Robinson prays the rain stays away from Epsom

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 May, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 May, 1993, 12:00am

FORMER dual Hongkong champion Philip Robinson is praying that the blustery showers forecast to lash Epsom Downs in the next 24 hours are blown way off course.

If they are not, his mount, Bob's Return, may as well stay at home in Newmarket.

For 16-1 chance Bob's Return, winner of the often-informative Lingfield Derby Trial earlier this month requires a lightning fast track to produce his best.

''I don't want the word 'soft' appearing anywhere near Epsom on Derby Day,'' says the astute Robinson. ''I want gale force winds to dry the course, because the firmer it is, the better he will like it.'' At the weekend, the course was 'good' overall, and 'good to soft' over the last half-mile.

This will be the Robinson's fourth ride in the time-honoured Epsom Classic - the closest he has finished is fourth.

So far, his comeback to British racing has been silky-smooth, with 52 winners in his first full season since returning, and now an association with a potentially good horse. Certainly, Bob's Return is not likely to rival Pebbles or Katies as the best Robinson has ridden, but he could pick up a decent race.

''The first time I ever sat on him I knew he was a good horse,'' the jockey recalled. ''I remember thinking he was an absolute certainty for his first outing, a little race over five furlongs at Beverley . . . but he could finish only fifth, and it was then that we realised he couldn't handle soft ground.'' Despite this unfortunate defeat, Bob's Return, a son of the Italian Derby winner Bob Back, eventually started living up to his reputation. ''I was always confident that he was 'listed' class, at least, because nothing in the yard was good enough to even work with him,'' Robinson said.

At present, Tenby remains a 4-6 favourite.

''For me, Tenby is a logical choice in the Derby on what he has shown to date,'' says Robinson. ''But there is no real stand-out among the others in the field.

''If Fatherland gets the trip, he must have a good chance . . . and Bob's Return is also in with a shout if conditions are suitable. He has plenty of pace, and if anything is in front of me early, then he is going too fast. I plan to be up there, but I will ease and sit in behind, if anything goes on at a suicidal gallop,'' he points out.

One of the major changes to pre-race procedure at Epsom this year is the requirement for horses to break off after the parade and then head around the Derby course going the ''wrong'' way (right-handed). This is something that Robinson fears could go horribly wrong for some contenders.

''With the crowd cheering and shouting, there will be some horses who take a real hold going to post - and running up the hill before the Derby is going to leave a lot of tired horses by the time they get to the mile and a half start. I have serious reservations about this new move,'' he says. ''Anyway, the parade and then the walk across the road near the paddock and then up the narrow pathway lined with people was always one of the important tests of a horse's temperament. The basic reason they run the Derby is to test and eventually improve the breed, now the temperament factor has been reduced.

''I feel they may have taken away a little of Tenby's advantage with this new procedure. Tenby is so laid-back that even with people shouting and cheering him, he wouldn't turn a hair,'' he added.