It is just as well that Royal Ascot last week gave curious outsiders grounds to feel positive about racing because the sport's agenda in the meantime threatens to undermine much of that good work. On Monday the disciplinary committee of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) could not decide how to deal with a breach of doping regulations by one of the Queen's trainers, and today it reconvenes in the hope of resolving the issues raised by the infamous "race-fixing" trial at the Old Bailey, in 2007.
Coverage of that ham-fisted prosecution was dominated by the presence, among the defendants, of a former champion jockey in Kieren Fallon. After the collapse of the trial, Fallon was given an 18-month suspension for a positive drug test, but in the meantime he has been told that the BHA would pursue none of the allegations made at the Old Bailey.
It is a different story, however, for the two other jockeys in the case, Fergal Lynch and Darren Williams, as well as for trainer Karl Burke. After the trial the BHA requested access to evidence from the City Of London Police and Crown Prosecution Service. Following interviews with BHA investigators, the three now face a raft of charges together with Miles Rodgers, the gambler and former racehorse owner who also had conspiracy charges dismissed at the Old Bailey.
The charges relate to lay bets in 12 races during 2004. Various accounts allegedly operated or controlled by Rodgers risked £800,000 and won £87,000 – even though one of the horses won, losing £40,000.
Lynch, Williams and Burke are effectively charged either with conveying privileged information to Rodgers for reward or doing so without regard for the possibility that it might be used fraudulently. Lynch is also charged with not riding Bond City on his merits at Ripon that August, and profiting from lay bets made by Rodgers.
All those charged face disqualification. Williams has been struggling to revive his career, while Lynch has been riding in the United States, but Burke is enjoying his best season. The hearing is expected to take up the rest of this week before being resumed next Wednesday.
Sea's Derby plan could be scuppered
With any luck, the sport will be given fresh reasons to be cheerful at the Curragh on Sunday, when the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby could settle the few outstanding quibbles over the outstanding colt who won the original version at Epsom this month. Sea The Stars is 4-5 with Coral after becoming the first in 20 years to complete the 2,000 Guineas-Derby double, but his trainer has reiterated that he needs his local track to keep drying out.
"Today it would have been borderline," John Oxx said yesterday. "I thought the straight was on the slow side. The weather is warm but it's humid and there's not much wind so its not drying very quickly. There is no rush to decide and we could even make a final decision on the day."
The course manager, Paul Hensey, offered a very different assessment, describing the going as good to firm and the forecast as dry and settled.
At least Oxx seems to have no concerns about Sea The Stars himself. "He worked this morning and everything went well," he said. "He came out of Epsom in great form and, thankfully, we have had no hold-ups since."
Three of the four Ballydoyle colts who followed him home all featured among the 17 acceptors yesterday, notably the runner-up, Fame And Glory, who gets a quote of 5-2.
Bell sounds ancient summons
A fine afternoon is forecast in Cumbria, due blessing for one of the great institutions of the Turf: "Plate and Bell" day at Carlisle. The Cumberland Plate is thought to be around 175 years old but the Carlisle Bell, first run in 1599, is the oldest race in the calendar. Nowadays they are run as 0-80 handicaps, but at £30,000 apiece they carry remarkable prize-money for the grade and remain as competitive as at any time since their inauguration. To join the usual glad throng is an experience to be sampled at least once in the life of anyone who loves the game.
Turf account: Chris McGrath
Midnight Fantasy (7.50 Kempton)
Has a good sprinting pedigree, and has suggested in both handicap starts since winning her maiden that she can surpass this rating, picking up well but short of room. A good draw is icing on the cake.
Joe Jo Star (4.10 Carlisle)
Up another 13lb for his easy win at York, but that was his first attempt at this trip and he can extend a sequence of rapid improvement for this stable, under both codes.
One to watch
Dungannon (A M Balding)
Made a promising start at Windsor on Monday, staying on very strongly for fifth after being taken off his feet early. Should be sharper next time.
Where the money's going
Judgethemoment 8-1 from 10-1 for the John Smith's Northumberland Plate (Newcastle, Saturday) with William Hill.