Dettori reinforces Godolphin lead

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For courses like Leicester and Lingfield, the continuing struggle between Henry Cecil and Saeed Bin Suroor for the Flat trainers' championship is a godsend. On an otherwise uninspiring day of big fields and poor horses at those two tracks yesterday, the four runners from Cecil's yard provided invaluable additional interest, as he attempted to claw back a little of the pounds 32,588 which separated the two men after his rival's success with Medaaly in Saturday's Racing Post Trophy.

By mid-afternoon, however, Cecil knew that he would have little to show for his efforts. Two of his runners were unplaced, while Sweeten Up (second) and Royale Finale (third) contributed only a little more than pounds 1,500 to the place money coffers. Cecil has two runners this afternoon, Kyle Rhea (1.30) at Leicester and Divine Quest (4.15) at Redcar, while Bin Suroor's Godolphin string will again be idle.

Godolphin's determination to prevail became clear yesterday when Frankie Dettori, who had been booked to ride Ian Balding's Grey Shot in the Melbourne Cup in Australia a week today, revealed that at the request of Sheikh Mohammed, Godolphin's founder, he will instead remain in Britain to partner their remaining runners. Dettori can thus expect to be riding at Folkestone's distinctly downmarket final-day turf meeting next Monday, while Pat Eddery, his likely replacement on Grey Shot, prepares to contest the most important and glamorous race in the southern hemisphere.

Such is the application of both Cecil and Godolphin to the task at hand that the contest may well extend beyond the traditional boundary of the turf season. Earnings on the all-weather circuit contribute towards the title calculations, and the Wulfrun Stakes, a Listed event at Wolverhampton in December worth more than pounds 30,000 to the winner, could yet prove crucial. By then, of course, the Godolphin string should long-since have departed for its winter quarters in Dubai, but it would be no surprise to see one or two of its members remaining behind, just in case.

Godolphin's strength increases with each passing season, but another of Britain's leading owners has decided to make a significant cut in his string. Peter Savill expects to have just 30 horses in training in this country next season, rather than the 50 he has supported in 1996, and as a result, his long-standing riding retainer with Kevin Darley will not be renewed.

"It was a bit of a shock," Darley said yesterday, "but he explained that it was really just because he is cutting back. He is more aware of the costs than ever before. He has put in so much over the years and I think he is a bit downhearted about the game. This leaves me freelancing and I will ride for him whenever I can."

Darley's partnership with Celtic Swing, the champion two-year-old of 1994 and French Derby winner last year, was the highlight of his association with Savill, which has helped to carry him to seasonal totals of 143, 154 and 148 winners in the last three seasons.

"Peter and I had seven very good years and 265 winners," Darley said. "What better highlight could you have than winning the French Derby?''



Henry Cecil

pounds 1,900,651

Saeed Bin Suroor

pounds 1,931,671


leads by pounds 31,020