When your luck's out, it's out. A week after the disastrous Derby run of Godolphin's star three-year-old Dawn Approach, the blues' older flagbearer Farhh was ruled out of next week's Royal Ascot meeting.
The five-year-old pulled up lame yesterday morning after routine exercise and although his injury, a suspected minor fracture to a bone in a hind limb, is not thought to be career-threatening, it is likely to keep him off the track until the autumn.
Farhh, trained by Saeed Bin Suroor, ended last season as runner-up in four consecutive Group One contests, narrow defeats by Nathaniel and Moonlight Cloud sandwiching a pair of trouncings by Frankel. But he burst back on to the top-level scene last month with a wide-margin victory in the Lockinge Stakes, and had been favourite for the Prince Of Wales's Stakes on Wednesday week.
His defection from the domestic calendar's highest-profile international fixture is a real blow for Sheikh Mohammed's beleaguered operation as it regroups after its recent drugs scandal.
"We hope Farhh will be back later in the year," Simon Crisford, Godolphin's racing manager, said, "but it would be fair to say that our Royal Ascot challenge will now be a bit thin, at his level anyway. We'll have plenty of runners in handicaps and some nice two-year-olds, but he was our star."
Godolphin will still have Saint Baudolino, last seen finishing fourth in Dubai in February, to run in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes but the favourite for the week's 10-furlong showpiece is now Al Kazeem, just ahead of last year's Derby winner, Camelot, whom he beat at the Curragh last month.
This year's Epsom hero Ruler Of The World is likely to be Ballydoyle's sole representative in the Irish version of the Classic at the Curragh at the end of the month, but his sharp-end Derby form will have its first test at Ascot through two other of Camelot's stablemates. Battle Of Marengo, fourth at Epsom, heads for the King Edward VII Stakes, and Mars, sixth, will drop down two grades to the Tercentenary Stakes.
"We decided to make our plans known earlier than usual," said their trainer, Aidan O'Brien, "to allow others to plan positively for the Irish Derby."
Farhh's injury is unrelated to surgery during the winter to have bone chips removed from an ankle. Sadly, though, recurrence of an old problem has led to the retirement of the high-class sprinter Deacon Blues, winner of the Wokingham Stakes at the Royal meeting two years ago. The James Fanshawe-trained six-year-old, who missed last season because of a strained tendon, limped off the gallops again yesterday morning.
But there were positives here during the morning. The two classy four-year-old fillies from John Gosden's yard, The Fugue and Elusive Kate, both sparkled in a spin on the July Course ahead of Royal Ascot, particularly the former, ridden by her stable jockey, William Buick.
The Fugue, an unlucky third in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Santa Anita in November, holds an entry in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes but may start her season against her own sex in the Duke Of Cambridge Stakes. "She feels as good as ever," said Buick, "but to go first time out against the boys would be a tough ask."
The Royal Ascot pointer on the track in the afternoon came from another ridden by Buick as Nocturn thwarted fellow Wokingham Stakes candidate Enrol by inches in the six-furlong handicap.
The nose by which Enrol failed potentially deprived her of more than yesterday's £19,407 prize, as she needed to pick up a winning weight penalty to make the cut for next week's much more valuable pickings, for which she had been second favourite.