06/02/2005 12:00AM

Sons of Montjeu face off


French-based trainer John Hammond appears to be bringing Walk in the Park up to Saturday's $3.4 million Epsom Derby in perfect order.

Hammond, who trained Walk in the Park's sire, Montjeu, to win the 1999 French Derby, is expecting great improvement in the 1 1/2-mile British classic since his charge finished a solid second last time in the Group 3 Lingfield Derby Trial.

Hammond has picked up the services of Alan Munro aboard Walk in the Park, hoping that his rider can repeat the magic he produced when guiding Generous to win the Epsom Derby in 1991.

To do so, Walk in the Park will have to turn back the impressive 5-2 favorite, Motivator, who is coming off a big win in the Group 2 Dante Stakes. Like Walk in the Park, Motivator is a son of Montjeu and could give that sire's progeny a one-two finish - especially since he will be reunited with his regular rider, Johnny Murtagh, who has successfully appealed a three-day suspension to keep the plum ride.

Kieren Fallon has decided to ride Group 3 Dee Stakes winner Gypsy King for Aidan O'Brien. Michael Kinane will ride for O'Brien for the first time since they parted company in 2003 when he climbs aboard Oratorio, runner-up in the Irish 2000 Guineas. However, lack of seasoning may hurt Gypsy King's chances, and it is doubtful that Oratorio can stay 1 1/2 miles.

Godolphin is pinning its hopes on its sharp Irish 2000 Guineas winner, Dubawi. But Dubawi's sire, Dubai Millennium, was unplaced in his Epsom Derby effort, so Dubawi may be another one who cannot last the trip.

The Derby has two legitimate dark-horse candidates in Fracas and The Geezer. Trained by David Wachman in Ireland, Fracas has won Derby preps at Sandown Park and Leopardstown this spring, while The Geezer is expected to improve off his second-place finish to Motivator in the Dante Stakes.

Another one to look out for is Kong, a John Dunlop trainee who held off Walk in the Park by a half-length to win the Lingfield Derby Trial.