One of the most coveted rides of the season, that on defending champion Fleeting Spirit in next week's July Cup at Newmarket, is still up for grabs after two of the weighing room's highest-profile names put their whips in the ring alongside last year's winning rider Tom Queally. But trainer Jeremy Noseda yesterday remained Capello-like in his refusal to name the name on the teamsheet. "Ryan Moore and Frankie Dettori have both said they'd be available," he said, "and with Tom as well, that gives a great choice of jockeys. We've got an idea of the way we'll go, but nothing is set in stone yet."
The six-furlong Group 1 feature on Newmarket's summer course 12 months ago was Fleeting Spirit's most recent success. Queally subsequently partnered her to narrow defeats in the Haydock Sprint Cup and, after a flat-footed start, the Prix de l'Abbaye at Longchamp, but was jocked off after the Paris race in favour of Dettori in the Breeder's Cup Sprint in California, in which the mare came in seventh.
Moore rode her to second place in the King's Stand Stakes last year and on her comeback this term, the Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot ten days ago, the daughter of Invincible Spirit, co-owned by wealthy City men Paul Roy and Andy Stewart, finished a fine fourth under Richard Hughes, two-and-a-half lengths adrift of trailblazing winner Starspangledbanner. Queally was tenth on Lord Shanakill for his retaining stable, that of Henry Cecil, which has no entry for Friday week's prize.
The Irishman, for whom the July Cup was the second top-level winner of his burgeoning career, rode the diminutive bay in her homework before Ascot. "She feels just as good as last year," the 25-year-old said yesterday. "She's only small, but she rides like a much bigger horse, and has a great engine. Not all fast cars are big cars and this is a little zippy sports model. But she is straightforward to handle. Anyone can ride her."
Fleeting Spirit's return to action this term was belated because of minor repair work on her fragile ankles after her return from the States. "She has a great attitude mentally," added Noseda, "but she's got a few physical issues now and we've had to take our time with her. I would like to think she'd improve fitness-wise for her run at Ascot, perhaps as much as 7lb."
Noseda is relishing the rematch not only with Starspangledbanner, but also with Ascot second and third Society Rock and Kinsale King, all of whom raced on the favoured stands side of the course. Fleeting Spirit did best of those forced by their starting position to challenge on the far rail, across the width of the track. "As in any split-second sport," he said, "it's how it goes on the day. And if you can get all the little factors – like pace, position, draw – in a line, then you're in there. Ideally, we'd like to be close to Starspangledbanner, as he's going to be the pace in the race."
Ex-Australian Starspangledbanner, now housed at Ballydoyle, is July Cup favourite and was reported yesterday by Aidan O'Brien to be bang on course. Noseda's Newmarket yard also houses another contender in the same Coolmore partners ownership, the upwardly mobile Ascot handicap winner Laddies Poker Two. "She's only a possible, rather than a probable," he said, "but if they do want me to run her, she'll be ready."
Whether or not Queally rides Fleeting Sprit, he is assured of the mount on Cecil-trained Twice Over at Sandown on Saturday in the Eclipse Stakes, the next top-level prize on the European circuit. After assurances of non-jarring ground at the track, the five-year-old, favourite for the £500,000 Coral-sponsored contest, was given the green light yesterday. Also confirmed was his fellow Khaled Abdullah colourbearer Zacinto, trained by Sir Michael Stoute, and O'Brien nominated Viscount Nelson as the likely runner from his six entries.
Sue Montgomery's Nap
Rossetti (6.40 Chepstow) Finished well on debut and should benefit from the experience and today's step up in distance.
Maneki Neko (4.00 Catterick) Despite a hike in the weights for a confidence-boosting victory last time remains below previous winning marks.
One to watch
Silver Colors (J Noseda) Can strike when presented with an all-weather surface and a trip beyond a mile.
Where the money's going
Paul Hanagan, who added a treble at Hamilton yesterday to four winners on Monday, has been cut to 5-1 for the jockeys' title behind odds-on reigning champion Ryan Moore.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Highland Legacy (8.50 Kempton).