Bonfire can blaze onto derby trail

Niall Cronin

The long search party for opposition to red-hot Epsom Derby favourite Camelot continues, and stops off at around about 2.30pm in York tomorrow.

Following his Newmarket 2000 Guineas exertions it was a routine piece of work for Camelot this morning at his Ballydoyle base but across on the Knavesmire his stable companion Ernest Hemingway will be one of three serious challengers to lay their marker down.

Ernest Hemingway is one of just two unbeaten colts in the seven-runner field, albeit that coming in a moderate Dundalk maiden last month, while ex-Andre Fabre, now Mahmood Al Zarooni inmate Mandaean is the other.


Mandaean carries the hopes of the powerful Godolphin outfit as he makes his seasonal debut, but it is the Andrew Balding-trained Bonfire who looks set to jump out of the stalls as favourite tomorrow afternoon.

Bonfire is another to as of yet grace the racecourse with his presence this season despite being declared for Chester last week. Testing conditions changed his trainers mind on that occasion however and he now looks set to have his Derby prep tomorrow.

Bonfire was last seen when finishing less than two-lengths third in the Group Criterium International behind French Fifteen, who subsequently finished closest to Camelot in this month's 2000 Guineas.

That form looks solid enough to carry the favourite tag going into tomorrow's Dante and a comprehensive win in the Group Two over an extended 10-furlongs would see the colt become Camelot's biggest threat for next month's Classic.

In last weekend's Oaks Trial at Lingfield, the William Haggas-trained Vow caused a shake up in the Epsom Oaks betting when winning impressively under Johnny Murtagh in the colours of the Highclere Thoroughbred Racing Syndicate. Incidentally the same colours that will be carried by Bonfire tomorrow.

Meanwhile, domestically, John Oxx's Akeed Mofeed has suffered another agonising setback and will now miss his intended target at the Curragh later this month. The three-year-old was due to tackle last Sunday's Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown ahead of a possible tilt at the Epsom Derby. However, he wasn't declared for that contest after a setback and yesterday it was confirmed that he wouldn't make the opening Irish Classic of the year due to "a little tweak."

On revealing that Akeed Mofeed wouldn't make his redirected target, Oxx said: "He won't be ready in time. The annoying thing is it's nothing serious, just a little tweak, but they take time to get over. At this stage of the season, all the races come at you fast and it doesn't need to be much for you to miss a few of them."

After missing the Newmarket Guineas, Leopardstown last week, the Curragh later in the month and the Epsom Derby already this season, Oxx will now target the colt at the Abu Dhabi Irish Derby.

"Hopefully, he'll come right some time next week and we'll start preparing him for the Irish Derby."