Verdi to tackle colts

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 May, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 May, 1998, 12:00am

Cape Verdi, the brilliant winner of the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket, has been elevated to clear favourite at 5-2 for the Epsom Derby following confirmation that she is to take her chance against the colts in the world's most coveted Classic next Saturday.

Simon Crisford, racing manager for Godolphin, announced that the Dubai-inspired stable were to supplement Cape Verdi at a cost of GBP75,000 ($945,000).

'It is our intention to run,' Crisford declared.

'But there are still eight days remaining before the race and a lot can change in that time. If, for instance, the going is 'soft' or 'good to soft' at Epsom, then we would reconsider our position. If it is 'good' or faster, and she remains in good shape, then it is our plan to run.

'Both Sheik Maktoum and Sheik Mohammed are keen to take up the challenge to have a crack at the Derby with a filly. I think it is a very sporting move,' he said.

'We have thought about the Derby for this filly for some time, even before she won the Guineas, but we have kept our counsel. If it backfires then we will be open to criticism,' he added.

While Cape Verdi's inclusion in the Derby field injects fresh interest - particularly with Frankie Dettori bidding for his first Derby victory aboard the filly - those who backed her for the Oaks will be cursing the decision. She had appeared a stand-out in the fillies' Classic.

In a hasty reshuffle of the markets on both Epsom Classics, Ladbrokes have installed Cape Verdi as 5-2 Derby favourite; then they bet 9-2 Greek Dance, 5-1 King Of Kings, 8-1 City Honours and Gulland, 10-1 Haami, 14-1 bar. Hills have Second Empire the shortest in their market at 7-4 'with a run' and then bet 9-4 Cape Verdi, 5-1 Greek Dance, 11-2 King Of Kings and 10-1 bar.

More interestingly, perhaps, Corals now have the Godolphin-owned Bahr - winner of the Musidora Stakes and Cape Verdi's stablemate - 13-8 favourite for the Oaks, with 11-4 on offer for Midnight Line, 5-1 High And Low, 12-1 Cloud Castle and 16-1 bar.

Cape Verdi will be bidding to become the fourth filly this century - and the first since Fifinella in 1916 - to win the Derby.

'I think it's good for horse racing in general,' said Crisford. 'We at Godolphin regard the Derby as the premier race in the world.' A total of 14 fillies have contested the Derby since 1900, three of them winning - Signorinetta (1908), Tagalie (1912) and Fifinella (1916).

The most recent to run in the race was Portuguese Lil, a 500-1 chance in 1996.

More significantly, in 1975, Nelson Bunker Hunt's filly Nobiliary made the most significant modern-day attempt for Derby honours when finishing an honourable second to the all-conquering Grundy, who went on to take the Irish Derby and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes in subsequent runs.

The Derby challenges of all other females this century ended in failure, with all being unplaced, although the great Sceptre, sent off an even-money favourite in 1902, finished fourth, spoiling her chance of a clean sweep of the Classics that year.

In other Derby news, Courteous's price for the Derby has been cut from 20-1 in to 16-1 after the colt was confirmed an intended runner at Epsom, while another Derby hopeful Haami 'delighted' John Dunlop in a workout at Goodwood with Silver Patriarch, last year's Derby runner-up and now on course for the Coronation Cup on Friday.