Racing: Visindar grounded from Aga's high-flying team

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The Independent Online

In only four of the past 30 years has a horse owned or bred by the Aga Khan failed to win a Group or Grade One race somewhere in the world, a phenomenal record by any standards. Yesterday came the news that the exciting colt who started favourite to get the green and red colours off the mark at the highest level this year in the Derby will not now get his chance to redeem himself until later in the year.

The André Fabre-trained Visindar, who finished an honourable fifth at Epsom, has not been seen in public since but had held an entry in next month's Irish Champion Stakes. Connections, though, have now given best to an injury suffered by the chestnut since the Derby.

"He's had a problem with an ankle and he won't be running at Leopardstown," said Georges Rimaud, the Aga Khan's racing manager. "He met with the setback when we were preparing him for the Prix Eugene Adam [last month at Maisons-Laffitte] and we're still resting him.

"He will probably be out in the autumn, but I could not say where at this stage."

Visindar, a son of his owner's 2000 Derby winner, Sinndar, started 2-1 market leader for the Derby on the strength of runaway wins in France in his first two races.

But you can't keep a good set of colours down and in the Prix du Jockey-Club the following day Darsi made amends, even if rather unexpectedly as a 14-1 shot, by becoming the 111th top-level winner produced by the Aga since he took over the family horse business on the death of his father, the Aly Khan, in 1960.

Darsi, by Polish Precedent, failed to build on his Chantilly effort in the Irish Derby, coming in fifth to the Epsom third, Dylan Thomas, and is unlikely to take up his engagement in the St Leger. The colt, under the care of Alain de Royer-Dupré, is currently on holiday, paddling in the waters of La Manche, and has the traditional three-year-old Arc trial, the Prix Niel, pencilled in for the day after the final Classic.

"The plan at the moment is to start him off in the Niel and see how he performs," Rimaud said. "He's done very well since his run in the Irish Derby and has been having a bit of a break at the seaside in Deauville. He'll be back in Chantilly next week where he'll be doing some proper work."

The filly Mandesha made the top-flight tally 112 when she won the Prix d'Astarte at the Normandy track last week. Those blank years in the Aga Khan's otherwise unblemished progress since he turned his full attention to breeding and racing in the early 1970s came in 1990, 1992, 1994 and 2001.

As a comparison, the Godolphin top-level tally worldwide now stands at 125, but most of those have been purchases or leases as opposed to home-breds including, of course, the most prolific horse that both operations can claim, Daylami.

A cosmopolitan campaign by the star performer from a rather smaller outfit may still be on the cards, despite the unavailability of a key part of his back-up squad, his jockey. Rags-to-riches horse Les Arcs, handled by rookie trainer Tim Pitt at Bawtry, landed the British leg of the valuable Global Sprint Challenge in the Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot and confirmed his place at the top of the flyers' tree in the July Cup.

The Sprinters Stakes at Nakayama in October and the Hong Kong Sprint in December now beckon, even though the Willie Mackay-owned colt's regular rider, John Egan, is barred from riding in Japan and cannot go to Hong Kong because of charges over illegal betting in the former colony, and an outstanding arrest warrant.

"John is a team player and wouldn't want us to miss out because he couldn't be there," said Pitt. "Willie's very loyal to John, but there are other jockeys available."

Chris McGrath

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