Meehan to weigh up decision on Manassas
THE paradox amused Brian Meehan. As he sweated in the Dubai sun yesterday morning, he was anxiously trying to monitor how much rain was falling at Doncaster before the William Hill Lincoln on Saturday.
Although Meehan has prepared Manassas for the first notable handicap of the turf season, he is reluctant to run on a saturated surface.
"The horse doesn't like soft ground," the trainer said. "I'm not inclined to pull him about on it, so he could well wait for a race at Newbury three weeks later."
Manassas is 9/1 second favourite for the £125,000 contest.
"He's the perfect horse for the race because he doesn't take much work to get fit," Meehan said.
"We'd like to run, but it's not the be-all and end-all." Final declarations are due this morning but further rain is forecast before Saturday.
The Lincoln favourite is Penitent, trained by William Haggas, who has matched him with the well-regarded South Easter in much of his work. And the Newmarket trainer is confident that the son of Kyllachy will see out the eighth furlong.
"He ran well over a mile at Southwell on that slow surface," he said. "I think he will get the trip no problem."
Haggas has booked Johnny Murtagh for Penitent, whose odds of 5/1 highlight potential improvement in the lightly raced four-year-old.
"I don't know how many well-handicapped horses there are in the Lincoln these days, but mine is one of the least exposed," Haggas said.
"He enjoys cut in the ground and is clean-winded."
So tightly knit is the race that Huzzah, a staying-on fifth last year, is in danger of missing the cut. Mia's Boy, one place ahead of Huzzah 12 months ago, tops Saturday's weights from a 4lb higher rating but Huzzah, subsequently dropped 5lb, requires two above him to defect if he is to make the 22-runner line-up.
Manassas could be one, although Meehan has bigger fish to fry in Dubai on Saturday.
Cat Junior runs in the Godolphin Mile before Crowded House attempts to win the $10m (€7.5m) Dubai World Cup, in which Jamie Spencer stands down for John Velazquez.
A leading US jockey, Velazquez was due to ride Crowded House in Dubai four weeks ago until the horse was put aside for the World Cup.
"I talked about it with Paul Reddam and we agreed we would carry that arrangement forward," Meehan said.
"The World Cup will ride more like an American race, and afterwards the horse will come back to Europe and Jamie will be back on board."
Twice Over's Dubai World Cup hopes were dealt a blow when Henry Cecil's charge drew stall 11 of 14 for the world's richest race. The draw was seemingly more kind to Marco Botti's recent Lingfield winner, Gitano Hernando, which will break from stall two in the hands of six-times champion jockey Kieren Fallon.
Crowded House has drawn stall nine, while Christophe Clement's Gio Ponti, which was a place ahead of Twice Over in the Breeders' Cup Classic, will be in stall four.
Godolphin have 20 runners in the seven races on Saturday, although a new trainer will appear before the names of seven of them. Mahmood Al Zarooni is to share training responsibilities with Saeed Bin Suroor, whom he has assisted for the past year.
The Dubai native will subsequently bring his own string to Britain and base himself at Moulton Paddocks, near Newmarket.
"Mahmood has good experience," Simon Crisford, Godolphin's racing manager, said.
"We think he is going to be a great asset. It will take a bit of pressure off Saeed. Sheikh Mohammed himself will decide which horses go where."
The appointment formalises an arrangement that saw a separate annex develop within Godolphin some time ago. Many horses ridden regularly by Ahmed Ajtebi in the past six months will now officially join Al Zarooni.
Crisford also reported that Kingsfort and Sand Vixen, which were quoted for the 2000 Guineas and 1000 Guineas respectively, will not be seen until mid-summer after sustaining injuries. Passion For Gold will trial for the Derby in York's Dante Stakes. (© The Times, London)