Racing: O'Donohoe to be Star substitute

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The Independent Online
THE CHANCE to pull on the No 12 shirt and win the match does not happen only in Billy's Boots. And today's most obvious beneficiary from the enforced absence, through suspensions, of three top players from racing's games (Frankie Dettori, Kieren Fallon, Pat Eddery) is Daragh O'Donohoe. The 25-year-old Irishman has been called off the bench by Godolphin's manager, Simon Crisford, to take Dettori's place in the feature races at both Goodwood and Windsor.

A year ago O'Donohoe was just one of many promising youngsters over from Ireland seeking his fortune in the bigger league. His sympathetic horsemanship caught a few eyes in Sheikh Mohammed's desert-based boardroom, and when it was offered, he decided that the security of a place on the ground staff of Arsenal was better than playing regularly for Plymouth Argyle.

"They never guaranteed me race-rides", he said. "I went out to Dubai for the winter as part of the back-room team, as an exercise and work- rider. And I almost thought I'd been forgotten about, because I was still out there two months after the season here started. But once I came back everything started to happen."

It did indeed. On his first ride in Britain this year O'Donohoe won the Lockinge Stakes on the 20-1 shot Cape Cross, upstaging Dettori on better- fancied Kahal in the process. He then rode his second Group One winner on Central Park in the Italian Derby in Rome on a day when the Italian was on duty in Paris.

His reward comes this afternoon on Starborough in the Celebration Mile, followed by a swift transfer to Windsor to ride Annus Mirabilis in the six-year-old's bid for a third successive Winter Hill Stakes this evening. "I would not wish a suspension on anyone," he said. "Frankie has been very good to me, and works as hard as anyone in the team. But if he is banned, I'm very pleased to be the substitute. I didn't even want to think about the possibility it might be me; I could hardly wish for anything more than what has happened already this season."

O'Donohoe will be tested fully on the front-running Starborough in what looks an evenly-matched 31st renewal of the Group Two Goodwood race. His slim 5'4'' frame is not enough to cope with the powerful four-year- old at home, where bigger, stronger work-rider Shaun Murphy has the leg- up. "He's a very good horse", said today's jockey, "but he's a tricky ride."

Starborough (3.50) was a high-class performer last year with top-level wins at Royal Ascot and Chantilly and on the basis that he should improve for his only run on British turf this year - his fourth place over today' s course and distance in the Sussex Stakes last month - is just preferred to the two upwardly mobile three-year-olds Lovers Knot, disappointing at Deauville four weeks ago but capable of much better on livelier ground, and runaway Newbury winner Muhtathir.

Another taken to score on his return to Lord March's idiosyncratic Sussex course is Masha-Il (3.15), who should prove capable of defying top- weight in the Ladbroke Racing Sprint Handicap. Last time out the John Gosden-trained three-year-old produced a good performance from a bad draw in the Stewards Cup, beaten only three and a half lengths by the winner in seventh place down the centre of the course, and consolation awaits for him and Richard Hills.

The last recognised St Leger trial, the March Stakes, can go to Sadian (2.15), who looked in good heart when he beat Perfect Paradigm at Ascot on his first run for John Dunlop and should not be daunted by the step up to the final Classic distance.

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