Wootton Bassett out of opening Classic
The white flag was finally hoisted yesterday on behalf of 2,000 Guineas candidate Wootton Bassett, whose trainer Richard Fahey had been struggling to ready him for the season's first Classic since the colt suffered a setback earlier in the year.
But the redoubtable Malton-based handler put a positive spin on his frustration, looking forward immediately to pitting his charge's talent against that of the season's putative superstar Frankel later in the year.
Wootton Bassett, who put himself in the elite frame last year when he gave Fahey a first Group One success by taking France's top juvenile contest, showed that talent intact yesterday morning, but in terms of his fitness it was too little too late.
“He worked well and had a good blow,” said the trainer. “But we've just run out of time.
“It's disappointing but we didn't want to go to the Guineas if he wasn't 100 per cent. We missed three and a half weeks with him just at the wrong time.
“He was back cantering by the end of February but Newmarket will just come too soon for him.”
Fahey will spread his Classic net elsewhere next month before any showdown with odds-on Guineas favourite Frankel, who made a winning comeback from the Henry Cecil stable in the Greenham Stakes three days ago.
“We'll look at other options now the pressure is off,” added Fahey.
“We could go to the Curragh for the Irish 2000 Guineas or Longchamp for the French version.
“And hopefully we will meet the wonder horse somewhere down the line. Hopefully Wootton Bassett can stay undefeated and that would be grand.”
Wootton Bassett is the second 2,000 Guineas challenger to defect in 24 hours, following the chief hope from the Godolphin stable, Dubai Prince.
A decision will be made as to whether or not either or both the blues' back-ups, Casamento and Saamid, will take the field on the Rowley Mile on Saturday week after the pair work this week.
Kieren Fallon will know tomorrow whether he will be free to partner the Ed Dunlop-trained Craven Stakes winner Native Khan, perceived as the strongest home side opposition to his Newmarket neighbour Frankel, in the season's first Classic.
The jockey picked up a 10-day ban last week when he was judged to have dropped his hands in a finish and lost a place, and will have his appeal against his punishment, which would rule him out of the Guineas meeting, heard in the morning.