If absence makes the heart grow fonder then racing is destined for a serious love-in this week. The sport's pin-up boy, Frankie Dettori, is just one figure that will be missing from his designated appointment. The Italian has decided to sever his relationship with the Derby winner, Motivator, before it has really started.
Michael Bell's colt is still in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on Saturday, but the chances of him running diminish by the drying day. Dettori, who has never ridden Motivator in a race, has opted to take no chances and will ride at Doncaster instead of potentially clicking his shiny boots in Ireland.
"It is disappointing to lose Frankie but one can understand where he is coming from," Harry Herbert, for Motivator's owners, said yesterday. "If he thinks it is odds-against the horse running, he doesn't want to be sitting around on Saturday not doing anything.
"We are now working on a replacement, but have not made a decision at this stage. We will need to see who has got rides, who hasn't got rides, and who might be in Ireland anyway."
The irony is that the ground may be suitable after all. Bell travels today to monitor the going, while one weather forecast suggests there will be rain in the Dublin area towards the end of the week.
One certain absentee at the weekend is Ouija Board, who misses another engagement when the Prix Vermeille goes ahead without her on Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe trials day at Longchamp on Sunday.
Connections have determined that the filly needs more time to get over the slight illness which forced her to miss the September Stakes at Newmarket last weekend.
The calendar pages seem to be shedding most quickly for Ouija Board. The Arc, in which she finished third last year, is also most unlikely and it could be that she goes back to America to defend her Filly & Mare Turf championship at the Breeders' Cup without a prep run.
On the domestic front, the St Leger has a most denuded appearance now that the hot favourite seems to have scared the field down to just six challengers. Scorpion has taken the sting out of the oldest Classic.
Still, there is a while before we get to the 229th Leger on Town Moor, three attractive racecards and an egregious ladies' day which is primed to explode in a ball of colour, flesh and minimalist clothing.
There is something outlandish too this afternoon about the £300,000 St Leger Yearling Stakes, the richest two-year-old race in Europe for those who purchased and were purchased at the yearling sales almost 12 months ago. Here is proof that not all the carrots in racing are going into horseboxes.
Recent information is that it takes a good horse to win this, a Group horse, and one which already falls into the category is Masta Plasta, the victor in the Norfolk Stakes at the Royal meeting.
Howard Johnson's runner was disappointing in the Molecomb Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, but that was probably not his ground. The task is harder because of his penalty but then so is the going and that should assist Masta Plasta (1.50). Johnny Murtagh has been booked to ride.
The Park Hill Stakes, colloquially known as the Fillies' St Leger, appears stamped for export. France's Sweet Stream (next best 2.55), a consideration for the Melbourne Cup, limbers up now for more extreme distances after collecting the Group Three Prix Gontaut-Biron at Deauville last month.
Most memorable, though, could be the Portland Handicap, in which the 10-year-old Halmahera bids farewell to racing as he also tries to register his fourth successive win in the mass brawl.
When a fist is raised, however, it is likely to belong to BALTIC KING (nap 2.25), who is 2lb lower than when running Chookie Heiton to three-quarters of a length in a Listed race at Beverley last month.
Nap: Baltic King
NB: Sweet Stream
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