Frankie Dettori is the favoured candidate for the most coveted vacancy of the racing summer, but his availability may not be established in time for connections of Harbinger.
Ryan Moore, Sir Michael Stoute's stable jockey, has confirmed his intention to remain loyal to the Derby winner, Workforce, in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes on Saturday week. That left Highclere Thoroughbreds, the owners of Harbinger, seeking a new rider for Stoute's other big hope. Dettori, celebrated for his particular mastery of Ascot, is viewed as the ideal man for the job.
For now, however, it remains impossible for connections of Harbinger, so impressive in the Hardwicke Stakes over course and distance last month, to proceed with a booking. As retained jockey to Godolphin, Dettori would have to ride Cavalryman were he committed to the race. While it is thought that Cavalryman is more likely to have his sights lowered, after trailing in last at Royal Ascot, there remain additional complications. For a start, that decision is apparently unlikely to be made before the weekend. Then there is the possibility Godolphin would require Dettori to ride at York, the same day, as has been the case for the past two years, when he rode in a Group Two race routinely targeted by the stable.
His chances of riding Harbinger, then, would seem to be contingent not only on Cavalryman missing the King George, but on Godolphin having feasible priorities for Dettori on the rest of the Ascot card. And that may not become apparent in time for him to become acquainted with Harbinger in any meaningful way on the gallops.
Whoever rides, Harbinger is looking an increasingly formidable rival to his young stablemate. He started odds-on for the Hardwicke, but those behind him that day have since lent unsuspected substance to the form. Barshiba, beaten nearly 10 lengths into third, won the Lancashire Oaks and then last week Sans Frontieres and Redwood, fourth and fifth respectively, dominated the finish of the Princess of Wales's Stakes at Newmarket.
Once again, then, the King George looks likely to prove pivotal to the destiny of the trainers' championship. Stoute saddled the first three home last year, on his way to a 10th title, and is duly 4-9 favourite with Ladbrokes to overhaul Richard Hannon (3-1) in the prize-money table. Hannon, however, has an excellent record in valuable sales prizes, quite apart from the unprecedented depth of his representation in championship races this summer
Hannon must hope that the bookmakers have also misinterpreted the King George, and that a horse like Cape Blanco could yet intrude on Stoute's big guns – or maybe Daryakana, the French filly who took her record to five wins from five starts in the Hong Kong Vase last December. She has finished only third in both starts this term, albeit in a photo finish for the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud last month. But her trainer, Alain de Royer-Dupré, expects her to prove well suited by Ascot.
"She likes firm ground, and is much happier going right-handed," he explained. "She has run twice this season at Saint-Cloud [left-handed] and that has not suited her. She also probably travelled too much on the bridle last time, but was still only beaten narrowly. More pace would perhaps have suited her. Anyway, she will have needed her first two races to bring her back."
His Chantilly neighbour, Mikel Delzangles, remains optimistic that his 2,000 Guineas winner, Makfi, will be ready to tackle Goldikova at Deauville next month, following his failure at Royal Ascot. "He had a very dirty scope after the race, and was coughing," Delzangles said. "But at least we knew straight away what was wrong, and I hope that is all history now. He has had a break and seems fine now, and if he is OK we will bring him back for the Prix Jacques le Marois."
There was a brief hiatus in the breathless Flat calendar yesterday, jockeys and travelling stable staff enjoying a precious Sunday off. But focus on their jumping brethren at Perth, Stratford and Southwell only emphasised the sudden void caused by a shocking injury to Robert Thornton. He suffered serious knee ligament damage at Newton Abbot during the week, and will have to exceed surgeons' expectations to return in time for the big meetings next spring.
*Chris McGrath's Nap
Onyx Of Arabia (8.40 Windsor)
Lightly raced at this trip, clicking first time at 25-1 over course and distance and doing well to manage third when held up off too steady a pace at Goodwood under a penalty. Fallon booked.
Street Power (8.50 Wolverhampton)
Stable has another interesting runner but this one would seem the most feasible reason for Jamie Spencer's presence at the meeting.
*One to watch
Contract Caterer (Pat Eddery) could not really explore his potential at the trip the one time he tried 12f and a drop back in trip at Newmarket last week, keeping on steadily for sixth, merely confirmed that he wants farther.
*Where the Money's going
Paul Hanagan is now as short as 4-6 from 10-11 for the jockeys' championship with William Hill, with Ryan Moore eased to 5-4 from 11-10.Reuse content