"He's sufficiently reserved and calm not to get upset by things," the Aga Khan told us under the spreading platanes in the aftermath of the 82nd Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on Sunday. "At one stage, he was three from last in this race."
Latecomers to the press huddle were not quite sure to whom the Aga was referring, the lightning horse, Dalakhani, or his calculating young jockey, Christophe Soumillon. It was applicable to both.
Soumillon may be Belgian but Paris claimed him on Sunday afternoon. He is youthful, talented and charismatic, in short the perfect package. And the 22-year-old is not averse to displaying not only his exquisite equine skills but also a considerable emotional range.
When the doe-eyed Soumillon, the first man out, walked into the paddock on Sunday he appeared, at least, to be relaxed. There were smiles, asides and no sense that the greatest sporting challenge of his young life was just moments away.
It was a quite different figure we welcomed back. The most you could say for Soumillon, and Dalakhani for that matter, was that they made it all look so easy. There were many points in the race, even early on, that the partnership could be identified as the winning one.
The release at the end, though, was considerable. Soumillon was blubbing sufficiently to change the going. It was a spontaneous reaction which captured all and ensured that Soumillon will now be one of the best-watched jockeys. We cannot, sadly, say the same about his weekend confrère.
There is an unhappy calculation in racing that the more talented a horse the less he is likely to parade his skills in front of an audience. Even over jumps, Best Mate's appearances are as notable for their rarity value as brilliance.
Early retirement though is largely the preserve of the leading Flat runners and in that, for once, Dalakhani is no different from other horses. All the post-race messages emanating from the Aga Khan in the Bois de Boulogne suggested we had just witnessed not just the pinnacle of Dalakhani's career but also the end of it.
There is a breathing argument for allowing the grey another competitive season as the Aga is already spreading some of the family blood around via Dalakhani's half-brother, Daylami. He stands at the Gilltown Stud in Ireland.
Yet continuation for Dalakhani became less likely yesterday when the other great horse in the Aga's Classic batch, Alamshar, was sold to go to stud in Japan. Only recently the theme of Alamshar's four-year-old career was being discussed, but this was to ignore the Aga's historical imperatives.
Now the Champion Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday week will be the last opportunity to appreciate the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner, the only horse to beat Dalakhani (in the Irish Derby).
"Alamshar is an outstanding racehorse and particularly at Ascot, when taking on the older horses for the first time, he showed us what a champion he is," Pat Downes, the Aga Khan's stud manager, said yesterday. "However, we must, on occasion, capitalise on our Group One colts. We wish the Japan Racing Association great success and are confident Alamshar will be an exciting addition to their breeding industry."
Word from John Oxx's yard is that Alamshar is in the sort of condition to show all just what they are going to be missing. "He's in super form," the trainer said. "We had him ready to run in the Arc as a stand-by, and if he stays like that he'll run in the Champion Stakes.
"He's not running in the Breeders' Cup and there were complications about the Canadian International because of his export then to Japan. The Champion Stakes wasn't our first choice, it's a bit short for him, but it's there and I'm sure he'll put up a good run in it. He's in top form. We can't expect to have these horses forever, they have to go on to another career."Reuse content