Racing: Kinane takes over Exclusive role

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WALTER SWINBURN has lost another minor skirmish in his ongoing conflict with the scales and will not be appearing at York's Ebor meeting next week.

The Derby-winning jockey will be absent from the Knavesmire as he attempts to control the weight problems with which he has wrestled since teenage days. Once again, Swinburn has promised he will be back.

"Unfortunately my well-documented weight problems have been proving difficult to control recently," he said yesterday. "In fairness to myself, and the owners and trainers who have been so kind to support me, I have told them of my intention to take a week out.

"They have all been totally supportive and sympathetic over a decision which means the disappointment of missing the great Ebor meeting at York and some marvellous rides. I am grateful to all of them for their understanding."

Swinburn has packed rather a lot in since the moment he almost killed himself in a fall at Sha Tin, Hong Kong, in February 1996. Two months later he assaulted a Newmarket restaurateur and subsequently admitted he had a zero tolerance to alcohol. The jockey therefore took the bulk of last season off before returning a leaner and more committed figure. He has departed from old practices by showing a willingness to ride in lower grade races at some of the less celebrated tracks.

The portents looked good when he did his lowest weight of the season, 8st 8lbs, on Peak Path at Newmarket last Friday, his 37th birthday, especially as he then went on collect the Group One Heinz 57 Phoenix Stakes at Leopardstown on Sunday for Aidan O'Brien with Lavery. His 51 domestic winners from 283 rides had made him the fourth-best jockey in the country in terms of strike-rate.

However, Swinburn cried off the ride on Jeremy Noseda's Indian Warrior at Warwick last night. Then came news of a further sabbatical, albeit a shortened one. "Fortunately I have every confidence that my programme for the next few days will be successful and that I will be race-riding by next Thursday or Friday at the latest, and fulfilling my riding commitments at Deauville for next weekend," the jockey said.

Swinburn will miss most the International Stakes ride on the improving Exclusive, whom, ironically, he partnered in a flashy piece of work at Newmarket on Thursday. She will now be ridden by Michael Kinane, who also substitutes on Peak Path in the Great Voltigeur. Swinburn's mount on Iscan in the Acomb Stakes will be taken by Frankie Dettori.

It was rather apt that on Swinburn's return to fasting the day's major race should be the Group Three Hungerford Stakes at Newbury. This was collected by John Gosden's Muhtathir, who has always threatened to be a good horse.

Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum's colt showed plenty of dash, if little staying power, in the Classic Trial at Sandown in the spring and was a brave second to Victory Note in the Poule d'Essai des Poulains (French 2,000 Guineas).

Richard Hills left little to chance yesterday. Muhtathir, his partner, did not see another horse. "We said that if someone else wanted the lead they could have it, but they'd have to go a pretty good pace to get it," Gosden said. "He's a horse who really loves to gallop and he saps the speed and the ability of other horses to quicken."

The options in this country now range from Goodwood to Newmarket, though the smart money for the colt's next assignment is the Prix du Moulin at Longchamp next month.