Arc punters still no wiser after Workforce workout
Stoute yet to confirm Derby winner as definite runner in Paris despite impressive gallop at Sandown
His name could hardly be more proletarian, but he is trained by a knight and owned by a prince whose racing affairs are managed by a baron. And some have been eager to discover a corresponding remoteness in their supervision of Workforce – to the point that the whole thing is in danger of becoming a little tiresome.
The Derby winner did a piece of work at Sandown yesterday that apparently satisfied his trainer, Sir Michael Stoute, and his jockey, Ryan Moore. Afterwards Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to Khalid Abdullah was still cautioning that Workforce only had the "amber" light for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, rather than the green. Coral responded by easing him out to 6-1 from 5-1; Ladbrokes and Totesport promptly cut him from 6-1 to 5-1.
The whole situation seems infected with an unnecessary alarmism. Punters, as always, need to make more allowance for the fact that preparing any thoroughbred for a race can be fraught with myriad, unpredictable difficulties. Races are routinely won by horses that spent the previous night with a foot wedged in a bucket of ice, the betting public knowing nothing of it before or since. Sometimes, moreover, trainers have provoked punters even in doing their utmost to keep them informed, for instance when Binocular was initially ruled out of the Champion Hurdle last season.
Equally, however, it seems a bit silly to be procrastinating so elaborately about the winner of Britain's greatest race, when he could win Europe's greatest race in just 12 days' time. Nobody would be perjuring himself to say simply that the hope is very much to run Workforce in Paris, provided he gives Stoute sufficient encouragement to do so in the meantime. After all, any punter who construes "intended runner" as "confirmed runner" is too stupid to warrant his precious right to information anyway.
Stoute, of course, has an archaic relish for ensuring that press and public mind their own business. But if he stands at one end of the spectrum, a sacred cow browses pretty self-indulgently at the other – encouraged, it must be said, by regulators whose belief in the value of "inside information" varies from the credulous, to the witless, to the downright paranoid.
For the record, anyhow, Workforce worked around a mile at Sandown with two stablemates. Official Style, a recent maiden winner at Windsor, set the pace to two furlongs out, after which Workforce went about five lengths clear of a useful older horse, Confront.
"He went nicely," Grimthorpe said. "It was a good piece of work. There's still no decision on the Arc. We'll see how he checks out, see how he comes out of the work and move slowly onwards. Michael seemed happy with him. Ryan was pleased as well. That doesn't mean he's a definite runner."
One way or another, it seems as though Workforce is groping his way back to the racecourse. Even if he fails to convince Stoute that he is ready for the Arc, he could conceivably persevere towards the Champion Stakes or the Breeders' Cup. In the meantime it is pardonable for connections to be unusually wary with a colt who has offered no substantial reason for a ghastly performance in his sole appearance since that eye-watering seven-length rout at Epsom, when beaten out of sight in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.
Stoute could see Richard Hannon steal a decisive march in the trainers' championship should Canford Cliffs win the QEII Stakes at the same track on Saturday, and is also a bystander in the two big juvenile races on the card. Abdullah, however, will be represented by perhaps the most exciting young colt in Newmarket when Frankel contests the Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes, a race he sponsors.
Martin Dwyer, whose evolving partnership with Brian Meehan was set for its most instructive test on Saturday, looks likely to miss the rest of the turf season after a fall at Leicester on Monday. Fractures in a thumb and elbow have left the poor jockey in plaster on both arms. Meehan swiftly booked Ryan Moore to ride Theyskens' Theory in her showdown with White Moonstone in the Meon Valley Stud Fillies' Mile.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Tawzeea (3.25 Redcar) Well handicapped, having lost his way with his previous yard, and immediate suggestions that he will take advantage when fifth on his debut for Michael Dods at Newcastle last month, going much better through the race.
Loden (8.20 Kempton) Did not show much on his handicap debut at Salisbury, but had been absent for nearly a year and steps up radically in distance now – which looks sure to suit, given his excellent pedigree at middle-distance.
One to watch
Cumulus Nimbus (R Hannon) Caught the eye going strongly in the big handicap at Newbury on Saturday, stuck in traffic a long way but making up good ground out of midfield once switched.
Where the money's going
Makfi is 2-1 from 5-2 with Paddy Power for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.
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