O'Brien treads carefully with Rip

Foot problems still dog favourite's preparation for QEII rematch with Delegator

The late withdrawal of then-favourite Age Of Aquarius from the St Leger because of injury was testament to the fact that racing's chief miracle is not that a horse wins a race, but that the beast gets to the track in the first place. More than two centuries of evolution and selective breeding seems to have honed not only athletic ability in thoroughbred, but also the knack of twisting, tweaking, cracking and bruising virtually any part of its anatomy.

Saturday's Queen Elizabeth II Stakes is a case in point. The race should identify the season's best colt over a mile; the perceived top three in the division – Rip Van Winkle, Delegator and Aqlaam – are set to take part. But for two of them, physical vicissitudes have beset their road to the top.

Rip Van Winkle has long been one of Aidan O'Brien's favourites and he may yet end the campaign as the highest-rated performer at Ballydoyle. After three top-level placings behind Sea The Stars, the three-year-old was rewarded with his own Group One prize in the Sussex Stakes in July. But his participation at Goodwood was a close-run thing after he hurt a hind hoof; his trainer judged him sound enough to compete only after he had seen him trot to the start.

There was nothing wrong with the way the son of Galileo galloped back as he pulled clear of Paco Boy but since then his foot problems have meant an interrupted preparation. As a precaution O'Brien also declared his second-best miler Mastercraftsman at yesterday's penultimate stage for the Sony-sponsored Ascot showpiece, though Rip Van Winkle is its general even-money market leader. "If Rip is OK, he'll get preference," O'Brien said yesterday. "We've not had a clear run with him since Goodwood but we're getting there and we're happy enough."

If O'Brien has been treading softly, softly with Rip Van Winkle for the past month, William Haggas had to wear the velvet gloves for nearly a year in nurturing Aqlaam's innate talent. The four-year-old Oasis Dream colt, who runs for Sheikh Hamdan, suffered a hairline pelvic fracture after winning the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot in June last year and did not appear again until May.

Though rest and recuperation will heal the body, the mind can be more difficult to deal with and patience in this area is not just a virtue, but a necessity, for it is not possible to explain to a horse in words that his discomfort is behind him. Haggas and his team have shown the utmost skill in getting the fragile Aqlaam, who has also suffered knee problems, back to his best. "If a horse associates running with pain," said former jockey Michael Tebbutt, now one of the regular Somerville Lodge work riders, "then even after he's sound he'll tend to save a bit for himself, won't put himself under pressure.

"You have to be very careful in building up his confidence again to the point where he realises that, hey, this isn't going to hurt after all. It can take time but when you feel a horse who has been injured moving happily and confidently again, it's very rewarding."

After a couple of near misses at the top Aqlaam, too, fulfilled his Group One potential last time out with a defeat of Famous Name in the Prix du Moulin at Longchamp. He is only third favourite for Saturday's showdown, though; second spot on the betting list goes to the Godolphin challenger Delegator, bringing the promise of an elite clash between the Co Tipperary and Dubai superpowers.

Delegator, runner-up in the 2,000 Guineas to Sea The Stars when Rip Van Winkle was fourth, failed narrowly against Mastercraftsman at Royal Ascot, after which he was transferred to the Blues and won at Group Two level at Goodwood last month.

The 11 remaining in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes include a selection of Ballydoyle pacemakers and the overall mile champion-elect, the French-trained filly Goldikova. She, though, is highly unlikely to run; her target is the Prix de la Forêt on home soil the following weekend, after which she will head to California to defend her Breeders' Cup Mile title, very probably against Saturday's Ascot winner, who qualifies automatically for the Santa Anita race.

Turf account: Sue Montgomery

Nap

Dorback (3.00 Beverley)

Well-entered colt who impressed in beating a subsequent Group winner on his debut. Flopped in tacky conditions next time but is worth another chance on better ground.



Next best

Tafaool (4.20 Folkestone)

Beautifully bred filly who will progress for her belated seasonal debut and looks to have been found a perfect chance to enhance her value.



One to watch

Protector (A G Foster) won his "race" on the unfavourable stands side in Ayr's Silver Cup on Saturday but had 10 in front on the far side. His turn should soon come for real, particularly with more ease in the ground.



Where the money's going

Charm School has been halved in price to 12-1 second-favourite for the Cambridgeshire by Sky Bet since winning at Newbury on Saturday.



Chris McGrath's Nap

William's Wishes (2.10 Stratford).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform