Racing: Kinane shines as York gives ground for concern

Will Ascot be ready in time for the Royal meeting of 2006 and, if not, will the circus head back to York again? After a week of sometimes slippery, sometimes hard, rough ground that caused 17 withdrawals from Saturday's card, it is questionable whether the Knavesmire is a suitable course to stage five days of consecutive top-class racing.

Will Ascot be ready in time for the Royal meeting of 2006 and, if not, will the circus head back to York again? After a week of sometimes slippery, sometimes hard, rough ground that caused 17 withdrawals from Saturday's card, it is questionable whether the Knavesmire is a suitable course to stage five days of consecutive top-class racing.

Trainers are not prepared to risk their best horses on a track that becomes notoriously pudding-like after rain and was thus left unwatered after the downpours that turned the topsoil and the top hats mushy in the early part of the week. Heavy sanding to counteract the slipperyness left the track looking like Laytown, the Irish course where fixtures are decided by the tide timetables.

Among the absentees were the Yorkshire-trained leading sprinter Somnus from the Golden Jubilee Stakes and the second and third favourites for the Wokingham Handicap, Soldier's Tale and Lafi. Their absence allowed Philip Robinson to win the big sprint handicap on Iffraaj, but that did not stop the jockey from saying: "I have never known it so firm at York. It is extra firm."

William Derby, clerk of the course, said: "It's disappointing Somnus did not run because he's a local favourite. The going was 10.6 on the going stick. The range for good to firm is 8.5 to 10.5, so it was just over good to firm."

But if the paint has not dried next June at Ascot, where the realignment of the straight mile could also cause problems as new turf beds in, then where? Newmarket would be a sound choice ahead of Newbury. Unlike York, where races such as the Royal Hunt Cup and Britannia Handicap lost their character through being run round a bend, both have straight mile courses, and the Rowley Mile at the Suffolk track has generous customer capacity.

Somnus would have been the mount of Michael Kinane, who instead switched to Cape Of Good Hope and continued his outstanding week. The former Ballydoyle stable jockey rather outshone his old employer, Aidan O'Brien, who notched only one win, which matched Godolphin's surprisingly meagre tally for the week.

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