Having sustained the race through its present difficulties with a couple of authentic champions in Dylan Thomas and Duke Of Marmalade, Aidan O'Brien is now reinforcing another weak link in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. By running Golden Sword on Saturday, the Ballydoyle trainer is ensuring that the field will include at least one three-year-old for the first time since 2005.
The best of his generation are conforming to the modern trend by taking a midsummer break, and Golden Sword may yet pay a price for his own, exacting Classic campaign. But the field could also include another three-year-old who has rather crept under the radar, sitting out both Epsom and Royal Ascot.
Alwaary has been handled with commendable restraint by John Gosden. Lesser trainers would have risked two backward steps by trying to urge one more forward after his win at Goodwood, so close to the Derby. Instead Alwaary hinted that he may yet prove competent for some kind of giant leap when taking on older horses at the Newmarket July meeting, finishing well off a steady pace only to be hampered at a critical stage.
Gosden retains the alternative of returning the colt to his own age group in the Betfair Gordon Stakes at Goodwood on Tuesday. "We're leaning towards Ascot, but will make a final decision in the morning," he said yesterday. "There's no Sea The Stars in there. They're a solid bunch of older horses. But there's nothing in his league. The older horses couldn't get near him in the Eclipse. This horse can't be mentioned in the same breath, but you do get that 12lb break as a three-year-old. It was a good concession in the Eclipse, and it's a good concession here. We'd need every bit of it, mind."
Gosden acknowledged that Alwaary had a different profile from some absent contemporaries. "It's fair to say that those horses have been pretty hard at it," he said. "Sea The Stars was under pressure to get to the Guineas, and it's a long year. But this horse missed a lot of the spring, hasn't been overraced. And he was a bit unlucky last time, just coming there with a nice, smooth run when he ran into a wall. At Ascot, he would be up against a different class again. But if he had got through that race smoothly you would definitely want to be going, and [jockey] Richard Hills was pleased enough with him this morning."
Weld stoops to conquer
It is not just three-year-olds whose trainers are nowadays reluctant to risk ruining their autumn prospects at Ascot in midsummer. Casual Conquest would have been one of the King George favourites but Dermot Weld instead favours a low-key assignment at Leopardstown tonight.
Casual Conquest made his Group One breakthrough in the Tattersalls Gold Cup in May, but yesterday Weld was playing down expectations of the colt under his penalty in the Meld Stakes. "We would love to think as a long-term target we could have a crack at the Arc, and we start back tomorrow," Weld said. "He is a magnificent, big horse that will represent us very well but tomorrow is his first run back after a break and he is carrying 10 stone. Hopefully, there will be nice improvement in him."
Godolphin go nuclear
Sheikh Mohammed's unfettered attempts to restore vigour to Godolphin have embraced yet another new recruit: Atomic Rain, a three-year-old who impressed at Monmouth a few days ago. No less predictably, the sheikh also bought the top lot at both sessions of the first big yearling sale in the calendar. Not that he had to spend quite as much at Fasig-Tipton's July sale, in Lexington, as would have been the case last year. Such are the jitters in the market, there was a degree of relief among vendors that the median shrank by "only" 26 per cent.
Turf account: Chris McGrath
Scene Two (8.25 Doncaster) Gelded since a disappointing handicap debut at Lingfield on May Day, and certainly warrants perseverance after previously managing to win an all-weather maiden over just 7f. He is bred to be much better suited by this kind of trip.
Glasshoughton (6.15 Doncaster) Only a mediocre strike rate discourages confidence that he can build on the promise of his two latest starts, having slipped to a very feasible rating. Looked unlucky at Ayr last time.
One to watch
Roker Park (Kevin Ryan) would have made it a hat-trick but for missing the break at Hamilton last weekend, his strong finish confirming he is a sprinter going places for his new trainer.
Where the money's going
Conduit is 7-4 from 2-1 with Coral for the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.Reuse content