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Horseracing: Bend a touch for the Irish; says nine-time Derby winner.

Byline: Gordon Brown

THE most successful Derby jockey in history reckons the Irish are all set to register their fourth victory in-a-row in Europe's richest- ever race.

But it will be Dermot Weld, and not Aidan O'Brien or John Oxx, who will be celebrating just after four o'clock this afternoon as Lester Piggott is sweet on the chances of Refuse To Bend following up his win in last month's 2000 Guineas.

Piggott, victorious nine-times in the world-famous Epsom showpiece, told me: "I fancy Refuse To Bend. Even though there's been rumours he hasn't been working well that doesn't worry me as Dermot Weld said he wasn't happy with Vintage Crop just before he won the Melbourne Cup!

"It looks an open race this year and he looks the safest bet. He's an unbeaten colt and you can't really ask for more.

"They always say the best trial for the Derby is the Guineas and he did it well at Newmarket. It's hard to say just how good he is at the moment because he's never won by very far. I don't think there will be a problem with him staying as they were more concerned about the Guineas trip being on the short side.

"The one chink in his armour could be if it dries up too much as most of these Sadler's Wells horses like to get their toe in a little bit.

"And don't be too worried about his jockey Pat Smullen handling the big occasion as I think he's very good. He may be having his first Derby ride on Refuse To Bend but he had never ridden in a 2000 Guineas either until last month and he's twice been champion in Ireland."

Racing legend Lester, who later this year turns 68 on Guy Fawkes day, added: "Brian Boru must have a good chance but he's by the same sire as Refuse To Bend and he's another that wouldn't want the ground too lively.

"Aidan O'Brien was telling everyone he would come on for the run when he was third to Alamshar at Leopardstown and they'll have him spot on for today all right.

"The Aga Khan won the French Derby last week with Dalakhani and I don't think Alamshar is as classy as him.

"Okay, he'll like fast ground but there remains a doubt that he'll stay. You need a lot of things going for you in the Derby and stamina is one of them.

"Dutch Gold is one of three horses supplemented for pounds 90,000 and he's my each-way fancy at quite decent odds.

"The word here in Newmarket is that Clive Brittain thinks he'll run a big race as he's a rapidly-improving three-year-old.

"He made all for Frankie to win the Chester Vase so we know he'll definitely stay and take all the turns in his stride.

"Frankie has been claimed to ride Graikos for Godolphin this afternoon and he'll have to hurry up if he's to catch up on me. He's yet to win a Derby and I can't see him getting off the mark this year.Another supplement, Kris Kin, also won at Chester but he hasn't got the experience or good enough to win a Derby in my book.

"Alberto Giacometti is a stable mate of Brian Boru but I would agree with the choice of Mick Kinane who rides the latter.

"Mind you his form when third to Dalakhani at Longchamp last month reads pretty well and Mick wouldn't be the first jockey to pick the wrong one!

"Franklins Gardens has won over 10 furlongs at Epsom this year and battled home in the Lingfield Derby Trial.

"He will act on the course and will stay but he's another I simply don't think is good enough.

"And, for what it's worth, I think it's a good idea to impose a safety limit on this year's race which saw some horses balloted out.

"There used to be over 30 runners some years but 20 is enough and nobody can complain about it as anything that is eliminated will only be rubbish anyway.

"But there were only 13 in the race when I won in 1968 on Sir Ivor. And when people ask my favourite Derby winner he's the one I always come up with - in fact I'd go as far as to say he was the best I ever rode.

"He also won the Guineas that year, was second in the Irish Derby, third in the Eclipse, second to Vaguely Noble in the Arc, won the Champion Stakes and ended up winning the DC International over in Washington.

"Sir Ivor was tough yet had the class to cope with the best of company. I wonder if the same will be said about the horse that wins today's big race?"

LESTER PIGGOTT was talking to GORDON BROWN

DERBY

DATA

John Oxx, trainer of Alamshar, is the only trainer with a runner in the race to have a 100 per cent record in the Derby, having won with his only previous contender, Sinndar in 2000.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jun 7, 2003
Words:843
Previous Article:Highlights: the week ahead.
Next Article:Punter's Diary; Top team all set for some Derby craic.


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