Racing: Asmussen replaces Duffield on Unblest: The fields for the Guineas are whittled down and an unsuccessful pilot is pared from his mount in favour of a big-race specialist

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The Independent Online
BOTH on and off the racecourse there was a premium placed on fine riding yesterday. At Cheltenham, Richard Dunwoody excelled in driving Boscean Chieftain to a narrow success and David Bridgwater was faultless in maintaining the winning momentum for the Nigel Twiston- Davies stable, carrying off the two main events. Off track, the sought- after talents of Michael Kinane and Cash Asmussen have been secured for Classic rides, the latter at the expense of George Duffield.

In the 2,000 Guineas, Asmussen has been called up for Unblest, who started a warm favourite for last week's Free Handicap at Newmarket but finished only fifth after managing to get boxed behind a wall of horses on the wide plain of the Rowley Mile. Duffield was the pilot that day and is not to be given a chance to redeem himself.

James Fanshawe, who trains Unblest for Lord Vestey and who teamed up so successfully with Duffield for Environment Friend's Dante and Eclipse Stakes victories, was not prepared to elaborate on the decision. 'Things didn't go to plan in the Free Handicap and that's all I want to say on the matter. Cash Asmussen is available and he will ride,' he said.

Duffield, whose only previous Classic win came on User Friendly in the 1992 Oaks, said: 'No explanation has been given as to why I've been jocked off. I'm totally in the dark and I'm very disappointed.'

There could still be an opportunity for Duffield to ride in the Classic with 29 horses standing their ground at yesterday's forfeit stage. Among those withdrawn, as expected, were the Aga Khan's Manntari, the Geoff Wragg-trained Owington, Concordial and Magnasonic from Roger Charlton's stable and France's Psychobabble.

Among those left in, unexpectedly, is Rafferty's Rules, the Lynda Ramsden-trained horse that has been warming up for the mile of the 2,000 by running over six furlongs. 'We hope he will run very well. He's not just going there to be handicapped,' Jack Ramsden, the trainer's husband, said. Geography, as well as form, is against them as the Ramsden stable is near Thirsk, North Yorkshire, and no horse trained north of the Trent has won the first colts' Classic since 1961 when George Boyd's Dunbar yard sent out Rockavon for victory at 66-1.

The best ride that Duffield could snaffle is on the third favourite, Suplizi. Luca Cumani's colt, the fastest finisher into third in the Craven Stakes, has been rejected by his rider then, Ray Cochrane, in favour of the representative from Dubai, State Performer.

'It didn't come as a surprise that Ray went for the other horse,' Cumani said. 'He's not my stable jockey, he's a freelance, and he's been riding a lot of horses in Dubai.'

The booking of Kinane, for Bulaxie in the 1,000 Guineas, is without acrimony. Willie Carson normally rides the filly, but instead partners the favourite, Mehthaaf. Kinane, who has a remarkable record when brought in by British trainers for prestige events, could still be called upon to honour his agreement with Sheikh Mohammed and ride Flagbird. Though she was one of 22 acceptors yesterday, the Andre Fabre-trained filly, who finished ahead of Mehthaaf at Longchamp last autumn, is almost certain to head for the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches (French 1,000) on 15 May.

In Saturday's Whitbread Gold Cup, Moorcroft Boy and Cogent are non-runners, with the consequence that the horses that head the betting have been shortened by the bookmakers. Antonin is now Coral's favourite at 3-1, with Flashing Steel 7-2.

1,000 GUINEAS, 28 April (acceptors): Balanchine, Bulaxie, Coup De Genie, Dance To The Top, Elrafa Ah, Fairy Heights, Flagbird, Irish Forever, Lady Fairfax, Las Meninas, Lemon Souffle, Maidment, Mehthaaf, Monaassabaat, Mytilene, Prophecy, Randonneur, Red Rita, Relatively Special, Rohita, Threatening, Velvet Moon.

2,000 GUINEAS 30 April (acceptors): Canaska Dancer, Colonel Collins, Cool Jazz, Cotteir Chief, Crazy Paving, Distant View, Dumaani, Golden Nashwan, Grand Lodge, Green Green Desert, Indhar, Just Happy, King's Theatre, Luhuk, Mister Baileys, Nicolotte, Piccolo, Rafferty's Rules, Redoubtable, River Deep, Signe Divin, Star Selection, State Performer, Suplizi, The Deep, The Flying Phantom, Torch Rouge, Turtle Island, Unblest.

(Photograph omitted)

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