It took a year in the sidings for the Choirboy to correct his fluctuating weight and regain focus for riding. Now it may require just another two and a half minutes for the jockey to establish himself at his profession's pinnacle in three weeks' time.
In winning yesterday's Glasgow Stakes Swinburn's mount Greek Dance established himself as favourite for the Derby in one book. Shergar, Shahrastani and Lammtarra may have to squeeze up in the rider's heart to make space for yet another Blue Riband winner.
Greek Dance's is no fleeting comet of ability at Michael Stoute's Newmarket yard. He has impressed from the first morning of term with both his ability and attitude. "I liked him from day one, everyone did," Swinburn said. "We were all very excited leading up to Newmarket [where the colt made a winning seasonal debut] and we couldn't have asked for any more from him there.
"He just seems to have everything that goes with a good racehorse, including the temperament. Even though he put daylight between him and the others today it felt to me that he was just doing enough in front. I believe there could be the same sort of progression again.
"I was delighted with the way he could change pace and position for me two or three times during the race because that will stand him in good stead for Epsom. He's very manoeuvrable and I don't think ground represents a problem because he's been on the heavy at home and good, fast ground here. I'm excited."
Greek Dance has yet to utilise his gearbox fully this season. He moved smoothly throughout yesterday, his short tail wagging behind him, and then made his market rival Capri look rather leaden in the closing stages. Six lengths was the winning margin and Ladbrokes' immediate reaction was to go 4-1 for the Derby.
Stoute himself did not dissuade investors. "He went to Newmarket a little short of work because the ground had been bad and we'd been conservative with him, and, although the form didn't work out well, what pleased me was the way he travelled that day," he said. "He's a bit fitter now and I loved the way he travelled again. This horse would have to be seriously considered [for the Derby] after today."
Earlier, Busy Flight had broken ranks from a conga formation for the Yorkshire Cup to suggest he might be the leading stayer for this campaign. Instalment No 2 comes in the Ascot Gold Cup next month.
As the five-year-old responded compliantly for Michael Hills up the Knavesmire straight it was hard to imagine that this was once the most unyielding of horses. When they were teaching this youngster tricks, Busy Flight was very good at the swift fetch, but could not master a stay.
After years of tuition, however, the horse now settles like a tabby on a plump cushion. "It's been a hard job because he's a very strong horse," Hills said. "I've had my battles and my arms are now three inches longer."
THE DERBY (Epsom, 6 June): Coral: 9-4 (with a run) Cape Verdi, 6-1 City Honours & Saratoga Springs, 7-1 Greek Dance, 8-1 Gulland, 10-1 Haami, 14-1 Border Arrow, Croco Rouge & Dr Fong. Ladbrokes: 2-1 (with a run) Cape Verdi, 4-1 Greek Dance, 6-1 Saratoga Springs, 7-1 City Honours, 8- 1 Gulland & Haami, 14-1 Croco Rouge. William Hill: 2-1 (with a run) Cape Verdi, 5-1 Greek Dance, 6-1 Saratoga Springs, 7-1 City Honours, 8-1 Gulland, 10-1 Border Arrow & Haami, 14-1 Croco Rouge, 16-1 Dr Fong.
NAP: Young Bigwig
NB: Random Kindness
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