Richard Hughes protested his innocence yesterday after being referred to the Jockey Club following a riding offence at Yarmouth. The jockey, just back after a suspension he collected at Royal Ascot, faces a trip to Portman Square after committing his fifth breach inside 12 months of the instruction governing jockeys riding to their draw.
Hughes, on the two-year-old Rupert Of Hentzau – one of the final runners from the yard of the banned Mick Quinn – in the seller, was considered to have deliberately moved across from stall five as the stalls opened. The Irishman, who said that he'd had no idea what the stewards were inquiring over when they called him in from the sauna, is pinning his hopes on a different reading of events when he appears before the disciplinary committee. "The horse has jumped out to the right and I had no intention of going over there," he said.
"He might have gone across, going from stall five to seven. But it's made no difference. There was no interference. I'd certainly no intention of getting into that position, and hopefully Portman Square will see it with a different view."
Hughes had just returned from a three-day ban for causing interference by careless riding soon after the start of the Britannia Handicap at Royal Ascot. "I'm really aware of moving from the gates, as I got a holiday for it at Ascot and I knew I was on the edge," he said. "I held my hands up at Ascot as I did cause interference. But I had no intention to do this today. I couldn't believe it."
The last rider to be referred for a similar offence was Paul Eddery, who received a 10-day suspension in May.
Godolphin's challenge for Saturday's Eclipse Stakes will, as expected, be spearheaded by Tobougg, with Fantastic Light switched to the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot three weeks later. The Dubai team have confirmed that Frankie Dettori will ride Tobougg, third to Galileo in the Derby, with Broche running as pacemaker. Their stablemate Ekraar may make the line-up for the £325,000 Sandown contest if he pleases in the next 24 hours.
Forecast rain has given course officials a problem over whether to water the track. Showers are due before Saturday's race but, with the ground drying out, Sandown's managing director, Andrew Cooper, admitted that they may have to water in places today.
Cooper said: "It's increasingly uncertain when we are going to see some rain. Forecasts suggest that it is going to stay hot and dry until Thursday night and then we will see showers for the next two days. But we could easily get nothing until Saturday night.
Over the winter, Sandown struggled to stage any jumps racing at all with the turf almost continually waterlogged. As recently as the end of April, the final races at the Whitbread meeting had to be abandoned due to heavy rain.
The notion that rain might turn the Sandown going soft prompted punters to support Michael Jarvis's mudlover Holding Court. Installed as a 25-1 shot by the sponsor, Coral, yesterday, that price was cut to 16-1 as punters backed last year's French Derby winner. Also in demand were Black Minnaloushe, now 2-1 favourite from 9-4, and Medicean, a 7-2 chance from 4-1.
ECLIPSE STAKES (Sandown, Saturday) Coral: 2-1 (from 9-4) Black Minnaloushe, 11-4 Tobougg, 7-2 (from 4-1) Medicean, 7-1 Endless Hall, 9-1 Grandera, 16-1 (from 25-1) Holding Court, 25-1 Bach, Compton Admiral.
* The Ribblesdale Stakes winner Sahara Slew has suffered a setback and will miss the Irish Oaks at the Curragh on Sunday week. Her trainer, John Oxx, said that the filly will be rested and brought back later this year.
* Indy Rose maintained the irresistible form of David Loder's juvenile team when romping to victory at Yarmouth yesterday. Loder and his Maktoum-owned squad of two-year-olds have now had 14 successes from 19 outings, and only two of the 15 horses to have run have failed to score. "She has worked nicely and is right up there in the pecking order among the seven-furlong fillies," Loder said.