Refuse To Bend aimed at Epsom Derby

 

RACING: Dermot Weld has strongly indicated that the 2000 Guineas winner, Refuse To Bend, will run next in the Epsom Derby. The last colt to complete the Newmarket-Epsom double was Nashwan in 1989, but Refuse To Bend is now a 3 to 1 joint favourite with the John Oxx-trained Alamshar to win the Derby.

"I will have to sit down with everyone this week and see what line we take, but obviously Epsom is very much on our minds," Weld said yesterday.

"I would say Epsom is the most likely route. Refuse To Bend is a well-balanced colt and I wouldn't imagine the track at Epsom would be much of a problem," he added.

Refuse To Bend's three-quarter length defeat of Zafeen and Norse Dancer on Saturday was a first British classic for his 25-year-old rider Pat Smullen and just a second for Weld.

Blue Wind won the Oaks in 1981, but the legendary trainer is in little doubt about the quality of his new star.

"He is right up there with the best I've trained. He is a good, tough, top-class racehorse," he said. "I've managed to win 17 classics around the world but Saturday was one of the great days."

Aidan O'Brien couldn't say the same. The slight favourite, Hold That Tiger, faded at the two furlong pole, and while stable companion Tomahawk was unlucky in running, he too couldn't land a significant blow.

O'Brien's bid for a first success in the 1000 Guineas also failed as both Yesterday and L'Acresse were unplaced behind Russian Rhythm yesterday. The Michael Stoute-trained filly went off at 12 to 1, and it was jockey Kieren Fallon's third 1000 Guineas success.

"It was great," Fallon said. "She's a very good filly and she quickened up nice for me."

The focus will now start to build towards Epsom, and next weekend's Derrinstown Derby Trial could see the clash of Refuse To Bend's main market rivals.

Alamshar and Brian Boru, who is 6 to 1 with Paddy Power for Epsom, are expected to run in the Group Two race, which has thrown up the last three Epsom winners.

But Smullen struck a confident note on Saturday when he said: "Refuse To Bend is such a laid back horse that I am sure he will stay. He is obviously very high class and there is a lot more to achieve."

The former champion jockey teams up with Weld again for the Bank Holiday feature at Naas today, the Listed Woodlands Stakes.

The rain arrived in time for Refuse To Bend on Saturday and the weather at home also seems to have come right for Final Exam, the veteran who found the going too fast behind Repertory at Cork last time.

The Weld-Smullen team also look to have an excellent chance in the mile and a quarter maiden with Prominent Feature.

Harry Rogers struck in the opener at Navan yesterday with a good-priced winner, and Debona's fifth to Dimitrova on her only start to date reads pretty well in the context of the last at Naas.

They also race at Cork and Down Royal today and at the southern track the appearance of Willie John Daly in the second maiden hurdle will be eagerly anticipated by many.