Having already pulled off one pretty outrageous stunt with the same mare, Jeremy Noseda yesterday contrived to raise the bar higher still with Laddies Poker Two. The Newmarket trainer wants to give the grey her first race since landing a spectacular gamble at Royal Ascot in June – and, as such, only her second in two years – at the Breeders' Cup.
Few trainers would have had the audacity to bring Laddies Poker Two back from an absence of 18 months in a race as competitive as the Wokingham Handicap – never mind the expertise to get the job done, or the confidence to encourage her owners that she could win. But she coasted through from nearly last place to win easily, leaving no doubt that her future lay at a higher level.
Unfortunately, the same fragility that had caused her to disappear for so long means that Noseda is once again relying on the fact that she demonstrably goes very well fresh. Laddies Poker Two suffered another setback after Ascot and Noseda has resolved to make the most of such opportunities as she gives him.
"If I can get her there, I'd love to run her in the Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs," he disclosed. "The trickiest part is just that – getting her there. If I can do that, I know she has the talent. It's safe to say she's not the soundest, and sustained an injury in her last piece of work before the Hackwood Stakes [at Newbury in July], which was her next target after Ascot. It's always something different, too. She really is a bit of a nightmare.
"But every time I see one of these top sprints, I find myself wishing that she could be there, because I know she'd be competitive. It was pretty ambitious to go for the Wokingham, and I think we should stay ambitious. She is hugely talented."
Noseda's more immediate priority is the Ladbrokes St Leger on Saturday, albeit he acknowledges that Theology will go to Doncaster with far less obvious credentials than Sixties Icon, his 2006 winner. "But I'm sure he's worth his place," the trainer said. "I feel he's approaching the race in top shape, and he'll love the trip. The stiffer the test, the more chance he'll have."
Theology was one of a dozen five-day acceptors yesterday, four of which are trained by Aidan O'Brien, Midas Touch and Joshua Tree being his most likely representatives. Flying Cross, an unexposed, superbly bred colt who only resurfaced at Tipperary a few days ago, is instead likely to take on Rite Of Passage in the Irish St Leger at the Curragh on the same afternoon. "We haven't really looked under his bonnet yet," O'Brien said.
As for the other pair, he remains optimistic that they can get closer to Rewilding, hot favourite since thrashing them into second and third in the Great Voltigeur Stakes last month. "We gave Midas Touch a break after the Irish Derby, and viewed York as a prep for the Leger," O'Brien said. "He was giving Rewilding 3lb and we were very happy with his run. We think he's still on the upgrade. Joshua Tree got held up in the spring, and was just ready to start at York. We told Jamie [Spencer] to take his time early on, and he came home very well."
Rewilding, however, is unmistakably the one to beat as Godolphin seek their sixth win in the oldest Classic – and the first supervised by Mahmood al-Zarooni, in his rookie season. Simon Crisford, the Godolphin manager, raised the intriguing possibility that Rewilding could yet enter the equation for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. "But he has got to win on Saturday first," he emphasised. "Mahmood's very happy with him, and he has a fantastic profile for the race. In my view, the Leger is all about class – and he's got it. He's from a fabulous family, he's going to get better as he gets older and next year he will be campaigning over shorter."
Corsica, trained by Mark Johnston but owned by Sheikh Mohammed's son, is able to run primarily as a pacemaker for Rewilding, who is 13-8 favourite. The sponsors then bet: 7-1 Arctic Cosmos, Dandino, Midas Touch, Snow Fairy, 8-1 Joshua Tree, 14-1 Ted Spread and 25-1 bar.
*Chris McGrath's Nap Aragall (2.0 Goodwood)
Still in the early stages of his career here, the German import was beaten off this mark last time but remains well worth another chance after bumping into an unexposed rival that day. Has already won under amateur steering and will relish the extra furlong.
Next best Fault (3.55 Lingfield)
Seemed to have lost his way but artfully rekindled by a couple of wins in lesser grade, suggesting that he might yet prove well treated restored to handicap company today.
One to watch
Gouray Girl (W R Swinburn) had shaped nicely on her return from a long lay-off at Wolverhampton and failed only in a photo at Goodwood last week.
Where the money's going
Paco Boy, unlucky in France on Sunday, is 7-1 from 8-1 for the Breeders' Cup Mile with William Hill after Richard Hannon suggested he could finish his career at Churchill Downs in November.