Ballydoyle thin ranks of old guard
St Leger disappointment sold to race in Australia as cull of Classic flops grows
Tuesday 15 September 2009
It is just as well that international relations on the Turf are not wholly contingent on the sort of inept literalists who disqualified the British filly, Dar Re Mi, at Longchamp on Sunday. Instead the sport remains constantly enriched by the unfettered movement of horses and labour. So it was, for instance, that a teenage riding sensation from Japan could win a seller at Redcar yesterday; or that Changingoftheguard, after disappointing at Doncaster on Saturday, should become yet another colt exported from Ballydoyle.
At the weights, Changingoftheguard produced such a remarkable performance against older horses at York last month that the absence of proven Group One rivals made him a tempting choice for the Ladbrokes St Leger. But his failure to get competitive with the Godolphin pair, Mastery and Kite Wood, has now seen him swiftly banished to Australia.
The son of Montjeu has been sold to patrons of David Hayes, one of the top trainers in Australia. They hope to win a Melbourne Cup with a colt Hayes considers the most eligible he has ever found in this part of the world. Though he has been sold with an entry for this year, the chances are that Changingoftheguard will instead be campaigned with the 150th Cup in mind, in 2010.
As a maturing stayer, he must be counted still unexposed after just two starts beyond a mile and a half, so his departure from Ballydoyle is instructive of the extreme pragmatism being shown by the stable's owners at Coolmore Stud during the recession. Of the colts they ran in the Derby, they have already discarded Golden Sword to Mike de Kock, Masterofthehorse to Qatar, and Black Bear Island to the United States.
John Magnier and his partners will doubtless be spending with corresponding care at the big yearling sale at Keeneland this week, which got under way overnight. At the best of times, unlike the Maktoum brothers, they need to balance their books, and at the moment they are clearly eager to cash in any horse who fails to convince them that it merits perseverance.
It seems Aidan O'Brien, the Ballydoyle trainer, may be unrepresented in Melbourne on 3 November for the first time since 2005. Age Of Aquarius is still in the race, but was scratched from the St Leger after pulling muscles in his back, while Johann Zoffany has yet to break into this kind of grade. All in all, the race is not proving a terribly rewarding one for O'Brien, who was heavily criticised locally after aggressive tactics on his three runners last year backfired so horribly that the stewards conducted an inquiry.
At the business end of the race, meanwhile, Luca Cumani was saddling the runner-up for the second year running. This time round in the hope of making it third time lucky, the Newmarket trainer has quarantined Cima De Triomphe and Basaltico.
It is a world apart from Redcar, but that was the venue for the latest chapter in the exotic story of Kosei Miura. Unheralded on these shores, the 19-year-old is so far clear in the Japanese jockeys' table that he is taking a three-week sabbatical with Sir Mark Prescott, whose conservative views of a horseman's education extend to ensuring that Miura is eating bacon and eggs in the lads' hostel and mucking out stalls every evening. His willing performance of such duties is being monitored by television crews and journalists, and will no doubt cause much interest back home, where he already appears regularly on the front cover of teenagers' magazines.
Miura rode a winner at the first attempt for Prescott at Ffos Las on Sunday, and looked tidy enough in winning on the odds-on favourite, Kind Heart, yesterday. With a first prize at stake of £2,047.20, it is safe to say that any nerves would have been confined to the verdict of the formidable baronet. But Prescott, who makes no secret of his reservations about the cerebral capacity of some jockeys, had admitted that Miura followed his instructions at Ffos Las "to the centimetre".
Even so, he should learn plenty from his stay – not least if he has the chance to ride against Kieren Fallon, who kept up the astonishing momentum of his comeback by riding a 59-1 double for Brendan Powell at Leicester.
Turf account: Chris McGrath
Force Group (4.30 Haydock)
Faces an interesting rival in Scarab, who tries a new distance for his new stable, but hard to oppose off the same mark as when returning to form back on easier ground at York last week, forcing a photo with the field well strung out.
Togiak (2.40 Yarmouth)
Dragged the runner-up well clear in winning his maiden at Kempton last month, and little wonder when you consider that rival's 11-length success at Redcar yesterday. Fourth to the smart Al Zir on his only previous start and looks on a fair mark for this, his handicap debut.
One to watch
Pinball (Mrs L Williamson) is a modest sprinter but has shaped quite nicely on both starts since changing stable, first when returning from a break at Bath and then when short of room at Goodwood over the weekend.
Where the money's going
Totesport make Antinori 13-2 favourite for the valuable John Smith's Handicap at Newbury on Saturday.
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