It should have been obvious as soon as we saw the Maktoum brothers and the serried ranks of sunglasses and matching suits behind them. The Sheikhs Maktoum, Hamdan and Mohammed, each with their duplicate retinues, had not come here to bright and blazing West Sussex in the midweek to take in the distant view of the Isle Of Wight. They were here to win and to win big.
It has not been the most spangled of seasons for the Dubaian family, but yesterday British racing was, once again, their own little plaything. Noverre beat No Excuse Needed in the Sussex Stakes, Naheef confirmed himself a little league champion in the Champagne Lanson Vintage Stakes, while additional smaller baubles were added by Kafezah and Tashawak. Sated, the boys left the rest to the hosts.
Noverre's was the most pleasing victory for all. The little horse was only recently relieved of his Poule d'Essai des Poulains (French 2,000 Guineas) crown when traces of a banned substance used to combat arthritis were found in his system. He swiftly returned to the promised land reserved for Group One winners.
It was a bonny performance from a horse who has never been allowed an easy option. He has run in the Emirates, France and the United States, as well as in Britain, employing a combination of quality and resilience along the way. "He is a very brave and very tough horse," Sheikh Mohammed said. "I think he is the best miler in Europe."
Noverre is certainly one of the most striking, a colt who looks as though he has walked under the ladder with his many white splashes. At the steering end, Noverre is fitted with a cross noseband and tongue strap so it may be he is not all sweetness and light.
This was quite appropriate yesterday in a parade ring which was no place for the timid. Ameerat's lass had to retire hurt with blood gushing down her blouse after a crack from the filly's snout, while Aidan O'Brien looked as though he was hanging on to a Zeppelin as he went about the blue collar business of leading Black Minnaloushe around the oval.
When the athletes made it out on to the track it was Darwin and Bach who blasted off at the head of the field. Ameerat was buzzing around, but the first significant move was made by No Excuse Needed two furlongs out. The second, and greater, manoeuvre was instigated by Frankie Dettori just over 250 yards out.
Just as Noverre hit the front he began a gentle swerve towards the stands rail, as if he was coming over to tell us what a clever boy he was. But the sideways motion was insignificant compared with Noverre's forward thrust. By the line, he was two lengths clear.
The colt's first reward may be a summer break before assignments such as the Prix du Moulin, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and the Breeders' Cup Mile. A second is a posting at stud for this three-parts brother to Arazi.
Naheef may be a breeding machine too one day if he can build on his first Group success and defeat of the heavily backed Leo's Luckyman in the Lanson Vintage Stakes. Kevin Darley rushed the favourite to the head of affairs and appeared for a long time to be in control.
This, though, was to ignore a stealthy performance by Naheef and Dettori, who launched an irresistible surge from just over a furlong out. At the end, Naheef also was two lengths clear and it would certainly have gone on to be further if Trundle Hill had not been in the way.
"I think it's fair to say we were pleasantly surprised by that because everyone was getting very excited about all the other horses in the race," David Loder, the winning trainer, said. "We thought we'd be lucky to win. Going into this race I would have said we had more than a couple better than him. We don't think this horse is our best, but he's obviously climbing the ladder quickly. The pieces are falling into the jigsaw nicely now."
The Loder battle plans continue with Mamool at Doncaster on Saturday, a race which could lead to the Acomb Stakes at York. Other considerations for Loder's Ebor meeting team are Meshaheer (Gimcrack), Silent Honor (Lowther) and Official Flame (Convivial), an unraced half-brother to Stravinsky. Be afraid. Be very afraid.Reuse content