The chance that Frankie Dettori will receive a new licence in time to ride in the Derby on 1 June appeared to improve significantly on Thursday evening when Christopher Stewart-Moore, his solicitor, said that he is "hopeful" that a "glitch" preventing Dettori's return from a six-month riding ban has been "ironed out".
Stewart-Moore said that Dettori had been in France for two days in an attempt to persuade France Galop, the ruling body which banned him after he returned a positive test for cocaine after riding at Longchamp last September, that he should be allowed to return to the saddle.
A report earlier this week suggested that France Galop was waiting for the result of a test on a B sample provided by Dettori on 22 April following apparent irregularities in the A sample. The British Horseracing Authority, meanwhile, had refused to relicence Dettori until it had been assured by its French counterpart that the jockey had complied with its procedures.
"The matter has moved forward and we are expecting a positive result," Stewart-Moore said. "We are hopeful that he can get his English licence in time to ride in the Derby."
Ocovango, France's leading contender for the Derby, worked on the track here on Thursday morning, while a strong challenge was also confirmed from Ireland and even Germany, which has never sent a runner to the Classic before. The home team, however, has been reduced to a 20-1 chance and a handful of rank outsiders after Telescope, who is part-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson, was declared a non-runner by Sir Michael Stoute, his trainer.
Ocovango will attempt to give Andre Fabre his second success in the Classic in just three years after the victory of Pour Moi in 2011, and plotted a careful path around Tattenham Corner in a gentle breeze before drawing away from his lead horse in the straight.
"They went very quietly," Fabre said afterwards. "The idea was just to show him the bend and the downhill trip. It was not serious work, but he was moving well and it was very useful. He has very good balance, good closing speed and I hope the ability. I haven't learned much [today], it was for the horse and the jockey [Pierre-Charles Boudot]. He is a young jockey, but he has been around all the courses in France and he is very experienced."
Ocovango was one of several horses to shorten in the market following the news that Telescope, previously a 10-1 chance for the Derby, will miss the race after he was found to be sore following a gallop at Lingfield on Wednesday. Fabre's runner is now top-priced at 8-1 in a market headed by Dawn Approach, the 2,000 Guineas winner, at best odds of 10-11.
"I couldn't be happier with him," Jim Bolger, Dawn Approach's trainer, said on Thursday. "He has been thriving ever since the Guineas. I will leave the tactics to Kevin [Manning, the colt's jockey] but hopefully there will be plenty of pace because we need pace to get him to settle early on. We would be disappointed if we didn't get pace and after that, may the best horse win. "As regards the competition, I wish them all well, I respect each and every one of them [but] I will not be losing any sleep over them."
Chopin, who is trained by Andreas Wohler, is a 10-1 chance to become the first German winner of the Classic and will be added to the field at the supplementary stage on Monday. He will be ridden by Jamie Spencer, retained jockey to Sheikh Fahad al-Thani, who bought Chopin after a win at Krefeld last month.
"He is very relaxed and I have no worries about the trip," Wohler said on Thursday. "We've been all around the world for big races but this is something different. This is the Derby of Derbys, the original, and it's very exciting for German racing."
Aidan O'Brien confirmed that Battle Of Marengo and Mars are probable runners at Epsom, where they could be joined by the Chester Vase winner Ruler Of The World. In the absence of Telescope, meanwhile, the Dante Stakes winner Libertarian is likely to lead the British-trained challenge for the Derby, which has stayed at home only once in the last five years.
"He's a high-class horse, he's guaranteed to stay the trip and if he handles the track, I can see him running into a place," Karl Burke, the husband of Libertarian's trainer, Elaine, said on Thursday. "Then if anything happens to the other horses, who knows?"
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