Doncaster's opening exchanges yesterday were obscured by a blizzard of news concerning the round of top races on the horizon. Rodrigo De Triano's defection is not a product of timidity - 'I hate ducking things', Robert Sangster, his owner, said - but the likelihood that the ground at Leopardstown will be unfavourably soft. 'I don't want to cost the owner pounds 18,000 (the supplementary entry fee) when there's every chance he won't be able to run,' Peter Chapple-Hyam, the trainer, said.
After St Jovite had dragged the breath out of Dr Devious in the Irish Derby it was hard to imagine the latter ever reasserting the superiority he had shown at Epsom. That impression is confirmed by the betting for Sunday's race: St Jovite is 11-8 on with Ladbrokes, while Dr Devious is a best-priced 100-30 with William Hill. Kooyonga is around the same price (had Rodrigo De Triano been declared they would have made him a 7-4 shot, with St Jovite on evens).
'He'll make them go,' Chapple-Hyam says of Dr Devious, though not with the kind of infectious confidence he has demonstrated in the past. Stepping round St Jovite may have saved Rodrigo De Triano from a punishing trip to Ireland, but it has hardly guaranteed him a soft route to the Breeders' Cup Mile at Gulfstream Park, because his target now is the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on Festival of British Racing day, a race that looked too hot to touch at yesterday's declaration stage. Try this lot for size: Marling, Selkirk, All At Sea, Brief Truce, Arazi, Second Set, Mystiko, Lahib. And that is just for starters.
Compared to these two absorbing showdowns the St Leger is a stagnant pond stirred only by (yawn . . . ) changes in the weather forecast. 'I've never known a year like it for soft ground,' Chapple-Hyam said, which makes a welcome variation on the training profession's standard refrain: 'I've never known a year like it for hard ground.' The expectation here is that little rain will fall between now and Saturday, thus ensuring that the turf for the final Classic will ride on the fast side of good.
That would work against the favourite, User Friendly, but to the benefit of Bonny Scot, Rain Rider and Allegan, all of whom were shortened by the bookmakers. User Friendly is out to 2-1 with Hills, Bonny Scot has shrunk to 5-2, and the best prices available about the other two are 6-1 and 8-1 respectively with Ladbrokes. Allegan, at 8-1, is the most enticing each-way bet.
Sonus, from the John Gosden stable, is exceptionally weak in the market and is drifting, probably because he exercises so lazily on the Newmarket gallops. 'You know those guys (the bookmakers),' Gosden said. 'They probably came up and saw him work.'
At least his jockey, Steve Cauthen, now has renewed hope that he will be able to strike his mounts in running as he sees fit. After meeting in London to discuss the current regulations on whip use, the Jockey Club announced that a working party will be formed to consider possible rule changes.
It was proof of the old adage: if in doubt, set up a committee.
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