11 May 2003

Franklins Gardens and Let Me Try Again shaped like real Classic contenders as they duelled for the Lingfield Derby Trial yesterday. The snag is, it was not the Derby but the St Leger for which they seemed suited, their prices for Epsom in four weeks time being 25-1 and 33-1 respectively.

Nonetheless, both showed plenty enough to go to the Derby ready to make hotter touted rivals prove their mettle. For this was a proper test from the moment the stalls opened and three of the runners set off, intent on making the lead their own. The eye, used to the slow bicycle race rhythm of so many so-called `Classic trials’ could hardly believe what it was seeing. Shanty Star, Foodbroker Founder and the favourite Rainwashed Gold were all out and blazing in that perfect French phrase “ventre a terre” – belly to the ground.

After a couple of madcap furlongs sanity returned, as the grey Shanty Star accepted third place while the other two steadied the pace sharply up front. But not for long. Kevin Darley on Shanty Star could not accept the slow down for a horse who had stamina as his strongest suit and so put his magnificently muscled partner back in the lead to make things hurt.

First casualty was Rainwashed Gold, weakening so rapidly despite Richard Hughes’ urgings that he was soon a furlong behind with no hope of being more than a whipper-in to the hunt up ahead. The colt was later found to be lame but he was also on the point of nervous collapse beforehand and looks quite a challenge for his talented trainer Amanda Perrett, whose good form continued with two winners on the card.

The next sufferer from Shanty Star’s pressure was Shanty Star himself. For once he had swung into the straight he was attacked by Franklins Gardens and Let Me Try Again, and the strain of his efforts told as he dropped back to finish a full 11 lengths behind the leading pair who had a proper battle for the money. Franklins Gardens had last been seen sticking on really well in the Epsom Classic trial last month. This was an equally gutsy effort, responding all the way to Darryll Holland’s urgings as Let Me Try Again lived up to his name under insistent prompting from the evergreen Pat Eddery.

Winning trainers at these trials usually drop in “this gives us a great chance in the big one” statements. Not Mark Tompkins, who prides himself in Yorkshire reality. “No, I can’t see him being good enough to win the Derby,” he said bluntly, “he could finish fifth or sixth, like Bob’s Return did 10 years ago. But that feller went on to win the Leger and this one could do the same.” Bob’s Return also won the Lingfield Derby trial that year, so we have been warned.

Some of Terry Mills’ team have taken 100-1 about Let Me Try Again for the Derby and Pat Eddery was complimentary about the colt. “He’s a good horse,” said Pat as the Mills team looked over this handsome son of Sadler’s Wells. No Epsom-trained horse has won the Derby since the war but if the ground came up soft Let Me Try Again might be worthy of more than just a local following.

The Oaks Trial was one of those disappointing events whose service is to give a reality check. The biggest hopes beforehand were for the impeccably-bred Henry Cecil filly Midsummer. But hard though she tried up the straight she could never get power and balance enough to peg back the John Dunlop-trained Santa Sophia, whose 11-1 starting price and lack of an Oaks entry reflected her stable’s assessment. Henry Cecil will be back in the big-time soon. But it will not be with Midsummer.

Time was when Lingfield, at least for British punters, would this weekend have the Classic trials to itself. But racing has embraced the European community even if the government hasn’t and the big Derby news is likely to come this afternoon from Leopardstown and Longchamp.

In Ireland, current joint-favourite Alamshar looks to have overcome a midweek abscess scare to take on Aidan O’Brien’s Brian Boru in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial, which has produced the last three Epsom heroes. In France, the Aga Khan, Alamshar’s owner, runs Dalakhani in the Prix Lupin but his target is the French Derby so Epsom interest will be centred on the Ballydoyle pair Alberto Giacometti and Ballestrini, plus the Godolphin hope New South Wales.

A much welcome deal between the French authorities means that satellite viewers can watch the Lupin and indeed the French 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas on the Attheraces channel. British interest is represented by Godolphin’s Anyaas and Michael Stoute’s Crystal Star in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches (1,000 Guineas) and by Desert Destiny, Bourbonnais and Elusive City in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains (2,000 Guineas). Desert Destiny might have the best shot of overturning the unbeaten local favourite Clodovil but watching the Prix Lupin is likely to be the main delight.

Dalakhani and Super Celebre are already well proven as well as promising performers. At present New South Wales only represents the latter category. But if he was to give Frankie Dettori the chance of a trademark flying dismount in the blue Godolphin silks, it will be `game on’ for the Epsom Derby. And Franklins Gardens and Let Me Try Again will be waiting for him.

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