Dermot Weld's quest for an elusive Derby victory has hit a potentially ruinous stumbling block after his leading Epsom fancy Zawraq was the subject of an injury scare yesterday.
The unbeaten Hamdan Al Maktoum-owned colt remains the lowest-priced Irish contender for Saturday's premier Classic, but he is now as big as 7/1 from 9/2. Impressive when beating the Irish 2,000 Guineas runner-up Endless Drama on his return at Leopardstown on April 12, Zawraq was described as being slightly lame after an otherwise satisfactory gallop on the Curragh.
"He did a bit of work this morning with Pat Smullen up," Maktoum's racing manager Angus Gold explained. "He did it fine and walked back to the yard okay, but when the head lad came back into his box, he just thought he took a lame step. They just felt he wasn't 100 per cent.
"He has been to the vets for an X-ray and scans and they came back fine; they didn't show up anything apart from a small mark on the inside of his near-fore cannon bone, so hopefully he has just given himself a knock. He's being iced and hopefully he has just given himself a bang, but we will know more over the next 36 hours or so.
"It was his final piece of work so he has done everything and is a fit horse. We're hoping to get him to the Derby but we wanted to make everyone aware of what has happened. The timing isn't ideal."
Despite Zawraq's drift in the betting, he remains the market's most popular Irish contender. Ken Condon's Success Days is still available to back at twice his odds, while John Gosden's fancied duo Golden Horn and Jack Hobbs shortened to 6/4 and 5/1, respectively.
The other positive mover has been Giovanni Canaletto, one of three that will strive to give Aidan O'Brien a fourth successive victory in the great race and confirmed last night as Ryan Moore's intended Derby mount.
A full-brother to the firm's 2013 hero Ruler Of The World, the Galileo colt has won just one of three career starts, looking green and as though he lacked a gear when staying on to be second to Curvy on his Curragh reappearance.
He is now as low as 7/1, having been as big as 20/1 last week. Speaking on At The Races yesterday, the Ballydoyle genius, who will also saddle Hans Holbein (Seamie Heffernan) and Kilimanjaro (Joseph O'Brien), said he was "very happy" with Giovanni Canaletto.
"He was coming home very well," O'Brien mused of his comeback. "Obviously, it was only a couple of weeks ago. Obviously, it's a little quicker than ideal but he seems to have come out of the race in good form. We were very happy, our horse finished very well. Maybe the line just came a shade too early but our horse ran a great race."
O'Brien indicated that stamina is one of the chief attributes that both Hans Holbein and Kilimanjaro possess, while he hinted that Friday's Oaks hopefuls Diamondsandrubies (Heffernan), Together Forever (O'Brien) and Qualify (Colm O'Donoghue) would all relish a bit of good ground at Epsom.
Meanwhile, AP McCoy will be back in the saddle sooner than anyone might have imagined. The 20-time champion only retired on April 25, but he has agreed to ride in the annual legends' charity Flat race at Doncaster's St Leger meeting in September.
Quoted on the Racing Post website, McCoy said: "I had no desire to do it at all, but it is in a good cause."
At Brighton yesterday, Jamie Spencer stood himself down after winning the card's opener on Mirage. The course was engulfed in thick fog and high winds battered the track, prompting Spencer to tell the stewards that he felt conditions were unsafe. Curiously, while his explanation was accepted, the meeting continued.