Frankie Dettori linked with chance at riding Harbinger
Frankie Dettori is the favoured candidate for the most coveted vacancy of the racing summer — but his availability may not be established in time for connections of Harbinger.
Ryan Moore, Sir Michael Stoute's stable jockey, has confirmed his intention to remain loyal to the Derby winner, Workforce, in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes on Saturday week.
That left Highclere Thoroughbreds, the syndicate owners of Harbinger, seeking a new rider for Stoute's other big hope. And Dettori, celebrated for his particular mastery of Ascot, is viewed as the ideal man for the job.
For now, however, it remains impossible for connections of Harbinger, so impressive in the Hardwicke Stakes over course and distance last month, to proceed with a booking.
As retained jockey to Godolphin, Dettori would have to ride Cavalryman were he committed to the race. While it is thought that Cavalryman is more likely to have his sights lowered after trailing in last at Royal Ascot, there remain additional complications.
For a start, that decision is apparently unlikely to be made before the weekend. Then there is the possibility that Godolphin would instead require Dettori to ride at York, the same day.
His chances of riding Harbinger, then, would seem to be contingent not only on Cavalryman missing the King George, but on Godolphin having feasible priorities for Dettori on the rest of the Ascot card.
And that may not become apparent in time for him to become acquainted with Harbinger in any meaningful way on the gallops.
Whoever rides, Harbinger is looking an increasingly formidable rival to his young stablemate Workforce. He started odds-on for the Hardwicke, but those behind him that day have since lent substance to the form.
Barshiba, beaten nearly ten lengths into third, won the Lancashire Oaks and then last week, Sans Frontieres and Redwood, fourth and fifth respectively, dominated the finish of the Princess of Wales' Stakes at Newmarket.
Once again, then, the King George looks likely to prove pivotal to the destiny of the trainers' championship. Stoute saddled the first three home last year, on his way to a tenth title, and is duly 4-9 favourite with Ladbrokes to overhaul Richard Hannon (3-1) in the prizemoney table.
Hannon, however, has an excellent record in valuable sales prizes, quite apart from the unprecedented depth of his representation in championship races this summer. On the other hand his top juveniles, Strong Suit and Memory, are both heading abroad for their next start, to the Curragh for the Phoenix and Moyglare Stakes respectively.
Hannon must hope that the bookmakers have also misinterpreted the King George, and that a horse like Cape Blanco could yet intrude on Stoute's big guns — or maybe Daryakana.