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Unbeaten Classic hero has some questions to answer.

Byline: Tony O'Hehir

Tony O'Hehir

REFUSE TO BEND goes into today's Vodafone Derby with impressive credentials and an unblemished record.

Unbeaten in four starts, he has won at Group 1 level at two and three. Already a Classic winner, there is still plenty to prove, not least his ability to get the distance in today's big race following his win in the Sagitta 2000 Guineas last month.

No winner of the Newmarket Classic has gone on to achieve Derby glory since Nashwan in 1989 and, while trainer

Dermot Weld's early-season view was that Refuse To Bend may prove more suited to the Derby distance than the mile of the Guineas, events at Newmarket have raised doubts.

Weld said: "Because of the speed he showed in his work before the 2,000 Guineas and again in the race itself, you have to question whether he'll be as

effective over a mile and a half. His half-brother did win the Melbourne Cup [over two miles] but his dam was a sprinter, so it is very much a guessing game."

Reports of Refuse To Bend's crucial

gallop eight days ago caused him to drift in the betting for today's race, with

Weld describing it as "no more than

satisfactory".

The trainer is sticking with that view, but he points out that Refuse To Bend rarely over-exerts himself at home.

"It's possible he might have needed those two bits of work last week and

another bit on Tuesday morning, having had a break after Newmarket," Weld said. "But he's only once shown what you'd call real sparkle on the gallops and that was before the Guineas, when we were sharpening him for the job."

The trainer added: "He's usually very laid-back but he's done everything we've asked of him so far and we're hoping he will do so again. There are plenty of horses with chances and it's a marvellous

occasion for Irish racing that we have most of the leading contenders."

Weld has conquered the world since his only previous Epsom Classic success, with Blue Wind in the 1981 Oaks. The only

European trainer to win a leg of the US Triple Crown, a feat he achieved with Go And Go in the 1990 Belmont Stakes, he also has two Melbourne Cup successes to his credit.

Refuse To Bend is 54-year-old Weld's fifth runner in the Derby and his first since Humbel finished eighth in 1995. The Sadler's Wells colt is a first runner in the Classic for 92-year-old Zurich-based Dr Walter Haefner, owner of Moyglare Stud Farm where Refuse To Bend was bred, while dual Irish champion jockey Pat Smullen is having his first Derby ride.

CAPTION(S):

Pat Smullen celebrates after Refuse To Bend's 2,000 Guineas triumph
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jun 7, 2003
Words:457
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