05/31/2006 11:00PM

Visindar leads French assault


Visindar and Linda's Lad will fly the French tricolor against Horatio Nelson, who leads an Anglo-Irish team of five horses owned or part-owned by Susan Magnier against the cross-channel invaders in Saturday's $2.33 million Epsom Derby.

Andre Fabre, in search of his first victory in the 1 1/2-mile classic, as well as the first for France since Empery in 1976, will saddle both of the French invaders. Undefeated in three starts, Visindar is Ladbrokes' warm 7-4 favorite, while Linda's Lad is pegged at a tempting 12-1.

A son of 2000 Epsom Derby winner Sinndar, Visindar arrives in England off an easy four-length score in Saint-Cloud's 1 1/4-mile Group 2 Prix Greffulhe on May 15. While he has yet to be tested in his brief career, it would be surprising if he did not continue his winning ways in the Derby. Christophe Soumillon will wear the green and red colors of the Aga Khan aboard the chestnut Visindar, a colt described by Fabre as having "amazing speed and such a good action for such a big horse." Visindar will break from the ideal post 8 in the 18-runner Derby field.

Linda's Lad, a Sadler's Wells colt and winner of the 1 1/4-mile Group 1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud in November, prepped for his Derby date with a narrow victory in the 1 7/16-mile Group 3 Lingfield Derby Trial. Previously three-quarters of a length fourth in the Group 2 Prix Noailles to the subsequent Italian Derby winner, Gentlewave, he has picked up the services of Frankie Dettori, who, like Fabre, is seeking his first Epsom Derby victory.

If the French are to be rebuffed, it may be by one of the five Magnier horses. As Kieren Fallon has decided to ride Horatio Nelson, that Danehill colt may be the pick of the four entrants trained by Aidan O'Brien. A seven-furlong Group 1 winner at 2, Horatio Nelson spent the winter as the Derby favorite before his eighth-place finish behind stablemate George Washington in the 2000 Guineas. Sharp recent works and the presence of Fallon have combined to lower his Ladbrokes price to 9-2.

Two other O'Brien trainees - Septimus, the eight-length winner of the Group 2 Dante Stake, and Dylan Thomas, winner of the Group 2 Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial - must be considered, although Dylan Thomas has drawn widest of all in 18. The Magnier-owned, Michael Stoute-trained Papal Bull, a Montjeu colt who won the Group 3 Chester Vase last time, is another danger at 10-1.

Sir Percy, the co-third choice with Septimus at 7-1, beat Horatio Nelson in the seven-furlong Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes last October before his game second in the 2000 Guineas. Trained by Marcus Tregoning, he is from a stouthearted female family and owns the highest overall Timeform rating of all the Derby entrants at 122.