Frankie Dettori led the jockeys into the sunlit parade ring here yesterday and suddenly noticed the cameras trained on the posse behind. He turned and sought out the champion jockey, who was maintaining a scrupulously stony aspect in the Queen's silks. "Don't smile, Ryan!" he shouted. Ryan Moore blushed, stared at the ground and succumbed to a helpless grin.
Never mind the jockeys' title. Moore thrives on work, and there was no way he could play up to his joyless image this time. After an infuriating three-week hiatus, his wrist injury had healed sufficiently to permit him his first two mounts since a fall at Windsor on 9 August. In the meantime, as he now accepts himself, any realistic hope of retaining his championship has ebbed away.
His comeback ride, Caraboss, proved an ideal workout, her inexperience warranting hands-and-heels only to secure fourth. Rather more was demanded by Tale Untold in the Listed race, herself still green on only her second start, and she did not make his life terribly easy in finishing a close fifth behind Brevity. It was a low-key return, but Moore can now enjoy being left alone to retrieve his best for the big races still to come this autumn.
His title defence was proving pretty tough going as it was, and Paul Hanagan and Richard Hughes are now beyond reach. But he declined to favour either rival as favourite. "They've too much of a lead now," he acknowledged. "And I wish them both the best of luck, but the end of the season is two months away and in racing anything can happen."
As if to testify to that remark, Moore was wearing a support on his injured wrist. "But I don't really need it, it's just to ease me back," he said. "I did a week in the cryo-chamber, and that helps keep up your fitness, because you do some training afterwards. That gives you energy, gives you a boost. You're always going to get injuries, but it's good to be back."
Moore's season has become a matter of quality, not quantity, and could yet be crowned in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe itself with Workforce. The Derby winner has not been seen since disappointing at Ascot in July, behind his stablemate Harbinger, but is stepping up his schedule now. Harbinger's revelatory performance that day proved to be the last of his career, but he has responded to surgery and it was yesterday announced that he has been sold to go to stud in Japan.
Dettori was in rather less frivolous spirits after Moore's comeback race, incidentally. Having found himself trapped on the rail on the heavily backed Khawlah – a Godolphin newcomer, out of a half-sister to the Derby winners Sea The Stars and Galileo – he forced his way out to challenge, failed by three-quarters of a length and was given a two-day ban for careless riding.
The 33-1 winner, Shim Sham, was saddled by Brian Meehan, who also won the EBF Dick Poole Stakes with Brevity. With the 1,000 Guineas favourite already stabled at Manton, in Theyskens' Theory, Meehan clearly has a formidable team of young fillies.
"They're all pulling it out now," the trainer said. "We had a tough spring, but they've come through and I'm sure I've a very special bunch of two- year-olds."
Among those well beaten by Theyskens' Theory at Goodwood last Saturday was Date With Destiny, George Washington's only foal. But her trainer, Richard Hannon, believes that she was all at sea in the testing ground. "As soon as they went into the dip, that was it," he said. "Luckily, [her rider] Pat Dobbs looked after her and as soon as they reached the rising ground she took off again."
Hannon and Hughes shared two winners, Cai Shen and Free Agent, at their local track to stem anxieties about the stable's shrinking strike rate. "We've had a few disappointments, like Memory in Ireland at the weekend," Hannon said. "But with the draw she had, we were 20 lengths behind at the elbow, and you can't win from there. Don't worry, you'll get a different answer [from Memory] in the Cheveley Park."
Strong Suit, another Hannon juvenile turned over at the Curragh last time, will also try to confirm his Group One calibre at Newmarket this autumn. "I think maybe Strong Suit was a bit rusty in the Phoenix Stakes," Hannon said. "He's quite lazy and I probably didn't buzz him up enough. He'll go to the Middle Park in good order, I can promise you. He's a very good horse. Still, it teaches everyone a lesson. Nobody's perfect."
Chris McGrath's Nap
Mnasikia (3.0 Brighton) Long absence since a disappointing run in February implies her top connections have had a few problems to sort out. If they have had any success she can prove better than this very modest rating.
Titbit (3.50 Lingfield) An improving Henry Cecil filly must always be followed. This one bolted up by four lengths in her first handicap at Newmarket.
One to watch
Warling (J Noseda) Finished powerfully at Goodwood last weekend, promising success once raised to 12f.
Where the money's going
Starspangledbanner is 7-4 from 9-4 with Ladbrokes for the Betfred Sprint Trophy at Haydock tomorrow.