THE Aga Khan's recent move to enter four horses in this year's English Classics has created an unusual backdrop to the forthcoming Flat season, which is due to commence on turf on March 24. Wasn't he the owner who took his bat and ball home and said he didn't want to play the game British-style any more? John Oxx, the Irish trainer, has entered the Aga's three-year-olds Akhiyar and Cajarian for the Derby, run on June 1, for GBP10,000 at the second entry stage. In addition, he has entered Manntari, last season's top-rated Irish-trained two-year-old, for the 2,000 Guineas, and Alaliya for the Epsom Oaks. This is the first clearly positive move to indicate the Aga is on the brink of returning to British racing after a self-imposed exile of three Flat seasons. He pulled out around 90 horses from the stables of Michael Stoute and Luca Cumani and sent them toIreland and France. But in a carefully-worded statement, Oxx has made it clear that none of the Aga's quartet would run unless the owner was satisfied that acceptable steps were being taken to address the criticism the Aga has made about both the science and judicial procedures associated with the disqualification of his filly Aliysa from the 1989 Epsom Oaks. ''The decision to enter does not mean that discussions have taken place between the Aga Khan and the authorities, nor does it mean that the outcome of the discussions, if held, would be positive,'' Oxx said. But it certainly does give more than a hint that Europe's leading owner-breeder would like to return to the British scene as soon as he can find the best face-saving way to make a return. His lawyers and scientists have taken years to prepare their case - at huge expense to the owner - and none is willing to give ground on their arguments, which, it must be said, are convincing in many ways. Good may still come out of this saga, of course. It seems that scientists and racing authorities are a lot more aware of the issues involved in ''positives'' returned by racehorses, and there is a move towards harmonisation throughout Europe - and further afield, even to Hong Kong. ufsbox THE possible return of the Aga - and a new board running Epsom could be a timely boost for the Ever Ready Derby, which should be restored to all its old glory. The addition of Robert Sangster's name to the Sunset and Vine Racing board could be a significant and timely move, just as the Levy Board are poised to decide between that television production company and two other consortia to take the reins at Epsom,Sandown Park and Kempton Park. ''Robert has read our proposal document, which he describes as innovative and exciting,'' said Colin Frewin, the Chief Executive of Sunset and Vine. ''He is back based in the UK now and is prepared to take an active role in the management of the three courses, if our bid is successful.'' The decision is due on March 21. THE build-up to next week's Cheltenham event continues, and it must be asked why Hong Kong punters are not able to bet on at least two of the Festival events next Wednesday night. It could have been a fine appetiser to the big Aintree simulcast scheduled for Martell Grand National day, April 9. Maybe next year, who knows? Meanwhile Northern-based jump jockey Peter Niven has regained the mount on the highly promising Monsieur Le Cure, who is as low as 11-2 for Wednesday's Sun Alliance Chase. This important booking follows Norman Williamson's futile attempt to overturn a four-day careless riding ban at Portman Square on Thursday. Just like Richard Dunwoody, the reigning champion, Williamson is now obliged to sit on the sidelines for next week's Festival, at which he forfeits ''about 12 rides.'' The ban runs from 14-17 March (inclusive). Williamson said: ''I'm very sad and annoyed at the decision arrived at by the Disciplinary Committee. It's going to be very hard for me to just sit and watch the racing on TV.'' Niven now has at least eight rides at the Festival and last night welcomed the chance to partner John Edwards' talented Monsieur Le Cure, whom he has ridden twice previously. ''He's a lovely horse, a proper chaser. I'm just hoping that his recent win at Kempton hasn't taken too much out of him. He'd be my best ride at the meeting now,'' Niven said. At a separate hearing, David Parmley, the Clerk of the Course at Newcastle, was fined GBP600 for giving a misleading report on conditions at the track on the morning of the Fighting Fifth Hurdle on November 27. Racing was in doubt - the course was covered in snow and frost - yet Parmley said it ''would go ahead.'' Such misguided predictions have unfortunately been the norm in some parts of British racing, for some time.