Cheltenham? What do you mean, Cheltenham? Well, yes, perhaps it will help pass the time. But the real anticipation, in some quarters, is for the forthcoming Flat season – and not just because of Frankel.
Yesterday the Maktoum family completed a sensational series of new appointments with Mickael Barzalona, the young French rider who burst into the European elite with that breathtaking performance on Pour Moi in the Investec Derby last year. That day he was wearing the silks of the Maktoums' great rivals, at Coolmore Stud, but Barzalona will now be joining Godolphin.
At 20, he is still fairly raw, but he is plainly being given the chance to volunteer himself as a potential heir to Frankie Dettori, Godolphin's long-serving first jockey. It was only last week the stable also hired Silvestre De Sousa, 11 years older than Barzalona but a relatively late developer.
Though previously contracted to the Wertheimer brothers in France, Barzalona is now formally cementing the strong links he established with Godolphin last year. He expressed due gratitude to the Wertheimers and André Fabre, trainer of Pour Moi and nowadays himself a key contributor to the expanding Godolphin empire. "André has been a great mentor, and winning the Epsom Derby for him was very special," Barzalona said. "I owe him everything. This is a wonderful opportunity to ride full time for the world's most international stable."
His arrival heightens a sense of renewal at Godolphin. Mahmood Al Zarooni has swiftly overtaken his old boss, Saeed Bin Suroor, since being promoted to run his own yard. Dettori, you can be sure, will be in no hurry to make way.
Chris McGrath's nap
Lamboro Lad (2.05 Newbury) Stable showing signs of revival and this one shaped well on his return from a break at Doncaster, clearly at home on the better ground; well handicapped if coming on for that.
Araldur (3.10 Newbury) Ran better than it seemed after a lay-off at Cheltenham last time, closing nicely from the rear before making tired mistakes late on. Fairly treated on form of younger days, and still lightly raced over fences.
One to watch
Formulation (Ferdy Murphy) is in good hands and, having shown his first sign of ability over hurdles at Catterick during the week, may be worth another look when switched to a modest handicap.
Where the money's going
Weird Al is 14-1 from 20-1 with William Hill for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup in 13 days' time.Reuse content