Dettori loses Mandaean ride to 'heir' Barzalona
THE strength in depth of the Classic generation at Ballydoyle is inviting invidious comparisons with the Turf's other superpowers.
At Godolphin, in particular, a recent mood of renewal was abruptly suspended after the first two Classics were both won by their great rivals.
Godolphin failed even to muster a runner in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, while their two fancied fillies in the 1,000 Guineas both finished tailed off. The stakes will be uncomfortably high, then, when the unbeaten Mandaean measures his Derby prospects in the Betfred Dante Stakes at York tomorrow. And there is significance, surely, in the fact that the imported colt will be ridden by another new recruit from France.
When Mickael Barzalona signed for Godolphin during the winter, their managers stressed that there would be no formal pecking order beyond the seniority natural to Frankie Dettori, who has ridden in their service for the best part of two decades. But while Dettori was originally lined up for Mandaean, Sheikh Mohammed has decided that Barzalona should ride.
The French ace burst onto the scene with his superb display on Pour Moi in last year's Derby, and will be expected to keep the ride should Mandaean earn his place at Epsom. He is already set to ride Godolphin's leading Oaks candidate after establishing an affinity with Kailani in her trial at Newmarket.
Dettori knows that Barzalona is being groomed as his heir, but will still be taken aback by the pace of change.
The next couple of days represent the last chance for a fresh hat in the Epsom ring, but there is a lack of depth to today's Musidora Stakes.
Yet, inevitably, Aidan O'Brien is able to send over an eligible filly -- even though he already has both the top two in the Oaks betting, in Kissed and Maybe.
Though Twirl was a beaten favourite on her reappearance, she actually ran well against a smart older rival over a mile. It was still only March, after all, and her first start outside maiden company. Her physique suggests continued improvement and she should really find her stride over this longer distance and galloping straight.
Her obvious rival is The Fugue, but it's a little unnerving to see an inexperienced filly turned out just 10 days after such a big run in the 1,000 Guineas. Striking winner of her only start at two, The Fugue kept on well from off the pace at Newmarket in a race dominated throughout by Homecoming Queen, finishing in fourth.
She has plenty of talent, but runs here largely to help connections decide if she might see out the longer trip at Epsom. As such their hand has been somewhat forced and Twirl (2.30) duly looks the safer bet.
There is greater competition for the Duke of York Totepool Stakes, where one of last season's most progressive sprinters, Hoof It, meets one that has started the new campaign in a similar vein, in Mayson.
Neither have any secrets from the bookmakers -- unlike French raider Restiadargent or indeed The Cheka (3.0). Unexposed in this discipline, he is twice the price of Mayson despite beating him when dropped to this trip for the first time on their reappearance.
Meanwhile, O'Brien's Ascot Gold Cup winner Fame And Glory is due to make his seasonal reappearance in the Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan on Sunday when Dermot Weld's Unaccompanied, Jessica Harrington's Steps To Freedom and Mark Johnston's Eternal Heart could be among his rivals. (© Independent News Service)