Racing: Backers wait for Roche ruling

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The Independent Online
FRUSTRATION descended on the ante-post lists for the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes yesterday, as punters waited eagerly for a vital piece of information.

The expected source, was neither Ascot racecourse nor the Met Office but, perhaps uniquely, the High Court in Dublin. The legal process does not march to the whim of betting markets, however, and the anticipated judgment - which will determine the participation of jockey Christy Roche - was not forthcoming.

St Jovite, the Irish Derby winner, is 5-4 favourite for the Group One event, which is roughly the same price a bookie would offer about the chances of his regular rider, Roche, being in the saddle on Saturday. Roche is due to be serving a 15-day suspension for improper riding imposed by the stewards of the Irish Turf Club last month, but he is contesting the ban with such vigour that the good offices of the High Court have been drawn into the dispute. The punters, meanwhile, will be forced to wait a little longer - the latest hearing yesterday was adjourned until 2pm this afternoon.

Roche secured an interim injunction on 10 July which freed him to ride Ivyanna in the Irish Oaks the following day, but will need to be granted an interlocutory injunction - which would defer his suspension for at least six months - if he is to partner St Jovite this weekend.

The jockey's lawyers asked that the hearing be postponed until next week, but after hearing arguments from both sides their request was denied. The Irish Turf Club contended that Roche was using the courts to free himself for another important race, but this claim was strongly denied by his counsel.

Jim Bolger, St Jovite's trainer, has refused to discuss a possible replacement for Roche until the outcome of his case is known. Riding arrangements for the King George second-favourite, Saddlers' Hall, also remain cloudy, with the colt's trainer, Michael Stoute, in Kentucky to peruse the world's most expensive horseflesh at the Keeneland Sales.

Stoute returns today, though, when he is expected to confirm jockeys for both Saddlers' Hall (the smart money is on Willie Carson) and Rock Hopper (probably Walter Swinburn), as well as the latter's pacemaker, Mellaby. Pat Eddery would normally have ridden Saddlers' Hall but, unlike Roche, he has decided to accept a suspension which rules him out of the race.

KING GEORGE VI AND QUEEN ELIZABETH STAKES (Ascot, Saturday): Latest odds (William Hill): 5-4 St Jovite (from evens), 5-2 Saddlers' Hall, 6-1 Silver Wisp, 12-1 Jeune & Sapience, 14-1 Opera House (12-1), 20-1 Rock Hopper (from 16-1), 33-1 Terimon, 200-1 Mellaby.