Racing: Stevens free to ride at Royal Ascot

Gary Stevens, the top American jockey, will be able to ride at Royal Ascot next week after a 20-day ban handed out by the authorities in Italy was put on hold until later this month.

Gary Stevens, the top American jockey, will be able to ride at Royal Ascot next week after a 20-day ban handed out by the authorities in Italy was put on hold until later this month.

The three-time Kentucky Derby winner, who has recently been based in France as the No 1 rider to André Fabre, found himself in trouble after refusing to partner Sopran Foldan in a Group Three race run after the Italian Derby on 30 May.

Sopran Foldan had pulled all the way to the start and Stevens announced he did not want to ride him. The trainer, Bruno,Grizzetti, insisted that the horse should run and he finally raced with Silvano Mulas in the saddle, finishing 14th of 16.

But Stevens was furious with the decision and appealed, explaining that the horse had run into a wall and hit his head. The ban was due to take effect yesterday, but his French manager, Herve Naggar, said: "I have been faxed by the Italian authorities and the ban is suspended until the appeal is heard in Rome on 24 June. So he will be able to ride in the French Oaks [on Sunday] and Royal Ascot."

Stevens last rode in Britain during 1999, when he partnered 42 winners as first jockey to Sir Michael Stoute. Paddy Power, the Irish bookmakers, quote Stevens at 25-1 to be leading rider at the five-day Royal meeting, which starts a week today.

Frankie Dettori is the firm's 9-4 favourite as he seeks to be top rider at the showpiece fixture for the fifth time, with Kieren Fallon next best at 5-2.

Dominique Boeuf, the four-time French champion jockey, has been sacked by his main employers - the Wildenstein family - after a series of what they termed "disappointing" performances.

Alec Wildenstein was less than pleased with the rider after Valle Enchantee finished fast into third place in last Friday's Coronation Cup at Epsom. Boeuf had steered the classy filly into trouble on the inside instead of finding room on the outside.

The decision is hardly a surprise as Wildenstein had a look of thunder on him after his crack stayer Westerner was beaten at Longchamp last month, and he left no-one in doubt as to his feelings after the Epsom race. "He has lost us too many races this season and it had to stop," said Wildenstein.

Boeuf said: "I would have liked to help the Wildensteins become top owners this year, but sadly that is not to be the case." He will continue to ride the remainder of trainer Elie Lellouche's stable, as well as for David Smaga, for whom he was to have ridden French Derby favourite Voix Du Nord only for him to be sidelined with a cracked leg bone.

Boeuf has ridden many big-race winners for the Wildentsein family over the years, including on the great filly Aquarelliste, the champion miler Bigstone, Pistolet Bleu and Epervier Bleu. On British tracks, however, Boeuf rarely impressed.

LONDON CLUBS CHARITY TROPHY (Royal Ascot) Paddy Power odds: 9-4 Frankie Dettori, 5-2 Kieren Fallon, 9-2 Jamie Spencer, 10-1 Darryll Holland, Richard Hughes, Michael Kinane, 16-1 Kevin Darley, Johnny Murtagh, 20-1 Richard Hills, Kerrin McEvoy, 25-1 Gary Stevens, Martin Dwyer.

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