The white flag was finally hoisted yesterday on behalf of 2,000 Guineas candidate Wootton Bassett, whose trainer, Richard Fahey, had been struggling to ready him for the season's first Classic since the colt suffered a setback earlier in the year. But the redoubtable Malton-based handler put a positive spin on his frustration, looking forward immediately to pitting his charge's talent against that of the season's putative superstar Frankel later in the year.
Wootton Bassett, who put himself in the elite frame last year when he gave Fahey a first Group One success by taking France's top juvenile contest, showed that talent intact yesterday morning, but in terms of his fitness it was too little too late. "He worked well and had a good blow," the trainer said, "but we've just run out of time. It's disappointing but we didn't want to go to the Guineas if he wasn't 100 per cent.
"We missed three and a half weeks with him just at the wrong time. Newmarket will just come too soon."
Fahey will spread his Classic net elsewhere next month before any meeting with the odds-on Guineas favourite Frankel, who made a winning comeback for the Henry Cecil stable in the Greenham Stakes four days ago.
"We'll look at other options," Fahey added. "We could go to the Curragh for the Irish 2,000 Guineas or Longchamp for the French version. And hopefully we will meet the wonder horse somewhere down the line. I was very impressed with him at Newbury. But hopefully Wootton Bassett can stay undefeated and that would be grand."
Wootton Bassett was the second 2,000 Guineas challenger to defect in 24 hours, following the chief hope from the Godolphin stable, Dubai Prince. A decision will be made as to whether or not the Blues' back-ups, Casamento and Saamidd, will take the field on the Rowley Mile on Saturday week will be made after the pair work this week.
Kieren Fallon will know tomorrow whether he will be free to partner Ed Dunlop's Craven Stakes winner Native Khan, now perceived as the strongest home opposition to Frankel, in the Guineas. The jockey picked up a 10-day ban last week, when he was judged to have dropped his hands in a finish and lost a place, and will have his appeal against his punishment, which would rule him out of the Guineas meeting, heard in the morning.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Sand Skier (3.45 Epsom) Yet to win in handicap company but resumes his domestic campaign on a feasible mark after shaping well in a left-field warm-up in France, an amateur lady riders' all-weather contest.
Barney Rebel (4.20 Epsom) Shaped well enough in his two introductory outings last year and appeals as the type to progress.
One to watch
Alainmaar (R Varian) Has not raced for nearly a year owing to injury, but if his recent homework is an indication will soon make up for lost time.