Workforce reputation on the line

IT is to Sir Michael Stoute’s credit that he is prepared to put the reputation of Workforce, last year’s Derby and Arc hero, on the line in today’s Coral-Eclipse.

Top-class colts rarely continue their career in case their future stud value is devalued; notably 2006 Derby winner Sir Percy did not win any of his three races as a four-year-old.

Even though the Stoute stable is out of form and was without a win at Royal Ascot, Workforce put in an imperious performance when winning the Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown in May.

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He has matured into an amazing looking horse, full of scope and equine athleticism, who has the potential to power clear from the highly-regarded Australian raider So You Think.

A superstar in Australia before being switched to Aidan O’Brien’s in-form Ballydoyle stables with a view to his future value at the world-leading Coolmore stud, So You Think is on a retrieval mission after his controversial Royal Ascot reverse to Rewilding – a race that saw the victor’s jockey, Frankie Dettori, pick up a lengthy ban for whip misuse.

O’Brien believes that his horse has improved significantly in the past fortnight and will overcome Ryan Moore’s unavailability because of his contractual obligations to the Stoute stable.

Indeed, it is the tug-of-war over Moore’s services that forms a curious sub-plot to the Eclipse, the latest leg of the Qipco champions series.

No jockey has been coveted so much on both sides of the Irish Sea since Lester Piggott was at the peak of his powers.

Moore reportedly turned down the overtures of O’Brien on at least one occasion last winter because of his loyalty to Stoute, the chance to ride the Queen’s Carlton House in last month’s Epsom Derby and the fact that his young family is happily settled in Newmarket.

However, he has quietly become O’Brien’s first choice when available and Stoute is having a quiet season by his own standards.

It would be a major surprise if Moore was not on Ballydoyle’s books next season. He does not appear to have the hunger for a protracted title race with Yorkshire’s Paul Hanagan and Silvestre de Sousa – Group One races are his priority – and the financial rewards would be considerable.

Ironically, Moore was regarded an accumulator of winners before landing the 2007 Coral-Eclipse on former York winner Notnowcato with a brilliant piece of tactical riding that saw his priorities gradually change in favour of the more prestigious contests.

His fault, and it is a minor quibble, is his introspection when asked about his rides. Racegoers are interested in Moore because he is a former champion jockey who is, arguably, the most complete rider since Piggott.

They value his views, especially as he also rode last year’s Oaks heroine Snow Fairy, who also lines up today.

However, he did himself no favours when he refused to comment, after the Brigadier Gerard Stakes, whether he would favour Workforce over So You Think – that is how sensitive he is to the media and also the tightrope that he is walking with the O’Brien stable.

That said, he knows So You Think well and will use that knowledge to plot a tactical masterpiece aboard Workforce. Even if the 2010 champion is beaten, nothing should be taken away from Stoute for having the courage to keep his Derby winner in training.

Flat owners and trainers are frequently criticised for not keeping star horses in training because they know the value of future breeding plans could be reduced by damaged reputations on the track.

Stoute should, therefore, be congratulated for testing his own ability and that of Workforce to the limit.