Distant Music lost his unbeaten record here yesterday, Misraah lost his lustre, and the 2,000 Guineas is wide open.
Giant's Causeway was promoted to favouritism for the Guineas in most books by the expedient of staying in his box at Ballydoyle, while Petrushka provided the most positive Classic note of the day by running away with the Nell Gwyn to head the 1,000 Guineas market. It was all breathless stuff.
Distant Music's was the most deflating performance. The winter wonder horse showed none of the Ã©lan of last season, none of the easy acceleration, as he capitulated in the rerouted Greenham Stakes.
There was no vestige of what was to come in the paddock as Barry Hills's colt circled lazily, his tall and slender frame covered by a healthy hide. He did, however, have to be jerked to attention as soon as the stalls opened and the field was pulled along by Seven No Trumps at a generous pace.
Distant Music gradually ground his way into contention, but he faltered momentarily when faced with the closing door of an Indiana Jones tunnel in front of him. He eventually forced his way through, though he was always leading with his shoulder, like a man battling against the wind.
The favourite did get to the front, but was powerless to defend his lead when the nosebanded head of Barathea Guest, his tongue lolling, appeared on the outside. "He needs reminding what he's got to do when he gets there," Michael Hills, the runner-up's partner, reported. "He didn't want to go through the gap at first and when he got there he looked around and stopped on me."
If father Barry was distraught he hid it manfully. "He was hesitant going through horses and I think he probably wants further," the trainer said. "It has been too easy for him. Every time this horse works at home everyone is always complaining that the other horse is no good. It will do him good to have been in a race today and I'm pleased with the horse. He behaved well, he took all the preliminaries well and he went to post well. He just didn't win. There's plenty of Guineas winners who have got beat first time out you know. All will be revealed in the end."
If it was disappointing to see the giant felled, then there was also pleasure to be gained in seeing a meaningful morsel snaffled by the smaller man. George Margarson, Barathea Guest's trainer, is a former jumps jockey who was head lad to Mick Ryan for 15 years. This was his day.
"He's come from last to first off a pace that was far too quick for him," Margarson said. "The Guineas will be run at a similar pace with a furlong further and he wasn't stopping today. He's an out-and-out miler and, with another furlong, he'll eat them for breakfast. The piece of work he did last week was the best I've seen since Katies before the Coronation [Stakes at Royal Ascot]. He gave his lead horse 10 lengths start and left him for dead."
Misraah did manage to win his race, but it was not a display to justify the rave reports from the Newmarket gallops. Richard Hills pulled the massive colt round the back of the field at the start and must have had the view of a lorry driver looking down the motorway.
Misraah chugged to the front at the furlong marker, but was menaced all the way to the line, where he had just a short-head to spare over Free Rider. "He will need to improve," Richard Hills, the jockey, said. "We are going to have to come on from that. But this might just make a man of him."
Michael Stoute, the winning trainer, was equally baffled. "We were expecting a smoother performance than that," he said. "He gave us a scare. He has had only three runs and we will have to hope that pulls him together."
The gum-chewing knight had more reason to celebrate with Petrushka's victory, which propelled her to favouritism for the 1,000 Guineas and the Oaks, at 2-1 and 5-1 respectively. The winning margin was four lengths. "We wondered in the spring if she'd want further than a mile, but her work indicated she had enough speed to be trained for a Guineas," he said. "What pleased me most of all was how she wrapped up the race very quickly. That was a good trial, she's a classy filly and we'll try not to mess her up."
Kieren Fallon added: "My first thought was the Oaks and I didn't think of the Guineas until I rode her the other day. She travels and she's got a serious turn of foot. You couldn't fault her in any way."
A similar message for the Millennium Stand was not forthcoming from two members who found their new premises a bit pokey. Visiting the press box, the racegoers commented: "Look at all the space they've got in here." Yes, but they would not want the company.
2,000 GUINEAS (Newmarket, 6 May): Coral: 9-4 Giant's Causeway, 4-1 Distant Music, 5-1 Barathea Guest, 8-1 Misraah. William Hill: 7-2 Giant's Causeway, 9-2 Distant Music, 8-1 Barathea Guest, Monashee Mountain, 10-1 Misraah, Western Summer. Ladbrokes: 4-1 Distant Music, Giant's Causeway, 7-1 Barathea Guest, Misraah, 10-1 Bernstein, Western Summer. Tote: 3-1 Distant Music, 4-1 Giant's Causeway, 6-1 Barathea Guest, 7-1 Misraah, 10-1 Monashee Mountain.
1,000 GUINEAS (Newmarket, 7 May): Ladbrokes: 2-1 Petrushka, 8-1 Teggiano, High Walden, 12-1 Amethyst, 16-1 Iftiraas, Lahan.