Swinburn left on sidelines again

Richard Edmondson reports on a low ebb in the fortunes of a leading jockey
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The Independent Online
Walter Swinburn was 34 on Monday, but it is unlikely to have been a day of party hats and plastic noses. Variously "the choirboy" and "the man for the big occasion", Swinburn is now in danger of becoming "the outcast", following perhaps the worst three weeks of his riding career.

If the jockey believes the fates have plunged a knife into his back, he will have felt the steel twisting yesterday with the news that he is no longer a consideration for good horses he would have thought were his by right.

Following Lanfranco Dettori's fall at Haydock on Saturday, the imminent rides for the Godolphin team are up for grabs, but the company that Swinburn has served so well no longer wants him. He is not considered an automatic choice for either Tamayaz, who will be supplemented for Sunday's Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville, or Darnay, who runs within these shores two days earlier.

"We are waiting to hear from Michael Kinane and it depends if he has commitments in Ireland on Sunday," a spokesperson for Godolphin said yesterday. "He definitely rides Darnay in the Hungerford Stakes at Newbury on Friday."

Swinburn could also have expected to be offered a Marois ride on Sayyedati, on whom he has won both that race (two years ago) and a 1,000 Guineas. That chair will be occupied, however, by Brett Doyle, the 22-year-old jockey who was still at primary school when Swinburn was winning Derbys. Doyle has never ridden in France before, but keeps the ride following his success in the Sussex Stakes, in which his task was aided by the recalcitrant behaviour of one of his main rivals, Soviet Line. Swinburn rode him.

A popular racecourse theory is that Swinburn's fortunes have ebbed because he has displeased the camp of Maktoum Al Maktoum, to whom he is retained rider. However, Joe Mercer, the owner's racing manager, revealed yesterday that the partnership may be renewed next season. "We hope to sign him for next year," Mercer said. "I haven't put anything to him yet, but I will do so at the first opportunity. When I spoke to the boss at Newmarket he said he would like Walter to ride for him again next year."

This weekend Swinburn, who had been expected to travel to Ireland, will ride instead in a Group Two race in Germany for Sheikh Maktoum's younger brother, Sheikh Mohammed, and his old ally Michael Stoute.

On Monday, Swinburn rode a winner at Windsor for Stoute, his 38th of the campaign. That left him in 24th place in the riders' table, a position that disguises the fact his bank manager is among the most satisfied in the land. Swinburn's mounts have earned more than pounds 1.1m in Britain alone this year, a figure exceeded only by Lanfranco Dettori.

The biggest contribution was Lammtarra's Derby success, which, allied to the further victories of Classic Cliche (Dante Stakes) and Halling (Eclipse Stakes), all of them for Godolphin, attracted exalted comments about Swinburn's riding. With this record,riding considerations surely cannot be behind his ostracism, which began when he was removed from Lammtarra for the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.

If the Maktoums and their entourage have been disturbed by some aspect of Swinburn's out-of-saddle activities, the cornflakes will have been sprayed across the breakfast table last week when news that he had been arrested for a drink-driving offence the previous Sunday became public.

The man who has prosecuted riding at the highest level (with three Derbys and a Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe) will appear at Newmarket magistrates' court later this month to explain why he did not provide a sample when in charge of a vehicle. At that time Swinburn was suffering from an injured shoulder, having been unseated by Wisam at Glorious Goodwood. He has been feeling sore on more than one level in recent weeks.

Sayyedati's nearest pursuer in the Sussex Stakes, Bahri, who is owned by another member of Dubai's ruling family, Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, is to be stepped up in distance in the International Stakes at York's Ebor meeting next week. "It has always been in Sheikh Hamdan's mind to see if he will stay 10 furlongs," Angus Gold, the owner's racing manager, said yesterday. "If he runs well than races like the Champion Stakes would be on the agenda."