John Gosden said at Newmarket on Friday that the star stablemates are each “in great form” for one of the autumn showpieces but the prospects of Cracksman, a general 9-1 chance, being in the line-up in Paris appear to be receding because of a dry forecast in France and the likelihood of fast ground.
The trainer also expressed a degree of concern about quick conditions for Enable, although there is no suggestion that the general 5-4 favourite will not defend her crown after putting a knee injury behind her and making a winning comeback at Kempton last month.
“She goes on most ground but bred the ways she is - a Nathaniel out of a Sadler’s Wells mare - she would prefer some rain,” Gosden said after saddling Highgarden to win the Group Three Princess Royal Nayef Stakes.
Cracksman missed the Arc 12 months ago because connections insisted he would be more the finished article at four. Instead, he romped home in the Champion Stakes and it again seems on the cards that he will be rerouted to Ascot on October 20 for Qipco British Champions Day. He is 11-4 with Paddy Power and Betfair to become the first dual winner of the Champion Stakes since Twice Over in 2010.
“There are no decisions at that stage. The closer it gets, I will work it out,” Gosden said. “I’ve got someone walking it [the track], will find out what the [watering] policy is, but it is sunny, dry and breezy and it looks like it’s going to continue that way right through next weekend.
“We always have this concept it’s going to be a big old mudbath but it not always and it seems unlikely to be this time looking at the forecast. There’s not a drop of rain around for the next ten days.
“Consequently, all being well, Enable will be there and with Cracksman we will just sit there and measure everything. He’s only got this race and the Champion Stakes left, and then he will be retired to stud. So to that extent we will have to pace the box a bit - and pace the course.”
Cracksman has missed the King George and Juddmonte International this summer because of fast ground. His last run was when runner-up to Poet’s Word in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot, when he needed plenty of encouragement from an early stage. He won the Prix Ganay on the course in the spring, but last weekend Gosden expressed major concerns at the quality of the turf at the rebuilt racecourse.
Touching on Cracksman's wellbeing, Gosden added: “He’s absolutely back to his best. It’s not been an easy year for him, he’s out of a Pivotal mare and just loves to get his toe in. There hasn’t been much of that this summer.”
Roger Varian also wants rain for Defoe, who is a top-priced 40-1 after a narrow defeat in Group One company in Germany last time.
Varian believes Defoe can be competitive, granted some give in the ground and reckons it would not take much rain to alter underfoot conditions.
“We were at Longchamp last weekend and I walked the track,” he said. “I thought it was lovely, tight ground. Then they had 20 minutes of heavy rain and it changed it very quickly.
“It became very loose and that turf is a bit patchy, which a lot of people have said. It won’t take much rain to change it quickly.”
He added: “I told myself I would not look at a weather forecast until Saturday but when it’s on your phone you end up looking every hour.
“If it’s fast ground we probably won’t run, but I’ve taken horses out before and regretted it because the weather forecast has changed. We will have a clearer idea Monday or Tuesday.”
One man who will not be complaining about the lack of rain in France is William Haggas, whose fast-ground loving Sea Of Class is 5-1 second favourite after her successive triumphs in the Irish Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks.
Haggas was not present for the second day of the Cambridgeshire meeting, but his horses are clearly in fine form and he landed a 305-1 double with Beshaayir and newcomer Skardu.
His wife, Maureen, denied he was at home studying meteorological forecasts and she is instead more worried about those tendering the track. “Those French clerks of the course can do anything with their hosepipes,” she said.
It seems nobody is sleeping easily.
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