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RACING: GOSDEN COULD DRUM UP A WINNER; Percussionist in Derby rhythm.


PERCUSSIONIST represents excellent value at around 12-1 to grab the glory for trainer John Gosden in next Saturday's Vodafone Derby.

This late-developing colt has won both his starts this season, trotting up in the Gallagher Group Ltd Derby Trial at Lingfield by 10 lengths.

Although he veered right across the track when distracted by a television camera, it was an awesome display franked by the runner-up Hazyview, who has since won a decent race at Newmarket.

Percussionist must have a great chance in a race that looks short on quality in depth.

His trainer John Gosden has made no secret of his faith in the son of champion sire Sadler's Wells, who is out of Magnificent Style, winner of the Musidora Stakes in 1996.

Although he has won on soft ground, good ground would be fine - and rain is forecast early in the week.

Gosden has a first-class record in the Derby, winning with Benny The Dip in 1995 as well as having other horses placed in the last 10 years from few runners.

Bred by the late Robert Sangster, Percussionist could be the one to expose any chinks in the armour of the three market leaders.

Yeats, Snow Ridge and North Light have virtually monopolised the ante-post marketonthe Derby over the past few weeks. But even though bookmakers go 10-1 bar, it is by no means a racing certainty that one of them will win.

The trio do not represent value any more and added to that, reservations have been expressed about all of them. Yeats has followed the tried and tested path that has been so successful for his trainer Aidan O'Brien, winning the Ballysax Stakes and Derrinstown Stud Trial.

But what has to be of concern to those punters willing to take 5-2 is that the horse has twice suffered from stiffness after workouts recently.

We are already on Snow Ridge at the recommended 12-1 in April, and he has been a leading fancy for Godolphin since he finished second in the 2000 Guineas. Some doubts have been expressed about his ability to last out the mile and a half, and he is only 3-1 now.

Hopes of back-to-back victories in the Derby for Sir Michael Stoute were raised when North Light made a successful reappearance in the totesport Dante Stakes. He should stay the trip all right.

What is a worry is an airborne bug that has affected several Newmarket yard this spring. Stoute has taken every precaution, but at 7-2 it may be best to hang fire.

Looking down the list of Derby hopefuls, Salford City looks held by Snow Ridge on 2000 Guineas form, while Rule Of Law and Let The Lion Roar were behind North Light in the Dante.

American Post, winner of the Racing Post Trophy last October but fortunate to take the French 2000 Guineas, would be interesting should Criquette HeadMaarek's colt cross the Channel. But there is no doubt where the value lies - and that is with Percussionist.

In the Vodafone Oaks, it is difficult to look beyond the first two in the betting, Sundrop and Punctilious, both from the Godolphin camp.

Preference is for Sundrop, who is not bad value at 11-4. She finished ahead of her main market rival in the Meon Valley Stud Fillies' Mile at Ascot despite meeting trouble in running.

And she ran the best trial of all when a strong-finishing second to the brilliant Attraction in the 1000 Guineas. She was only half a length down at the line and Attraction has gone on to lift the Irish equivalent. Pick of the longshots could be Menhoubah. Clive Brittain's filly was not far behind Sundrop and Punctilious in the Fillies' Mile and has shown her well-being by winning the Italian Oaks recently.


HIGHLY FANCIED: Percussionist; TRAINER: John Gosden
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:May 30, 2004
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