There were one or two rather better horses running here yesterday than you could hope to see at Lingfield on Friday, but it did not especially feel that way. It is conceivable, in fact, that as many cameramen and reporters will descend upon Lingfield – the scheduled venue for Kieren Fallon's comeback – as there were spectators taking a desultory interest in proceedings here.
Not that the six-times champion's imminent return from suspension engrossed absolutely everyone present. One top jockey, asked if there was a buzz of expectation in the weighing room, gave an expressive shrug. "No," he said. "Not at all, really. And I certainly don't feel threatened. I hope I'll be fitter than him, for now, and sharper. But I like Kieren, and it'll be good to have him around again. And some of the lads do say that riding against him tends to take them to another level."
Fallon himself had already had a busy morning, hastening from Mick Channon's gallops at West Ilsley in Berkshire, where he worked Youmzain in a visor, to the licensing committee of the British Horseracing Authority in London. The restoration of his licence was duly rubber-stamped in a 30-minute hearing, over three years after its contentious withdrawal on his arrest. Though the subsequent Old Bailey "race-fixing" trial soon collapsed, the judge directing that there was no case to answer, Fallon was promptly given an 18-month ban for a failed drugs test.
"We just have to look forward to Friday now," Fallon said. "Let's hope I'm fit enough. Hopefully, I will be. I have been working hard, but it's different when you are race-riding. It's good that it's on the all-weather, because that doesn't take so much out of you. It's just a case of getting back in the winner's enclosure as many times as I can, it doesn't make any difference whether it's a seller or a Group One."
The latter is certainly an immediate possibility, first when he rides the favourite, High Standing, in the Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock on Saturday, and then with Youmzain in the Grosser Preis von Baden the following day. Fallon is pinning his hopes for High Standing on the speed figures he has been achieving at a lesser level, while he believes the exasperating Youmzain to be back in form following a joint problem in midsummer. "I was very happy with him, he feels very well in himself," Fallon said. "He cruised up there, but the visor didn't make any difference – for me, he doesn't need it."
One of High Standing's principal opponents, Fleeting Spirit, will only run if the ground remains good or faster. Jeremy Noseda, her trainer, also admitted that the July Cup winner "could ideally have done with another two weeks as she has suffered a couple of setbacks since".
The gathering hype about Fallon represents something of an affront to the dignity of Sea The Stars, the outstanding colt whose potential appearance at Leopardstown on Saturday would otherwise dominate the agenda. Unfortunately, heavy showers at the track seemed to tilt the odds against John Oxx risking the Derby winner, and the weather soon became pretty vile here, as well.
But a thunderstorm was preceded by another force of nature in Markazzi, who had shaped well on his Newbury debut and duly landed heavy support in the opener. The Dansili colt is understood to be one of the better juveniles in the care of Sir Michael Stoute, who has entered him for all the big autumn prizes. His representative, Jimmy Scott, acknowledged: "He's a very nice horse, with a super temperament. All he does is yawn and eat. He's still a bit immature, still hasn't grown into his frame, and Richard [Hills] said that he pricked his ears as soon as he got to the front."
The early standard among the juveniles was set by Canford Cliffs, with that runaway win in the Coventry Stakes, but he lost his unbeaten record at Deauville 11 days ago. His trainer's son and assistant, Richard Hannon Jnr, could offer no mitigation after saddling their stable's 135th winner of the season in the seller. "It was a disappointing run, compared with the way he won at Ascot and the way he had been working," he said. "But we haven't found anything amiss with the horse and we'll press on to the Middle Park Stakes."
Turf account: Chris McGrath
Arcola (4.0 Brighton) Returns to the course and distance of her first, runaway success in similar conditions back in July, and subsequent efforts in defeat have implied continued progress – first when giving a head start in a sprint finish, and then when set plenty to do over a longer trip at Kempton last time.
Benefit Game (4.10 Hereford) Irish import, now unbeaten in three handicaps, and he can extend that despite going up another 8lb for his success at Fontwell last time, having again travelled strongly throughout and made light of a couple of late mistakes.
One to watch
Five Cents (Saeed bin Suroor) looks eligible to extend his stable's prolific run with juveniles after an eye-catching debut at Epsom on Monday, missing the break and running green on a notoriously awkward track for beginners before staying on from last into third.
Where the money's going
Sky Bet honoured Markazzi with a quote of 25-1 for the Stan James 2,000 Guineas after his maiden success at Leicester yesterday.Reuse content