It all appears too good to be true, but factors yesterday seemed to suggest that the rarest of beasts has arrived for the Lincoln at Doncaster tomorrow, a certainty in the Flat calendar's first and near most impenetrable of handicaps.
It now looks as if Adiemus has just to step out of his limousine, sweep the chips from the table, and depart the scene of what used to be the most mesmerising of races.
Not only did Jeremy Noseda's colt sneak into the race yesterday by the skin of what are admittedly substantial teeth but he also earned himself the most plum of draws.
The four-year-old, who has been burning up the all-weather sand to the temperature of an African beach this winter, made the final declaration by just one yesterday. In the lottery for stall positions he was then drawn out second and will emerge from box No.6 tomorrow. It was all too much for Ladbrokes, who made Adiemus 5-2 favourite (from 4-1) for Yorkshire's version of Balaclava.
Single-figure stalls have provided the last three Lincoln winners, in addition to five of the last six victors in the consolation Spring Mile.
The draw meant tickles to the prices elsewhere as Banjo Bay (16-1 in to 11-1), Attache (14-1 in to 10-1) and Nimello (14-1 in to 11-1) all received the Ladbrokes scalpel. The last-named will actually compete from the No1 stall from where he won 12 months ago.
The trainers who were able to choose a low draw were smug, while there were garrison words from those outside the chosen few. "I'd have liked to have been a bit higher, but it is going to be very testing ground and the far side might be chewed up by Saturday as everybody goes there," Bryan Smart, the man behind Atlantic Ace (18-1 from 14-1), said.
I Cried For You, last autumn's Cambridgeshire winner, was made an 11-1 hope (from 10-1) after being allocated the 13 box in the 24-runner field, but his trainer, James Given, believes his representative can still turn round last Saturday's Winter Derby form with Adiemus.
"It would have been nice to be a bit lower but we will try to make the best of a bad job," he said. "If you are drawn low and you are held up you have got to wait for everything else to come across in front of you. I should imagine that up to 19 or 20 will all come far side so he will be coming with the pack. He won't be buried on the rail and he just loves horses to run at.
"He had a hard race last weekend but we have been very easy on him this week. We know him well and he seems very happy in himself.
"It will be a strongly run mile. The ground and the way the race will be run will play into the hands of horses with a bit of stamina who are match fit. Horses that are coming here for the first race of the year might just be found wanting in the dying strides. So we're hopeful."
It may well be, however, that the draw, the planning, the supposition is rendered useless by tomorrow tea-time. The five-furlong handicap on Town Moor yesterday seemed to suggest that the stands side had an advantage. Seven No Trumps, the winner for Pat Eddery, was drawn in stall 15, and the runner-up and third were drawn 16 and 14 respectively. The winner of the Brocklesby Stakes, run over the same distance 35 minutes earlier, was drawn 15 of 17.
This success represented the first leg of a double for Eddery, who was 50 on Monday. He later plotted a successful route for Dandoun in the Listed Doncaster Mile.
The passing of the seasons was reflected in the first race, when the opening race of the Flat turf season was won by Middlethorpe and Sam Hitchcott, the younger brother of the successful National Hunt pilot Ben.
* Tony McCoy will take a rest from chasing Sir Gordon Richards's record 269 wins in a season with a break in Spain next week. After Noisetine took him to five of the mark at Wincanton yesterday, he said: "I will be back for Exeter on Thursday and hopefully I will return with all guns blazing for the run up to the National meeting."Reuse content