Queally forfeits Cup ride on Spirit

Dettori handed mount in Santa Anita Sprint after Longchamp controversy
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The Independent Online

This has unmistakably been a breakthrough season for Tom Queally, but yesterday he slithered into the shattered glass. Just five days after winning his fourth Group One prize since June, on Twice Over in the Champion Stakes, Queally was unceremoniously "jocked off" Fleeting Spirit at the Breeders' Cup. The filly will instead be ridden at Santa Anita next month by Frankie Dettori.

Queally rode Fleeting Spirit to win the July Cup at Newmarket, but was also in the saddle when she finished second after missing the break in the Prix de l'Abbaye last time. Her connections blame the Longchamp stalls handlers for her slow start, but yesterday one of her owners, Andy Stewart, implied that Queally's relative lack of international experience may also have been a factor, suggesting that he was caught out by an abrupt local starting procedure and was late taking off her hood.

"And if you give away six lengths in a five-furlong race, you're not going to win," Stewart said. "Tom will go right to the top. In a few years' time I think he'll be the next Kieren Fallon or Lester Piggott. But we have spoken to Simon Crisford [the Godolphin manager], who said that Frankie will be available, and he will ride Fleeting Spirit in the Breeders' Cup Sprint."

Queally has already been told that he will keep the mount on the Henry Cecil-trained Twice Over in the Breeders' Cup Classic itself. He is also set to ride Midday for Cecil in the Filly and Mare Turf.

Stewart was speaking at the launch of a landmark agreement between the Breeders' Cup and Betfair, whose clients will now be able to bet directly into the racetrack pari-mutuel pools – a development saluted by Greg Avioli, the Breeders' Cup chief executive, as "a gateway to the future" and a long-term prototype for a wagering world without frontiers.

Avioli responded stoically to the absence from the meeting of the outstanding three-year-olds either side of the Atlantic, in Rachel Alexandra and Sea The Stars. "My experience in other fields – the Olympics, golf, tennis – has taught me that championships are always remembered for the athletes that turn up and compete," he reasoned. "We will have one of the greatest fillies we have seen in decades, in Zenyatta, and it sounds as though her people are leaning towards running against the males in the Classic. Who knows? Maybe their decision might have been affected had Sea The Stars made the trip. Obviously, we would have loved to see those horses there, and we do want to be the world thoroughbred championship – not just the American one. But even without them it looks like being a tremendously strong Breeders' Cup, with 30 to 40 Group One or Two winners. That's the beauty of the meeting. It has 150 different stories."

Rachel Alexandra's defection is because of her connections' aversion to what they have disparaged as a "plastic" surface at Santa Anita, and as such neatly condenses the painful catharsis being experienced by American traditionalists. Last year, when the meeting was staged at the same venue, the European raiders enjoyed a day of unprecedented success.

"But that in turn is developing a wonderful theme," Avioli said. "That Ryder Cup-type rivalry didn't previously exist to quite the same extent. Remember, it was only when the Europeans started winning, in the 1980s, that the Americans really became fired up about the Ryder Cup."

One transatlantic sortie that has not paid off was that of Look Here, who disappointed in Canada last weekend and has now been retired. But Ralph Beckett knows that she played an irrevocable part in putting him on the map, as a trainer – and Queally can console himself in much the same way about Fleeting Spirit.

Turf account: Chris McGrath


Dr Robert (4.20 Fakenham) Became yet another recruit to show improvement for Tim Vaughan at Wincanton last time and the way he travelled before idling in front implied he had plenty in hand – and that he would relish this sharp track.

Next best

Puy d'Arnac (4.05 Doncaster) Caught out by a sprint finish at Newcastle last time but his late rally, and form off higher marks in the past, suggest he should remain competitive if handling this faster going.

One to watch

Thief Of Time (P W Chapple-Hyam) seems a better operator on the all-weather and produced a storming finish into second at Kempton the other day when set too much to do off a steady gallop.

Where the money's going

St Nicholas Abbey, already 8-1 favourite for the Investec Derby, is 14-1 with William Hill to set up an Epsom win by taking the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster tomorrow.