Racing: Royal Anthem recovers his footing

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MOST OF Britain's pilgrims to the Breeders' Cup will emerge on to the track for the first time at Churchill Downs today and it should not be a desperately unnerving experience.

Louisville was gloomy and coldly still yesterday and the forecast is for the temperature to drop. If only the rains would come, then conditions would perfectly replicate morning work on Newmarket's blasted heath.

There was no alcoholic consumption allowed at the racecourse here yesterday because of national elections, but at least Henry Cecil no longer has the need to unscrew the bourbon bottle. Royal Anthem is back on course for the Turf following swift recovery from a foot injury.

The big horse wandered round his barn on Monday evening wearing stick- on shoes and yesterday cantered a lap of the circuit under the instruction of Willie Ryan. "We are back on schedule now," Cecil said. "I am very happy with him and I am keeping my fingers crossed. Things didn't look very good on Sunday but everything seems to be going right now.

"He did have quite a big burst. A lot of fluid came through the tendon sheath, which could have been pressing on the nerves, so we took it out. We haven't lost anything, because I would have just cantered him yesterday."

Desert Prince, David Loder's favourite for the Mile, meandered around the quarantine barn yesterday and is reported in sterling condition ahead of Saturday's race, the final competitive effort of his career.

Ireland's Second Empire would have been happy with the company in the holding bays as he had to travel over on his own while the main contingent flew in from Stansted. His trainer, Aidan O'Brien, will be engaged in perhaps the most fascinating duel of the week this morning when he goes head-to-head with the boys of the American press room at the official post-position draw.

They expect torrents of quotes from their interviewees but Aidan is not a man to go beyond name, rank and serial number. It should be quite a contest.

n Running Stag, Philip Mitchell's 50-1 shot for the Breeders' Cup Classic, teamed up for the first time with big-race pilot John Velasquez in a solo gallop over one mile at Churchill Downs yesterday. Velasquez appeared satisfied with his partner's work, observing: "He has the class to do anything you want with him."