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Gurkha in with fighting chance of Derby glory

By Frank Brownlow

The road to the Derby took a dramatic twist when The Gurkha battled to victory in the French 2,000 Guineas at Deauville under a masterful ride from Ryan Moore.

Wings Of Desire - the mount of Frankie Dettori, the punters' friend chasing a Derby hat-trick - had been highly fancied after winning the Dante at York on Thursday.

But The Gurkha was slashed in the ante-post market on the Epsom Derby after justifying the decision to supplement him for the French 2000 Guineas by powering to victory yesterday.

Impressive winner of a Navan maiden just four weeks earlier after being beaten on his debut, the Galileo colt continued his dramatic progression by totally destroying the opposition.

The start of the race was delayed a few minutes while The Gurkha was re-plated, but it did not damage his chances as he travelled well throughout.

Moore tracked First Selection for most of the race, with Simon Crisford's representative heading the group in the centre of the course and Zelzal leading four horses on the near side.

However, The Gurkha settled the issue in a matter of strides to give his trainer Aidan O'Brien a fourth win in the Poulains.

First Selection, seventh to Galileo Gold in the Qipco 2000 Guineas, ran a terrific race as he held on gamely for second place, five and a half lengths behind the easy winner.

Dicton was a nose away in third, with George Patton close behind in fourth and the favourite Zarak fifth.

The John Gosden-trained Crazy Horse was sixth, while Richard Fahey's Birchwood was last after being prominent in the near-side group in the early stages of the race.

"We're delighted with him, obviously - we couldn't be happier with him," said O'Brien.

"We've always thought he was a nice horse and when he won at Navan we thought he was real nice.

"He has three options now -the St James's Palace, the French Derby and the Epsom Derby.

"We'll let the dust settle for a week or 10 days and then we'll see."

Ladbrokes wasted little time in making The Gurkha the new favourite for Epsom at 3-1 from 10-1. BetVictor cut him to 4-1 from 16-1, while RaceBets are 5-1 from 14-1 pre-race and 9-1 initial post-race.

They also quote the winner as the 5-2 favourite for the French Derby, the Prix du Jockey Club.

Coral cut O'Brien's charge to 7-1 from 20-1 for the Derby and 16-1 from 40-1 for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

Spokesman Simon Clare said: "In winning with such authority, The Gurkha has put up arguably the most exciting performance by a three-year-old colt anywhere in Europe this season, and it would be no surprise to see his odds contract further for the Derby."

Meanwhile, Crisford was delighted with First Selection.

"We're absolutely thrilled with him. He was very tenacious and gave everything he'd got and he's run a huge race," said the Newmarket trainer.

"We couldn't have asked for any more. It was a big, big effort. He's made us all very proud.

"We'll talk to his owner and see what he wants to do. We're just delighted with how well he's performed."

Belfast Telegraph


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