but there is no doubting the ability of this Danehill half-sister to the Breeders’ Cup winner Pilsudski. “She is a talented filly,” said Aidan O’Brien of his charge who has been cut from 40-1 to 16-1 for the Oaks. “She and my other Oaks runner All Too Beautiful have been working together. All Too Beautiful [cut from 10-1 to 7-1] will go straight to Epsom but Jamie was very sweet on Baraka and wanted to bring her here.”

On the wide-screen TV in the weighing room Chelsea were working out a 1-1 draw with Manchester United which would ensure Claudio (we all make mistakes) Ranieri second place in the Premiership. In the Lingfield winner’s enclosure, Aidan O’Brien was winning us over with his own type of modest charm. “We’re all mortal,” he said of One Cool Cat’s lamentable display at Newmarket. “Somehow the horse got himself incredibly worked up in the stalls. The whole weekend was a bit of a blip but I’m hoping Yeats [the present Derby favourite] can make up for things tomorrow at Leopardstown. He’s working beautifully. We have to be hopeful.”

Ranieri could not have said it better.

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