Racing: Injury scuppers Turtle plunge: Punters marooned as Chapple-Hyam colt treads water until York next week

THE hours leading up to the weekend's opening race are meant to be a time for cheerful optimism, before the day's first loser heralds a return to reality. Today punters are denied even that small comfort, thanks to the withdrawal of Turtle Island from the Group One Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville tomorrow.

This, of course, is the colt who won the Irish 2,000 Guineas by 15 lengths, such is his liking for a soft surface. Heavy rain at the Normandy track had been matched by floods of money for Peter Chapple-Hyam's colt in the ante-post book on the weekend's main event, but yesterday he was found to be lame.

It will be of little comfort to Turtle Island's supporters that the injury is sufficiently minor to make the International Stakes at York on Tuesday a possible alternative engagement. With typical insensitivity, the bookmakers quickly introduced him into the betting for that event, though Coral and Ladbrokes at least had the decency to add the 'with a run' proviso to their odds of 100-30 and 4-1 respectively. Hills prefer to target the incurable optimists with 8-1 all-in.

Though Turtle Island was favourite for the Jacques le Marois in some books, even without him the British challenge for the race down Deauville's straight mile remains strong. Sayyedati, winner of the race for Clive Brittain last year, will be joined by Barathea, Emperor Jones and Mehthaaf, though Francois Boutin's East Of The Moon, winner of both the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches (French 1,000 Guineas) and Prix de Diane (French Oaks) is expected to start favourite. Ski Paradise, to be ridden by the Japanese champion Yutake Take, Signe Divin, Lunafairy and Matelot complete the home team.

Deauville in August is as close as French racing gets to Royal Ascot but, in a country which phased out its own royalty two centuries ago, the month-long meeting is thankfully more about style than class. No such luck for British punters, who will be forced to make do with the 'French theme' to the day's racing at Newbury (probable translation: people in berets and hooped T-shirts selling overpriced baguettes and plonk).

Here, too, there is a name to make backers curse, as Henry Cecil's Red Route contests the card's feature event, the Group Two Geoffrey Freer Stakes. Red Route had a brief, inglorious day or two as a leading fancy for next week's Ebor Handicap, before Cecil made it clear that rather more prestigious assignments are anticipated for the three- year-old, in particular the St Leger. Success this afternoon against five experienced stayers would mark Red Route down as a live contender for the final Classic.

The most interesting race on the supporting card is, typically, not thought worthy of television time. The Yattendon Maiden Stakes is, almost without exception, the launch-pad for a useful two- year-old: former winners include Nashwan, while last year Pencader beat Hawajiss with a horse called Erhaab way down the field in 12th.

Peter Chapple-Hyam, Pencader's trainer, saddles Varnishing Day this afternoon, and all the yards worth mentioning also send representatives. Careful study of the promising also-rans will bring its reward in the weeks and months to come.

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