PETER NIVEN will not risk stable star Clever Cookie in Thursday’s blue riband Ascot Gold Cup unless there is significant rainfall at the Berkshire track.
The Malton trainer has to decide by 10am today whether to declare his York course specialist for the two-and-a-half mile stayers’ championship.
However, with the bad weather missing Ascot and no plans to water the track, it appears Clever Cookie – winner of both Chester’s Ormonde Stakes and York’s Stowe Family Law LLP Gold Cup this season – could be re-routed to Newcastle for the Northumberland Plate on Saturday week.
“The ground is the only factor as the horse is extremely well,” said a slightly despondent Niven. “Obviously they’ve stopped watering now; we could have done with some rain at the weekend.
“It’s a real tough one; he’s gone on fast ground before but he hasn’t really shown his true form on it. It’s whether it is worth the risk or not. York was good ground but since they redid Ascot it has a history of getting very quick and I’ve spoken to other trainers who have said their horses have come back sore from there.
“I spoke to the clerk at Ascot last week and he intends to produce very fast ground and that’s a bit frightening. Unfortunately I’ve only got one very good horse and I don’t have many coming along after him.
“He’s only had two runs this year and there is a map planned out for him that goes right through to Ascot for Champions Day in October. That was always the intention to try and peak for that but I obviously haven’t done a great job as a trainer as he’s won his first two. He’s just starting to thrive now.
“There’s an option in France next month, there’s the Northumberland Plate next week as it looks like there might be a drop of rain, so there are options.
“There’s only one Ascot Gold Cup, next year might not be his chance as he’ll be eight. It’s very tempting and obviously there are people I need to speak.”
Jamie Spencer has come in for the ride of The Grey Gatsby, the Yorkshire horse of the year, in tomorrow’s Prince of Wales’s Stakes after regular rider Ryan Moore opted to partner Cannock Chase for Sir Michael Stoute.
However, a bruised foot looks set to rule American superstar California Chrome out of the Prince of Wales’s Stakes.