Weather the key to Derby fancies' chances
By Racing Editor LAWRENCE WADEY
CONNECTIONS of odds-on Derby favourite Mr Vitality will dash straight from their beds this morning and straight to the window with one thing on their minds - is it raining? The inclement weather continued yesterday and, while the Jockey Club's expected going report rates the track as good, any more rain will surely change it to the soft side of yielding.
That would be against Mr Vitality, bidding for his eighth win from nine starts in the territory, but very much in the favour of his two main rivals, the Patrick Biancone-trained Deauville and John Moore's Adjareli.
Mr Vitality's trainer Ivan Allan and jockey Basil Marcus are only too well aware of how the weather could wreck their Derby dreams, changing the most important race on the domestic calendar from a quality affair to a slog in the Sha Tin mud.
Yesterday Allan said: 'We're very pleased with Mr Vitality's preparation and he should improve from his Derby Trial win.
'But the form book can go out of the window if the ground comes up soft.
'I would really hate to see the Derby run in the kind of conditions we had at Sha Tin for last Wednesday's New Year meeting and admit it would be a real concern.
'There is just no way of knowing how Mr Vitality would go on the ground.' Fortunately for Allan, the forecast is for a cloudy but dry day with patchy overnight rain dying out.
And Mr Vitality will be helped by racing reverting to the 'A' course on the Old Bend and a strip of ground that has been saved for the Derby.
On a good track, both Allan and Marcus are confident that Mr Vitality will run out the Derby's 1,800-metre trip despite the fact that his fourth in the 1,800-metre International Cup suggests to some that he doesn't see out the trip.
Allan added: 'If we hadn't ridden him so competitively in the International Cup he would have been third and under normal circumstances I'd say he will see out the 1,800 metres of the Derby.
'He may be at his best over a mile but I think he will see out the 1,800 metres.
'But soft ground would help the likes of Deauville as he's much more of a galloping, staying type than my horse.' Patrick Biancone has Deauville and Michael's Choice primed to run for their lives with the French-bred Deauville already having won on a rain-affected track earlier this season when he also showed that he stayed 1,900 metres, never mind 1,800 metres.
And Moore's Adjareli, much fitter than when third to Mr Vitality and Deauville in the Classic Trial, is bred to relish a wet track.
He represents some of the Aga Khan's best bloodlines which are famed for their ability on rain-softened ground.