Whatever the many talents Chris Richardson brings to racing's table as managing director of David and Patricia Thompson's Cheveley Park Stud, and guardian of the successful and influential establishment's racing interests, they are surely the diplomatic service's loss. Yesterday morning in Newmarket Robert Winston partnered the Thompson's high-class three-year-old filly Spacious in her work, rather than her stable's regular jockey, Jamie Spencer. The new hands on the reins, coupled with some other incontrovertible facts, raised eyebrows and questions.
Richardson, however, is the perfect mandarin, neither confirming nor denying that Spencer would be replaced in future on James Fanshawe-trained horses who carry the red, white and blue silks. "There is no rift between Jamie Spencer and Cheveley Park Stud," he said. "We are not saying he will ride our horses in future, and we're not saying he won't. But Mr and Mrs Thompson wish to be flexible and keep their options open."
Cheveley Park Stud has had 116 runners this year, from eight different yards. Most have come from Sir Michael Stoute's, with eight of the 24 winners ridden by Ryan Moore and two by Spencer, the Fanshawe pair Cesare – like Spacious twice placed in Group One races this term – and Pediment.
Spencer, last season's joint champion jockey, has found winners harder to come by than usual this year; his total of 87 is by some way the lowest at this stage of the campaign since his return to Britain three years ago after his ill-starred stint at Ballydoyle. He has also come in for overt criticism for over-reliance on his favoured hold-up riding style – Cesare, for instance, failed to find a way through when a close fourth in the Queen Anne Stakes – and has been replaced more than once, notably on one-time Classic hope Curtain Call and on progressive three-year-old Generous Thought, who scored under Winston at Newmarket last month.
"He has a particular style," said Richardson, "which suits some horses and not others. And there are occasions when Mr and Mrs Thompson might like the horses ridden slightly differently. We like to be able to use the best available on the day."
The deal cuts both ways, for in last season's Queen Elizabeth II Stakes Spencer opted to ride second-placed Excellent Art for Aidan O'Brien, rather than Cesare, who was fourth. "He has the right to make a choice, and Mr and Mrs Thompson have that right too," added Richardson.
Spacious, absent since her fourth in the Coronation Stakes at the Royal meeting in June, will have a low-key outing next month as part of her build-up to anther try at the highest level in the Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket in October.
With the St Leger only 16 days away, 24 horses remain in the ring after yesterday's declaration stage. The next cut-off point comes on Monday week, also the time for any £45,000 supplementary entries of which John Gosden-trained Centennial, the 4-1 favourite with race sponsors Ladbrokes since winning the Great Voltigeur Stakes, may be one.
As is the norm for high-profile contests, there is mass representation from Ballydoyle. O'Brien, who has won the oldest and longest Classic three times, has removed nine candidates, including the Irish Oaks winner, Moonstone, but still has nine in contention, including Irish Derby winner Frozen Fire, although Alessandro Volta is perceived as a more likely leader of that pack.
The Godolphin team has won four St Legers and will rely solely on Campanologist this time; Sir Michael Stoute, still searching for his first success, has four to chose from: Conduit, Patkai, Doctor Fremantle and Warringah. The last filly to win on Town Moor was User Friendly 16 years ago; two of her sex remain on the list, fellow Oaks heroine Look Here and Unsung Heroine. The last-named, trained by Tommy Stack, has been well supported since she took a Cork Group Three earlier this month.
Stoute's Newmarket neighbour Geoff Wragg is another leader in his field never to have won a St Leger, and now he never will, for he is to retire at the end of the season. After spending 30 years as assistant to his father, Harry, Wragg, now 78, took over Abington Place Stables in 1983, the year he sent out his only domestic Classic winner, Teenoso.
* Kirsty Milczarek, who rode out her apprentices' allowance 16 days ago, has picked up a ban of 16 days, four of them deferred. The punishment comes in the wake of one instance of interference too many, when she breached the rules when winning on Regal Royale at Lingfield. Her suspension starts on Sunday.
ST LEGER (Doncaster, 13 September): Ladbrokes: 4-1 Centennial (needs to be supplemented), 5-1 Conduit, Look Here, 6-1 Alessandro Volta, 12-1 Unsung Heroine, Top Lock, 14-1 Doctor Fremantle, 20-1 Campanologist, Washington Irving, 33-1 others.