If the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe is now a wide-open contest after Saturday's defeat of hitherto hotpot Doyen and Sunday's inconclusive French trials, so is another race that had seemed a foregone conclusion. Yesterday at Redcar, a double on Connotation and Inchpast took Frankie Dettori to within a single winner of Kieren Fallon in the battle for the jockeys' title.
Two weeks ago the six-times champion was 15 clear of Dettori but since then the Italian has been on fire, failing to score on only one of the days that he had rides in this country and notching four-timers at Kempton and Doncaster, a treble at Kempton and doubles at Epsom and Goodwood in addition to yesterday's pair.
With Fallon drawing a blank at Bath, the score now stands at 148-147. Ladbrokes, who had closed their book on the title fight at the end of August, have resumed business at 5-6 each of two, the first time this year that the defending champion, top jockey for all bar one of the past seven seasons, has not been clear market leader.
Battle is resumed today, when Fallon has five mounts at Salisbury and Dettori, who was leading rider in 1994 and 1995, seven at Yarmouth.
The most valuable race in Scotland, and in Britain this week, is the Ayr Gold Cup on Saturday, but for many there will be guaranteed disappointment. No fewer than 134 horses were declared yesterday for the £120,000 handicap, a six-furlong dash with a safety limit of 28. But horses who do miss Thursday's cut have the option of going for the Silver Cup on Friday.
In-form Smokin Beau heads the weights on 9st 10lb. The Nick Littmoden-trained seven-year-old notched a hat-trick at Haydock, Ripon and Sandown on consecutive Saturdays in August. The last three winners, Quito, Funfair Wane and Continent, are also among the entries.
One of Ireland's standing dishes, Vinnie Roe, will be aiming for an unprecedented Group one four-timer in his favourite race, the Irish St Leger, at the Curragh on Saturday. The Dermot Weld-trained six-year-old first took the mile-and-three-quarter feature in 2001, when he beat Millenary, followed up with a defeat of Pugin and accounted for Gamut 12 months ago, the latest of 11 career successes.
The main opposition is likely to come from Ballydoyle; the Co Tipperary establishment fields eight entries, including three who ran in Saturday's St Leger at Doncaster, third-placed Tycoon, fifth-placed Mikado and Go For Gold, seventh. There are six possible raiders from Britain: Alcazar (Hughie Morrison), Dubai Success (Barry Hills), First Charter (Sir Michael Stoute), Jagger (Gerard Butler), The Whistling Teal (Geoff Wragg) and Amanda Perrett's Orange Touch.
One of the sport's long-running inquiries into alleged fraudulent practices is expected to come to a conclusion today at the Jockey Club's headquarters in London. Four men, all due to attend with their various legal representatives, are facing charges emanating from the running of Hillside Girl in a race at Carlisle in June last year: trainer Alan Berry, jockey Paul Bradley, farrier Steve O'Sullivanand amateur rider Dale Jewett. The Berry-trained filly, a marked drifter in the betting, was pulled up lame before halfway and has not raced since.
The Jockey Club's disciplinary panel will resume a hearing that began in July. A selection of conspiracy, corruption and obstruction charges levelled at the quartet apart, Berry faces the equally serious accusation that he "failed to train with reasonable care and skill and with due regard to the safety of the horses in his charge by allowing the filly to go untreated, and by allowing her to run when he knew or should have known that she was unfit".
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