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Picture: 123RF/CHRIS VAN LENNEP
Picture: 123RF/CHRIS VAN LENNEP

The much-anticipated clash between unbeaten Baaeed and Derby winner Desert Crown at York in August looks more a probability than a possibility after the latter’s defection from Saturday’s King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.

Desert Crown was reported to have a “foot niggle”. Michael Stoute told the PA news agency: “The colt will not be going to Ascot for the King George.”

The news will have York officials rubbing their hands with glee. It gives Stoute four weeks to get Desert Crown 100% fit for the grade 1 Juddmonte International on August 17.

Bruce Raymond, racing manager to Desert Crown’s owner Saeed Suhail, said Desert Crown could not be risked despite what he felt was a minor injury.

“He’s sustained a foot injury and has had a scan. Although I don’t know the result of the scan Mr Stoute has said to me he won’t be able to run in the King George.

“Whatever it is, they have caught it before it is too late. They have nipped something in the bud. His preparation would come too close to the race to press on with it,” said Raymond.

“If it were a lesser horse, we might take a chance, but you don’t take a chance with a horse like this. You can’t go to a race if he’s 95% fit. Only time will tell and — though they didn’t say anything to me — I’m thinking about York and then the Arc.

With Desert Crown missing the King George, Irish Derby winner Westover is the new 5-4 favourite with John Gosden’s globetrotter, Mishriff, third choice in the market at 5-1.

If the antepost market is any guide, it is Gosden’s filly, Emily Upjohn, who may throw down to the main challenge to Westover and the Oaks runner-up is second favourite at 22-10.

In a most unusual occurrence, the plane which was meant to fly Emily Upjohn to Ireland for last weekend’s Irish Oaks suffered a “bird strike”. The scheduled flight from Stansted to the Curragh was cancelled and the decision was made to reroute the filly to the King George.

It is going to be no walk in the park for Westover as — apart from Emily Upjohn — confirmed rivals include Arc winner Torquator Tasso and Royal Ascot victor Broome.

The UK heatwave is causing havoc with five meetings cancelled on Monday and Tuesday due to forecasts of extreme high temperatures. Monday’s meetings cancelled were Windsor and Beverley, while Tuesday's programmes at Southwell, Wolverhampton and Chelmsford have already been scrapped.

However, racing at Musselborough on Tuesday is set to go ahead. The course CEO, Bill Farnwoth, said: “The forecast is for it to be 29°C or 30°C which is fairly warm for us, but they race in these temperatures fairly often in England. We’re geared up for it — we have plenty of water — and we expect everything to be fine,” he added.

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