05/03/2003 12:00AM

Refuse to Bend extends unbeaten streak

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Refuse to Bend became the ninth Irish-trained winner in the long history of the 2000 Guineas - first run in 1809 - with a workmanlike victory over Zafeen and the 100-1 Norse Dancer at Newmarket on Saturday.

Refuse to Bend is unbeaten in four races and looks likely to start as the favorite for the Epsom Derby on June 7.

Saturn, the early leader in the one-mile race, Hurricane Alan, and Tout Seul all had their noses in front at some stage in the last 500 yards before Refuse to Bend took the lead entering the final furlong. Refuse to Bend, ridden by Pat Smullen, ran the mile on good ground in 1:37.98.

The Aidan O'Brien-trained Hold That Tiger, the 4-1 favorite in the 20-horse field of 3-year-olds, dropped right out and beat only three home, while O'Brien's other runner, Tomahawk, finished eighth.

Godolphin's two entrants proved no more effective. Lateen Sails, who shared second favoritism with the winner at 9-2, was drawn widest of all and carried wider still at the start. He finished 20th. Songlark, runner-up in the UAE Derby, finished 10th.

Refuse to Bend is trained by Dermot Weld, whose only previous win in an English classic was with Blue Wind in the 1981 Epsom Oaks.

Weld had described Refuse to Bend as a Derby horse after his win at Leopardstown on April 13, his first start of the year. The colt's dam, the Gulch mare Market Slide, was a speedy 2-year-old. But Market Slide has already produced last November's Melbourne Cup winner, Media Puzzle (by Theatrical), and Refuse to Bend is a son of Sadler's Wells, a source of high-class staying power.

Refuse to Bend should prove even tougher to beat over the extra half-mile at Epsom. "We were expecting to keep him for the Derby, but he worked so well on Tuesday that we had to bring him here," Smullen said. "This week's rain was very important for him."

There was a great deal of discussion about the effect of the draw. Refuse to Bend and Tout Seul, who was running for the first time since his Dewhurst Stakes victory last October, started from posts 18 and 17 on the outside. Zafeen and Norse Dancer came from posts 4 and 8, but any advantage to those drawn low was canceled out for many of them by frequent traffic problems near the stands rails.

Zafeen and fourth-place finisher Tout Seul are expected to meet again in the Irish 2000, at the Curragh on May 24, while Norse Dancer will bid for the Group 2 Dante Stakes, at York 10 days earlier.