Racing: Dettori word perfect in Ascot Gold Cup audition

The Henry II Stakes is habitually referred to as a rehearsal for the Ascot Gold Cup and more than fulfilled that reputation at Esher yesterday.

The Henry II Stakes is habitually referred to as a rehearsal for the Ascot Gold Cup and more than fulfilled that reputation at Esher yesterday.

The result of the Group Two race itself is likely to have a significant impact on the centrepiece of the Royal meeting, as Papineau and Mr Dinos, the first two home yesterday, fill the same slot, albeit in reverse order, in the Gold Cup ante-post market.

This was one of the great rehearsals, though, because of the pure thespianism from the respective jockeys. Kieren Fallon conducted his tragic role out on the racecourse aboard Mr Dinos, just after Frankie Dettori moved gently across him in the closing stages.

The Irishman spun the wheels as if a ravine had just appeared in the ground. Mr Dinos was jackknifed into the centre of the course, yet recovered to be just a length and a half adrift at the line.

Fallon must have taken a persuasive tale into the stewards' room, but it was his misfortune that opposition counsel was someone who knows a little about drama. Dettori rarely emerges from the headmaster's office without a smile on the face and a decision in his favour.

So what was the defining evidence which won the day? "My horse was clear and probably thought he had won the race," Dettori said, "but, because he was in the middle of the track, he was automatically looking for company and he went to the right. It was nothing." Case closed.

The contest itself was also great theatre, as Papineau made his strike for home from fully three furlongs out. It was a surge which initially and fatally disturbed Mr Dinos, even though the five-year-old, the winner of both this race and the Gold Cup 12 months ago, was making minor inroads towards the finish. The next meeting in the Queen's acre is set up deliciously.

"Frankie was very happy with that. He said that the horse has a lot of class and, all being well, we will head towards the Gold Cup with him," Simon Crisford, the Godolphin racing manager, said. "The Gold Cup is a great race, a very famous race which Godolphin likes to compete in. We have been lucky in it before with some great stayers like Classic Cliche and Kayf Tara. This horse stacks up well with those two.

"We're delighted with the progress he has made. He has a lot of class and would be by far and away the best Gold Cup proposition we have this year."

It was a sunny day elsewhere for Godolphin as Snow Ridge and Rule Of Law, their Derby horses, also came through light pieces of work on the Limekilns at Newmarket.

A total of 16 horses are on course for the Blue Riband at the five-day stage following the supplemented addition yesterday, at a cost of £75,000 each, of Gatwick and Hazyview. Both have it to do to recoup that speculation, as they are priced at around 40-1.

Gatwick, who is owned by a syndicate which includes the Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, has yet to race beyond nine furlongs. However, he is clearly a progressive colt, having won the Silver Bowl at Haydock from a seemingly impossible position last time out.

Hazyview, owned in partnership by trainer Neville Callaghan and Tim Mohan, was a good winner at Newmarket on his latest outing, although he was beaten 10 lengths by Percussionist in the Lingfield Derby Trial on his previous start.

All the leading fancies stood their ground, including the long-time ante-post favourite Yeats, who will arrive at Epsom with an unblemished record of three wins from as many starts. His trainer, Aidan O'Brien, seeking a third success in four years following the exploits of Galileo and High Chaparral, could also saddle Moscow Ballet and Meath.

"Meath is still a possible. He is in the French Derby as well and it will be Wednesday, I would say, before we decide," O'Brien said. "If Meath did go to Epsom we would have the likes of Moscow Ballet still entered in France, but we will decide later in the week."

The going at Epsom Downs is currently good, good to firm in places, though some rain was expected overnight. Decisions about whether to water parts of the course will be taken after an inspection today. "It is on the fast side of good, approaching good to firm if anything," Andrew Cooper, the clerk of the course, said yesterday. "It doesn't sound as if we are going to get the rain we were forecast for this week.

"We may get a bit tonight - up to 5mm - but after that it looks as if it will remain fairly dry for the week. We will see what happens tonight and then take a view afterwards, but we haven't done any watering of any note since last Wednesday evening."

DERBY (Epsom, Saturday) Coral: 5-2 Yeats, 3-1 Snow Ridge, 100-30 North Light, 10-1 Salford City, Percussionist, American Post, 12-1 Rule Of Law, 14-1 Let The Lion Roar, 33-1 Meath, Elshadi, 40-1 Hazyview, Gatwick, 50-1 Pukka, 66-1 Moscow Ballet, 100-1 Massif Centrale, Coming Again. William Hill: 11-4 Yeats, Snow Ridge, 7-2 North Light, 9-1 American Post, 10-1 Salford City, 12-1 Percussionist, 14-1 Let The Lion Roar, 16-1 Rule Of Law, 33-1 Gatwick, Hazyview, Meath, 40-1 Elshadi, Pukka, 100-1 Moscow Ballet, 200-1 Coming Again, Massif Centrale.

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