Shibboleth is not ready to face the Music

Click to follow

When the fourth-favourite for the 2,000 Guineas is scratched just nine days before the race, the news would normally be an arrow to the heart of punters around the country. Yet following yesterday's announcement that Shibboleth, generally a 10-1 chance for the Classic, will not be in the field at Newmarket a week tomorrow, the betting shops of Britain were hardly overrun with miserable punters cursing their luck and railing at the injustice of life in general. Or at any rate, no more so than usual.

When the fourth-favourite for the 2,000 Guineas is scratched just nine days before the race, the news would normally be an arrow to the heart of punters around the country. Yet following yesterday's announcement that Shibboleth, generally a 10-1 chance for the Classic, will not be in the field at Newmarket a week tomorrow, the betting shops of Britain were hardly overrun with miserable punters cursing their luck and railing at the injustice of life in general. Or at any rate, no more so than usual.

A few backers, mostly those with decent contacts in Newmarket, may be sobbing gently into 33-1 ante-post vouchers this morning and thinking of what might have been. For all that Shibboleth was most impressive when winning a maiden race at the Craven meeting last week, however, his relatively short price for the Classic owed much more to bookies being defensive in the face of a wide-open race than it did to a great weight of public money. Most punters suspected that the Guineas would come too soon for him, not least when Khalid Abdullah, his owner, also had Distant Music, Barry Hills's Dewhurst winner, to go into battle on his behalf.

"Shibboleth has come out of his first race at Newmarket well," Henry Cecil, the colt's trainer, said yesterday, "but after discussions with his owner, it was decided that it was not in the horse's best interests to go for the first Classic with such an inexperienced colt."

Barry Hills, meanwhile, now seems likely to back up Distant Music's challenge at Newmarket with Race Leader, the winner of the Thirsk Classic Trial. Though among the outsiders in ante-post lists, Race Leader was the runner-up to Giant's Causeway, the Guineas favourite, in the Prix de la Salamandre last season, and will have a Classic-winning jockey on his back in John Reid.

Reid was booked to ride Race Leader yesterday, and picked up a mount in the 1,000 Guineas too, when he agreed to ride Seazun for Mick Channon. Frankie Dettori was in the saddle when Seazun, last year's Cheveley Park Stakes winner, finished second to Petrushka, the Classic favourite, in the Nell Gwyn Stakes. He will be at Churchill Downs next weekend, though, to ride China Visit for Goldolphin in the Kentucky Derby, and if he returns to Britain in time for Sunday's 1,000 Guineas, will doubtless be claimed by Godolphin again.

"John's a top man and has ridden good winners for me so I'm delighted to get him," Channon said. "The way some people talk you would think all the other Guineas runners were wasting their time. They almost seem to think that Petrushka is already past the post. I'm not going to say any more now, I'm just going to let my filly do the talking."

There will be a precautionary inspection at Sandown this morning, since heavy overnight rain is forecast, but it seems likely that today's KLM UK Mile, the first Group Two race of the new season, will go ahead, albeit on very soft ground.

The conditions were broadly similar 12 months ago, when Handsome Ridge squeezed home, with Almushtarak (next best 3.10) less than a length away in third. The weights are very much in the latter's favour today, though, and his customary late run will be much harder to resist.

Another of last year's winners, SILK ST JOHN (nap 2.35), may fare better today, since he is 4lb lower in the ratings now, and most of his rivals are less than reliable. The remaining televised races make little appeal for betting purposes, although Wontcostalotbut (3.40) may be the best of a poor bunch in the stayers' handicap. It will also be interesting to see whether Medicean can uphold the Wood Ditton Stakes form in the opener.

Comments