River Proud, from Paul Cole's Whatcombe stables, near Wantage, is given a 'live chance' by his handler of gatecrashing the Vodafone Derby party at Epsom tomorrow.

The three-year-old colt only entered the picture for the premier Classic this week, with connections forking out a supplementary entry fee of £75,000 so he can run.

That may seem a substantial sum to the man in the street, but as his owner Michael Spencer is a mega-rich multi-millionaire in the City it equates to small change in his terms.

And with prize money totalling £1,413,500 plus the spin-off of stud fees spiralling into tens of millions for the winner, it's a gamble that the Oxford University-educated businessman is more than happy to take.

Cole, who famously saddled Generous to win the 1991 Derby, believes his charge has the potential to justify his place in the field - although bookmakers are largely dismissive of his chance, making him a 25-1 outsider.

The trainer has had his hopes raised by River Proud's fast-finishing third to Falco in the Poule d'Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas) at Longchamp and a racecourse gallop under big-race rider Richard Quinn over the Derby trip at Kempton.

Speaking in his grand study at his magnificent south Oxfordshire estate, Cole said: "So far he has been a bit of a nearly horse. He nearly won the July Stakes, and he did win the Tattersalls Somerville Stakes.

"In France the other day nothing has ever won the French Guineas if they are drawn in double figures.

"He was moved to stall 20, so to get into the first three was quite an achievement.

"That was very good form and in half a stride he would have beaten Rio De La Plata.

"The way he stayed on strongly gave me encouragement and we also took him to Kempton with three 95-plus rated handicappers and he did appear to get the trip.

"He was quite impressive in the gallop, but it was a long way from what happens in a race.

"If the encouragement we got from France and his gallop at Kempton is kosher we have got a live chance of getting in the first four."

River Proud had to change stalls at Longchamp after his became damaged, and after getting behind he passed 17 horses to take the minor honours.

"We have always had problems with him in the stalls - it is part hereditary because his father, Proud Citizen, was the same," added Cole. "He was tricky in the stalls.

"Anyway he has been in the stalls twice a day for three weeks and he appears to be quite good in them now.

"I think he will be OK with a bit of co-operation from the starter.

"He is sound and he is in superb condition. Nobody knows in Derbys whether the horse will stay or not and if you look at the Racing Post the next day every single year the field is strung out over three furlongs.

"They are mainly horses that don't get the trip."

Looking at the opposition, Cole feels there are plenty of runners who have done little to justify their places.

"I think there are a lot of imposters in there this year - fancied horses that have not got the form," he said.

"Obviously the one that doesn't apply to is New Approach, and if he had not run in the Guineas he would have been a very hot favourite for this Derby."