Much of the build-up to tomorrow's 1,000 Guineas has concerned the thoughts of William Hunter Carson, OBE.
At 52 years of age, the judgement, as well as the skills, of the cackling Scot are held in as much awe as they ever have been. So, for some time now, punters and pressmen have been hanging on the central question of the fillies' Classic: would Carson ride Harayir or Aqaarid?
Willie has quite enjoyed this guessing game, and has frustrated questioners in much the same way, strangely, as the tall lad keeping boiled sweets out of the reach of his classmates in the playground.
Carson initially settled on Aqaarid, but was then allegedly swayed by support from racing's boffins for Harayir. Anyone who knows the Scot will be little surprised to discover he has made a manual gesture to the experts and decided to ride Aqaarid this afternoon, in contravention to just about every other morsel of advice he has received.
That said, Carson is one of the few jockeys who has reliable form for choosing the right horse from a closely matched duo. (Others tend to see animals as disparately as a pair of gloves).
The jockey's torment and the presence of Celtic Swing producing his much- vaunted talent on the same weekend have tended to deflect from what is a ground-breaking moment for the Turf.
The first Sunday race day with betting on and off course is endorsed by no less a figure than the Monarch, who dispenses her gelding Pending to Salisbury. The Wiltshire course will have all manner of flyers coming in. There is a display from the Red Devils, as well as efforts from eagles and vultures.
Carson may well feel like throwing himself at the talons of the last- named if Diffident wins this afternoon's 2,000 Guineas. Andr Fabre's colt just caught Harayir in the desperate stages of the Free Handicap when collecting weight and she would look rather tasty on that form. The same may not be be said for Richard Hills's evening meal if Carson questions his initial judgement.
This Classic is about more than just one man's foibles however. Criquette Head, who has a record to compare with anyone in recent years, sends over Macoumba to test a Continental nurturing against the animals prepared in the British blast.
Even Macoumba, however, will not have as many snaps to show around as Moonshell, who found Dubai stamps on her luggage after winning a Doncaster maiden last October. Journeys to the Emirates were first thought to be a hopeful desperation, but Balanchine last year, and Red Bishop and Dumaani this, have shown runners from the desert must be treated most seriously.
Moonshell is considered to be better prepared than Balanchine last year, and thoughts extend from tomorrow towards the Derby. Patterns may show it is foolish to ignore both her and her spoilt upbringing, but the final choice must lie with Willie Carson. The son of a banana packer seldom picks wrongly and so Aqaarid must be the choice.Reuse content