It is an ill wind that blows no good, and Godolphin's barren form could yet yield the richest of dividends for its stable jockey. Frankie Dettori, whose yearning for a first Derby grows by the year, had been reconciled to riding a rank outsider on Saturday in Winged Cupid. But yesterday he was relieved of that commitment and he will now ride Linda's Lad, a colt with strong credentials, in the Classic.
Simon Crisford, the Godolphin manager, announced that the stable would have no more runners for the time being. The final straw proved to be the tame performance of Astronomia at Ascot on Saturday. She had seemed to be thriving on the gallops but managed no better than fifth of nine. Sheikh Mohammed has accepted that there is no point exacerbating the situation for the sake of having a runner in the Derby. Effectively the drawbridge has been raised until the siege is relieved.
"We have a big string of horses and their wellbeing comes first," Crisford said. "They are clearly not right and although nothing has come to light, we need to operate with maximum caution. It is necessary to give the horses more time to find their form and we are not expecting to have runners in the immediate future."
It would be ironic if Dettori should win the prize he craves most riding the second string of a trainer who has lost patronage through the emergence of Godolphin. André Fabre also saddles the hot favourite at Epsom, Visindar, ridden by Christophe Soumillon. But Linda's Lad - unlike that colt, and many others in the field - has demonstrated that he stays the trip and that he handles a downhill course. Though he won the Lingfield Derby Trial only in a photo, he was carrying a massive penalty and hated the firm ground. The going at Epsom seems certain to be kinder and Labrokes, responding to Dettori's booking, cut him from 14-1 to 12-1.
Sir Percy is 7-1 from 8-1 after emerging from a critical gallop on Saturday in pristine condition, but Horatio Nelson was eased to 8-1 from 7-1 after Aidan O'Brien disclosed that he missed a gallop a fortnight ago with a stone bruise. "He blew harder than the other Derby horses after their latest work," the trainer said. Kieren Fallon is likely to pick Septimus over the other Ballydoyle possibles, which include Dylan Thomas and Mountain, though not before sampling their form for himself in the next few days.Reuse content