Racing: Roberts replaced aboard Barathea: The Irish 2,000 Guineas winner tries to redeem his reputation under a new pilot while his old jockey is banished to Baden Baden

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The Independent Online
CALL it a snub or call it sound reasoning but the decision of the Sheikh Mohammed team to employ Pat Eddery instead of Michael Roberts, its retained rider, on board Barathea when he attempts to restore his reputation in the Prix du Moulin at Longchamp on Sunday will have done nothing to ease a difficult year for the South African jockey.

Eddery partnered Barathea for the first time in a gallop on Saturday and will be on top again on Sunday when Roberts has been dispatched to Baden-Baden to ride the Sheikh's George Augustus. As John Oxx, George Augustus's trainer, pointed out yesterday: 'He's not riding some no-hoper in a little race somewhere. The Grosser Preis von Baden is a Group One race and George Augustus has already finished first in a Group One.'

He might have added that the Grosser Preis is Germany's premier mixed-generation event and that, with pounds 122,000 to the winner, it is marginally more valuable than the Moulin. Nevertheless, the Longchamp race, in which Barathea is likely to face Kingmambo, Bigstone and Saturday's Goodwood winner Swing Low, is undoubtedly the more prestigious event and is likely to provide Barathea with a stepping stone to the other major prizes of autumn.

Roberts has partnered the horse in all his races this year, including victory in the Irish 2,000 Guineas, a superb second to Zafonic in the Newmarket equivalent and defeats in the Derby and Eclipse Stakes, for which he started favourite. Back over his best trip of a mile, Barathea should be a significant force again, but Roberts seems unlikely to share in that restoration.

'Barathea didn't stay in the Derby, and didn't seem to get the 10 furlongs in the Eclipse,' Roberts's agent, Graham Rock, said yesterday. 'But Michael certainly didn't do anything wrong.

'He's riding as part of a team and will go wherever he is asked. He has been asked to go to Germany to partner a horse on whom he was unluckily disqualified. This is a chance to set the record straight.'

Rock was referring to the Aral Pokal at Gelsenkirchen-Horst earlier this month when Roberts collected his fifth riding ban of the season, bringing his tally of days on the sidelines to 25. These absences, as well as the generally poor form of the Sheikh's horses, have contributed to a relatively meagre total of 78 winners this season. Eddery, who recorded a double at Epsom yesterday, is on 135 and is highly likely to regain the jockeys' title which Roberts wrested from him last year.

Anthony Stroud, Sheikh Mohammed's racing manager, was unavailable yesterday to comment on the reasons for Sunday's arrangements, while Luca Cumani, Barathea's trainer, decided to keep a diplomatic silence. His stable jockey, Ray Cochrane, has also been overlooked for the ride.

'If they feel George Augustus goes better for Michael than anybody else then they have every right to ask him to go to Germany,' Rock said, but according to Oxx the horse has run equally well for several partners. 'He's not a straightforward ride,' Oxx said. 'But a number of jockeys have won on him. I was told last week that Michael would be free to ride him.'

Eddery was not the only one to advertise his skills over Epsom's cambers yesterday. Luis Alberto Urbano, a student from Madrid, maintained a family tradition in winning the amateur riders' Derby, the Moet & Chandon Silver Magnum, on Bo Knows Best. His father, also Luis, took the prize twice for the late Ryan Price on Melody Rock (1971) and Quite Candid (1977).

(Photograph omitted)