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Derby wakes to potential of Slumber


Baqaat, ridden by Richard Hills (centre), on the way to winning at Epsom yesterday. Photo: Steve Parsons / PA

Baqaat, ridden by Richard Hills (centre), on the way to winning at Epsom yesterday. Photo: Steve Parsons / PA

Baqaat, ridden by Richard Hills (centre), on the way to winning at Epsom yesterday. Photo: Steve Parsons / PA

Saudi Arabian prince Khalid Abdullah, whose Juddmonte breeding operation is the most successful on a global scale of any of the top-end operators, yesterday rolled out yet another potentially high-class bearer of his famous white, pink and green colours.

The handsome colt Slumber emerged from his winter hibernation as a wide-margin winner of the only Derby trial to be held on the idiosyncratic course, though it has yet to be decided whether he will join his owner's Epsom party in June.

Slumber, trained by Barry Hills, raced just once last year, when he showed some immature promise in a maiden. Yesterday, he outclassed his rivals both as a physical specimen and as an athlete, belying his inexperience as he coped smoothly with the steep descent to Tattenham Corner and then quickening away from his four rivals, headed by useful handicapper Borug, one of the lesser Godolphin lights.

Abdullah already has the first two in the Derby betting, the 2,000 Guineas favourite Frankel and upwardly mobile maiden winner World Domination.

Slumber does not hold the Classic entry, and so would need to be supplemented, but many trainers would be delighted to have an animal of his promise as a first-choice striker, never mind one on the bench.

Winning jockey Michael Hills was as impressed as any with Slumber's authoritative performance. "I liked very much the way he quickened as soon as I asked," he said. "I had loads of horse left at the end and another two furlongs won't be a problem for him."

Yesterday's 10-furlong contest is a Derby trial in name only -- the only winner in recent memory to make an impact in the real thing has been Daliapour, which went on to chase home Oath 12 years ago -- and more will be known about Slumber's place in the pecking order after his next test, likely to be next month's Chester Vase.

"It was nice to see him go by the others as if they were standing," said Charlie Hills, assistant trainer to his father. "He's still only a baby, really, but is a proper horse for the future."

Slumber is from one of Abdullah's best families -- his grand-dam is a sibling of top-class US runner Aptitude -- but is a limited edition as far as his sire is concerned. He is one of very few foals by dual Grade One winner Cacique, which has some of the best genes in the studbook as a brother to leading stallion Dansili, but which unfortunately proved all but infertile in his second career.

The Hills clan also scored with 11/8 favourite Barney Rebel in the Investec Specialist Bank Maiden Stakes.

The Great Metropolitan Handicap was won by Michael Bell's lightly raced Sunny Game and Jamie Spencer.

Following a stewards' inquiry, original third home Rock A Doodle Doo was promoted to second, with Harlestone Times demoted to third.

Spencer earlier left his rivals toiling in the Investec Asset Management Handicap aboard the fleet-footed sprinter Falasteen (20/1).

Spanish Duke (14/1) collected the Investec City And Suburban Stakes with the greatest of ease despite his one-length official margin.

Eddie Ahern was practically pulling double with two furlongs of the 10 left to run as he angled John Dunlop's gelding out for space and he simply cruised past Resurge. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent