John Steinbeck once claimed that his own profession made "horseracing seem a solid, stable business", but the colt named in his honour seems determined to charge the writer with exaggeration.
A foal from the first crop of Footstepsinthesand, Steinbeck looked a brilliant prospect when beating previous winners on his debut at Naas in May, and is already quoted no better than 14-1 for next year's Stan James 2,000 Guineas. But while a series of targets have been proposed in turn, he has failed to resurface since, and last night his trainer, Aidan O'Brien, disclosed that Steinbeck is now unlikely to be seen before the autumn.
He was not declared for the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot – a blessing in disguise, given the staggering speed and precocity shown by Canford Cliffs – and then missed his next appointment, the Railway Stakes at the Curragh. O'Brien won the race anyway with Alfred Nobel (the close third had been brushed aside by Steinbeck at Naas) and afterwards indicated that Steinbeck might come to the July Festival at Newmarket this week.
But the colt's name did not appear among the entries, and O'Brien explained that he has now decided to give him the whole summer off. "Steinbeck is on a break and probably won't run until the end of the season," the Ballydoyle trainer said. "But there's no big problem – just growing pains."
The situation is unhappily reminiscent of last year, when minor setbacks kept Rip Van Winkle off the track between July and October. O'Brien feels that a lack of grounding was still evident when Rip Van Winkle finally came off the bridle against Sea The Stars in the Coral Eclipse Stakes at Sandown last Saturday.
It must duly be hoped that Steinbeck can gain some more experience in the autumn, because O'Brien was making no bones about his potential even in the spring, when he memorably observed that the birds in the trees at Ballydoyle were all singing about him.
In the meantime Richard Hannon is planning to give Canford Cliffs his next start in the Prix Robert Papin at Maisons-Laffitte on 26 July, a trip of just five and a half furlongs.
Rainbow needs July showers
Even without Steinbeck, the July Festival promises to be as gorgeous a spectacle as usual. On Friday, Scenic Blast is hot favourite to confirm himself the best sprinter seen on these shores in many years in the Darley July Cup, while the meeting opens tomorrow with a contest between Goldikova and Rainbow View in the Etihad Airways Falmouth Stakes.
Rainbow View looked on the way back when third over this trip in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot, albeit the going remains officially good to firm and she would be grateful for the forecast showers. Goldikova, in contrast, craves a faster surface after a dismal comeback run in testing ground at Longchamp. She had sent sparks flying off firm going in the Breeders' Cup Mile last autumn, but it may yet prove pertinent that her form improved throughout the season. She could be one of those fillies that reserve their best for the autumn.
The eight runners declared yesterday also included Spacious and Heaven Sent, first and second in the Windsor Forest Stakes at Royal Ascot, while the first of the meeting's juvenile Group races, the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Cherry Hinton Stakes, is dominated by Habaayib, impressive winner of the Albany Stakes.
Curragh to get late Midday
High noon beckons on Sunday for Midday, the Oaks runner-up, when she is likely to follow her narrow Epsom conqueror, Sariska, to the Irish equivalent at the Curragh. Khaled Abdulla would have to pay €50,000 (£43,000) this morning to supplement his filly to the Darley Irish Oaks field, but his racing manager, Teddy Grimthorpe, indicated that only a very wet forecast would discourage him from making that investment.
The tensest showdown of the week, however, remains at the guns-holstered stage. Yesterday the British Horseracing Authority again postponed publication of their verdicts against those charged in the wake of the "race-fixing" trial which collapsed at the Old Bailey in 2007.
Turf account: Chris McGrath
Rhinestone Ruby (9.20 Uttoxeter) Only beaten in a photo over course and distance last time, and while her revised rating makes it close at the weights this time with Candle, third that day, she has tended to look more enthusiastic than her rival.
Jeer (4.0 Pontefract) Has quickly tumbled down to a very lenient rating for his new yard and showed signs of renewal when staying on steadily last time. It's now a matter of when, not if.
One to watch
Having failed to build on his juvenile promise at three, Alfathaa (W.J. Haggas) was gelded before resurfacing at Royal Ascot and running an excellent fifth from a poor draw in the Hunt Cup. On Saturday he was set too much to do in another valuable handicap at Sandown, and already looks an ideal type for the Cambridgeshire.
Where the money's going
Ben Chorley is 14-1 from 20-1 with William Hill for the John Smith's Cup at York on Saturday.