Bookies run for cover as Delegator sparkles

Brian Meehan already has the winter favourite for the Derby in his Manton yard in the shape of Crowded House - but the dogs were barking the name of another Classic contender after an apparently scintillating piece of work this morning.

Brian Meehan already has the winter favourite for the Derby in his Manton yard in the shape of Crowded House - but the dogs were barking the name of another Classic contender after an apparently scintillating piece of work this morning.

Delegator, who finished only a length and a half behind Intense Focus when fifth in the Dewhurst last October, has been backed from 33-1 into as low as 8-1 for the 2000 Guineas in the last 48 hours.

As a result, Crowded House has been on the drift for the first Classic of the season. He has the option of heading to the Dante Stakes at York and then on to Epsom.

Delegator is now all set to have his trial for the Guineas in the Craven Stakes at Newmarket next Thursday.

"It was a good bit of work and I could not have been happier with him," said Meehan.

"He went very well and will go for the Craven Stakes now, and then on to the 2000 Guineas.

"Judged on what I saw this morning, I would have to be confident about our chances in the Guineas," the trainer told

Stan James reported the gamble started on Wednesday morning.

"We've had to cut him to 12s from 25-1," said Stan James head of PR, Charlie McCann.

"He's still being backed at that price, and we've taken a £300 each-way at 12s, but we are holding out at that price for now.

"He was 33-1 on Wednesday morning, we cut him to 25s but he was being backed steadily throughout the day.

"We went 20s first thing this morning but it must have been some piece of work because we've had to go 12-1 now.

"Stablemate Crowded House is out to 10s from 7s, which tells its own story."

Betfair's Tony Calvin said: "It is hardly shades of the betting fall-out from the infamous Nashwan gallop in 1989.

"But it must have been scintillating for people to speculate that a horse such as Crowded House may have to play second fiddle to him - in the opening weeks of the turf season, at least."

Aidan O'Brien could have as many as four runners in his bid to land the race for the fourth time in five years.

Currently Mastercraftsman would look to be his number one contender, according to the betting, and he came through a gallop at the Curragh recently in good order.

"We are very happy with him and he was a big, mature two-year-old," said O'Brien.

"He did a nice piece of work at the Curragh and I am very happy with where he is.

"We all saw what they all did at the Curragh, and they have worked separately since.

"I have been happy with their individual work, but it would be hard to say what the pecking order is at the moment - although we might get some kind of an idea in the next couple of weeks."

Rip Van Winkle disappointed in the Dewhurst but O'Brien believes he had genuine excuses that day, although he has had a little setback.

"It wasn't a big hold-up but he did have to go a bit slower for a time," O'Brien explained.

"He is not a horse who takes a lot of work, and is a natural horse at home.

"The setback maybe wasn't a disadvantage, but time will tell. I am happy with where he is at the moment.

"He doesn't take a lot of work and, when they are like that, they might not learn as much as other horses.

"He is a quick thinker and a quick learner but was drawn wide in the Dewhurst and got pushed a bit wide.

"Johnny (Murtagh) got back further than he wanted to but we were very happy with him after the Dewhurst, and after he galloped at the Curragh."

John Oxx is hoping to run Arazan who lost his unbeaten record behind Mastercraftsman in the National Stakes in very heavy ground.

"Arazan is an intended runner in the Guineas," explained Oxx.

"He is quite forward, ahead of schedule and pretty straight.

"The question mark would be firm ground. We have to make a decision on the ground as to whether we would risk him so early in the season.

"We will decide closer to the day. He just doesn't want extremes. Soft ground doesn't stop him, it was just exceptional conditions the last time - nearly unraceable.

"He is built like a miler. In theory, he could go a bit further but I don't think he is as adaptable as (half-brother) Azamour.

"It's early days, but he has a lot going for him."

Another to have been well-backed in recent days in Freddie Head's Naaqoos, set to reappear in the Prix Djebel at Maisons-Laffitte on Friday.

"I want to see him on a racecourse now," said Head.

"This is a very good prep race. I won it many times as a jockey and it always helps to give horses a prep.

"He had a very good winter. It is so far, so good at the moment.

"I think Newmarket will suit him as sometimes if you go to Longchamp, if you are drawn badly you have problems.

"A mile will be no problem. He has a lot of pace, but I think he'll get the trip." 2000 Guineas: William Hill bet: 5-1 Mastercraftsman, 6-1 Naaqoos, 8-1 Rip Van Winkle, 9-1 Crowded House, Delegator, Evasive, 14-1 Arazan, 20-1 Ashram, Fame And Glory, Westphalia 25-1 bar

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