Racing: Soumillon on Hurricane stand-by

Assuming Kieren Fallon remains ineligible, Chris-tophe Soumillon will ride Hurricane Run at Ascot on Saturday.

Having ridden him last season, prior to his purchase by Coolmore Stud, Soumillon had appeared the obvious candidate to replace Fallon in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes. But the prolonged reluctance of the colt's connections to name a rider has evidently cloaked certain political differences among them.

For much of yesterday, it was understood that Olivier Peslier had instead been chosen for the ride. This would have represented a considerable snub to Soumillon. Though clearly a rider of rare brilliance, Soumillon did not shine when last riding in this country, repeatedly meeting traffic on Ouija Board in the Eclipse Stakes. Nor, indeed, did he win many admirers when finishing fast into second on Hurricane Run himself in the Prix du Jockey-Club last year.

Perhaps André Fabre, the colt's notably autonomous trainer, made a stand on his behalf. One way or another, by yesterday afternoon Soumillon was back at the head of the queue.

Though none would confirm these machinations on the record, insiders were adamant that Soumillon had won a late reprieve. This seemed to be reflected by jockey bookings for Simply Perfect, a filly also in Coolmore ownership, and trained by Jeremy Noseda. For much of the day, Peslier was booked to ride her in the Princess Margaret Stakes on the same card. By the end of the afternoon, he had been replaced by Soumillon.

It is the wish to avoid precisely this kind of saga that encourages the Coolmore partners to retain a jockey. Unfortunately, the divisive treatment of Fallon by the Horseracing Regulatory Authority (HRA) means that they must reconcile themselves to more of the same, for so long as they stand by their man.

Fallon's licence to ride in Britain has been suspended pending his trial on a charge of conspiracy to defraud, even though it may take him two years to clear his name in court. The Turf Club has insisted throughout that he should be allowed to ride in Ireland on the principle that he remains innocent unless proven otherwise.

Tomorrow, Fallon's lawyers will hope to persuade the High Court that the HRA has abandoned that precept. They not only need to get a positive judgement, however, but need to get it pretty promptly, as final declarations for Ascot will be made even as the court is in session.

That will doubtless seem a fairly remote contingency to Soumillon, who will be eager to bring his flair to one of the great occasions in the European calendar.

As Sir Michael Stoute, who saddles Maraahel, said yesterday: "If he's back to his best, Hurricane Run will win." Nonetheless, he professed a degree of optimism for his 16-1 chance. "We're hoping to come back with something," he said. "Mara-ahel is an honest, consistent horse. Though he might seem to have a bit to find against the best, he has already run very creditably in Group One company, and we know he likes the track."

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