Well, Coordinated Cut managed to get round Tattenham Corner without falling over, even though his jockey and trainer were stranded in Newmarket. And both Simon Shaw and John Virgo, dignifying the occasion with the curiosity of other sports, elected to place their charity bets on Bullet Train. Otherwise, it must be admitted, Breakfast With The Stars fell somewhat short of its formal billing at Epsom yesterday morning. But that is not to say that this annual promotional ritual failed to stimulate appetites for the Investec Derby, now just eight days away.
Many of the central protagonists instead offered their insights via a telephone link, while one man who did show up for his maple cured bacon was Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to Khaled Abdulla. His patron has two formidable candidates apiece for the Derby, in Workforce and Bullet Train, and the Investec Oaks, in Timepiece and Aviate – so compounding a sense that the heavy artillery at Epsom this year is concentrated in very few hands.
The first four in the Derby betting, of course, are all stabled at Ballydoyle. Aidan O'Brien and his employers have for some reason got it into their heads that one of them – either Jan Vermeer or, most likely, Cape Blanco – should instead run in the Prix du Jockey-Club, at Chantilly 24 hours after the Derby. It has been well observed that this represents a peculiar departure from their standard practice, which is to identify the best of their middle- distance colts by running them against each other at Epsom, and making do with a reserve tier for France.
And perhaps the single most pertinent message, from all the hopes and fears expressed here yesterday, was that this apparent shift in policy makes no sense to those who will welcome it most. Certainly, connections of the two colts who finished behind Cape Blanco in the Dante Stakes will be heartily relieved should he be diverted to Chantilly. And the case being made for both Workforce and Coordinated Cut raises the outlandish possibility that they could fight out the finish of the Derby, while the colt who beat them comprehensively at York is picking at hay in his stall back in Co Tipperary.
"We think there is a great deal of improvement in Workforce," Grimthorpe said. "It took a while for him to get organised at York, when Ryan [Moore] pulled him out, and the bit slipping through his mouth didn't help – though I can't imagine he would have beaten Cape Blanco. We just feel he has potential to keep improving for the rest of the year."
Grimthorpe is comforted by the fact that Workforce is trained by a man whose four previous successes make him so well qualified to recognise a legitimate Derby colt. From Newmarket, Sir Michael Stoute offered his own endorsement for Workforce, who had passed his final audition round Lingfield the previous day. "He is a bit short of experience," Stoute said. "The initial plan was to give him two races before the Derby, but he just didn't come to himself in the spring. But I like the way he's gone forward since the Dante. It pulled him together quite a bit."
The trainer of Coordinated Cut, meanwhile, proposes several reasons for the colt to leave his York form behind. For one thing, Michael Bell has long felt that Coordinated Cut would relish the extra distance at Epsom, but he also believes that an attempt to dig into his stamina in the Dante backfired. Jamie Spencer will ride him more conservatively in the Derby, where Bell also suspects the colt will demonstrate that he was short of peak fitness at York.
With their helicopter grounded, Bell decided to allow the veteran Ernie Johnson to replace Spencer on Coordinated Cut in a gentle canter over the course. Johnson, who won the 1969 Derby on Blakeney, was back here to ride the Oaks outsider, Champagnelifestyle, the only other Classic contender taking the opportunity for a public reconnaissance of the notorious Epsom gradients. Somewhat abashed by his sudden return to the public gaze, Johnson confined himself to describing both his partners as "very professional".
Needless to say, O'Brien could easily be vindicated in his undiminished faith in St Nicholas Abbey, still favourite despite being the only one of his four contenders not to win his trial. And it may equally be that Cape Blanco's speedy maternal pedigree is simply viewed as too porous, in stamina terms, and that the shorter distance at Chantilly will prove more suitable. But O'Brien's own observations to this gathering left no doubt as to the stakes when John Magnier and his partners in Coolmore Stud finally make their decision.
"The whole breed is controlled by the Derby," O'Brien said. "All these horses are bred, fed, reared and trained to run in the race. It's very hard on a horse, and on all his ancestors, to say: 'You're not going to run in the Derby.' It's all about that piece of timber at Epsom. The lads will make the decision, and that's what their business is all about."
Kieren Fallon is evidently optimistic that he could get a call from his former employers, perhaps even for Jan Vermeer, so impressive at the Curragh on Sunday. Mark Tompkins certainly had "a hell of a job trying to get hold of him" yesterday after finding himself without a jockey for the Chester Vase winner, Ted Spread. Deciding that he could not wait, Tompkins will instead replace Darryll Holland, who fractured a collar-bone at Beverley on Wednesday, with Michael Hills.
Harry Findlay, co-owner of Denman among many others, has been charged by the British Horseracing Authority with laying one of his own horses on a betting exchange. The colourful gambler evidently backed Gullible Gordon for two races, in 2008 and 2009, before trading back a portion of his win stakes. Though exasperated by the length of the investigation since, he has acknowledged that the BHA might administer "a slap on a wrist" on a strict interpretation of its rules.
Spirit Is Needed (4.40 Newmarket) Reappearance suggests he will conform to type for his in-form stable, proving a relentless galloper to see off more exposed rivals at Haydock. Will be better still raised in distance, but should be equal to a penalty here.
Comedy Act (3.55 Newcastle) Just lacked the pace to win a similar affair over a mile on his return, but his pedigree promises that he will be able to surpass a modest initial rating over this kind of distance.
One to watch
Music Of The Moor (T P Tate) Is on the upgrade and was unlucky not to run down an unexposed favourite at Ripon earlier in the week, travelling strongly but produced just too late.
Where the money's going
Rewilding, likely to be confirmed as Frankie Dettori's partner once Al Zir has had his final gallop, is 9-1 from 11-1 with William Hill for the Investec Derby a week tomorrow.Reuse content