The status of Derby favourite proved something of a poisoned chalice this spring, when first Kingsbarns and then Telescope dropped out of the Epsom picture with setbacks. Both are about to start making up for lost time, however, each having been given an exploratory Group Three entry this weekend. Telescope, who made an impressive resumption at Leicester last month, could go to Haydock on Saturday, while Kingsbarns is on course to reappear at the Curragh the following day.
Neither trainer nor jockey has been in his service as long as others who could testify gratefully to the fidelity of their patron, but both left the sunshine and flowers of the July Course with optimism that Anjaal could yet seal their growing roles at the centre of Sheikh Hamdan's racing empire.
For anyone who has wondered quite how the British Turf continues to seduce investment from the Gulf, perhaps a day at the July Festival at Newmarket might prove every bit as instructive as one spent among the pomp and pageantry of Ascot or Epsom. At a time of year when their homelands seem most arid, the sheikhs find themselves driven through avenues of trees between green paddocks to a racecourse full of shade and flowers. And if the quality of the sport is mixed, with plenty of maidens and handicaps as ballast to the elite contests, then there will be a corresponding air of relaxation over the next three afternoons – not least granted the benign weather forecast.
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The rest of the card was mostly attrition for the punters
Freezing temperatures mean today is on track to be the coldest March day since 1986, forecasters said.
On the face of it, with the vast majority of Cheltenham horses now keeping their powder dry, the main focus either side of the Irish Sea today is on the John Smith’s Grand National.
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The loss of Cheltenham today was rued not only by thousands who had relied on the meeting for their customary New Year's Day hangover cure, but also by those seeking a remedy for Oscar Whisky. Nicky Henderson had hoped to give the horse another run over the intermediate distance of two and a half miles, but instead ended up parading him to Channel 4 viewers in a live broadcast from his stables. And the trainer disclosed that waterlogging at Cheltenham had now forced his hand, in the ongoing debate over Oscar Whisky's eligibility for big races over two miles or three.
It never seemed terribly likely that his spree might be brought to an end by a superior horse, at least so long as connections declined to risk him over shorter distances.
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Even before her scare at Ascot, Black Caviar's trainer had taken one look at the undulations of the July Course and abandoned any notion of sticking around for the Darley July Cup. Moonlight Cloud, who so nearly ruined the Australian champion's perfect record, is also safely out of the way, back in France. There is a tempting Group One opportunity, then, at Newmarket on Saturday – and two new hats were duly thrown into the ring yesterday.
Today's Irish Derby will be no easy addition to Ballydoyle star's CV in heavy Curragh going
In his youth, Hughie Morrison saw his father breed two Oaks winners from the same mare, so he could hardly be astounded if two candidates for the same Classic happened to emerge from one stable.