Racing: Spencer's title defence under threat from 'careless' charge

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The Independent Online

Kieren Fallon's appeal was not the only unfinished business resumed yesterday by the Horseracing Regulatory Authority, which now threatens to end the tenure of his successor as champion jockey. Jamie Spencer, already facing an alarming deficit with Ryan Moore, can expect to be idle for a minimum of 14 days after the latest in a series of riding misdemeanours.

The stewards summoned him yesterday to account for a manoeuvre in the final race the previous afternoon. Riding Garafena into second, he interfered with the fourth, Wassfa, and the stewards found him guilty of careless riding. As Spencer has accumulated 20 days of suspension during the past 12 months, he was automatically referred to the HRA. He faces a mandatory ban of a fortnight.

He had started the day 20 winners behind Moore, whose hectic summer has taken him to 95 since the start of the turf season. As a rider of instinct and daring, Spencer has tried to resist any inhibition as he walked this tightrope over the abyss of suspension. But the bookmakers now give him little hope of keeping his title - William Hill quoting Moore 2-11 and Spencer 10-3.

Depending on the date of his hearing, it seems likely that Spencer will miss Goodwood. But he should be eligible for the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot on 29 July, in which the mount on the favourite, Hurricane Run, is vacant because of Fallon's banishment. The bookmaker Blue Square make Christophe Soumillon 7-4 favourite to renew the partnership he enjoyed prior to the colt's sale to Coolmore, with Johnny Murtagh 2-1 and Spencer 9-4.

Spencer did ride one winner here yesterday, Formal Decree, but was disappointed by the tepid finish of Hoh Mike, trying a sixth furlong for the first time in the July Stakes. So unlucky in the Norfolk Stakes, the colt faded into seventh here, while Strategic Prince, fifth at Ascot, produced a turn of foot to win going away.

The sponsor offer 33-1 against Strategic Prince for the 2,000 Guineas. Certainly this was a deserved showcase for two talents that could yet make it to the top - his rider, Eddie Ahern, and sire, Dansili - and a reminder of better days for his trainer, Paul Cole. "He hadn't learned much when he won at Salisbury first time out," Cole said. "He was drawn wide at Ascot, got pushed wider, and wasn't concentrating. The extra furlong today helped and we will take him to Goodwood."

Moore endured an odds-on reverse in the day's other Group race, Mountain High failing to match the tenacity of Soapy Danger in the Princess of Wales's Stakes. He is one of the few feasible three-year-old candidates for the King George, for which he would be an outsider, but he could make his dourness tell in the St Leger, for which he is 5-1 second favourite with Ladbrokes, behind Septimus on 4-1.

The meeting reaches its climax today in the July Cup, the latest chapter in the Takeover Target odyssey. The Australian champion -trained by Joe Janiak, the most famous taxi driver to live in a caravan - won many admirers in the King's Stand Stakes at Ascot. He could be thwarted by his compatriot, Falkirk. Fourth in the King's Stand, he is considered more effective over this trip. But the best value lurks in the home team. Red Clubs (3.10), who excelled under a penalty over seven furlongs in the Jersey Stakes, has demonstrated himself suited by this trip on fast ground.

Chris McGrath

Nap: Bayeux

(Hamilton 8.20)

NB: Personify

(Chepstow 7.40)