Gerard Butler surveyed his string at the top of the Churn Farm stable gallops yesterday morning. He did so under brilliant blue skies, with a field of wheat wafting gently behind him.
Strawberries and coffee were served there on the roof of Oxfordshire and all that was missing was a piece of stirring orchestral music. All at once, training seemed to be the greatest of professions.
This was the romanticism. Next Wednesday, Nayyir, the stable star trotting gently around in the sunbeams, will be conducting the blood, sweat and hurt of Flat racing. The now seven-year-old will try to break his Group One duck in the Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, the contest in which he was so narrowly denied by Soviet Song 12 months ago.
It is the only element missing from his resume. While Compton Admiral may have won the 1999 Eclipse for Butler and Elusive City the 2002 Prix Morny at Deauville at the same level, it is Nayyir who has most regularly pulled on the armour to represent his trainer at the most gleaming of occasions.
There still remains great secrecy about the make-up of the field for the Sussex Stakes, but, when the great mystery finally unravels, one camp at least hopes the revelation will be that it is a Butler that does it. "It won't be for me," the trainer said. "It will be for the horse. He has done everything else and he deserves it."
The race permutations have already filtered through the trainer's mind. "Proclamation is the new kid on the block and has a fresh set of wheels, but it's interesting that Jeremy Noseda started him off in the Dante and has brought him back in trip," he said. "I think Oratorio beat Motivator fair and square at Sandown and that he is capable of picking up more Group Ones as the year goes on, but I'm not sure bringing Cacique back to a mile will suit him.
"Johnny Murtagh left Soviet Song with quite a lot to do in the Falmouth, but she still won it as she liked. She's dynamite and a worthy favourite without a shadow of a doubt. But Nayyir loves the Goodwood mile and, in a tactical race, as I'm sure it will be, I hope he can come with his challenge at just the right time."
Elsewhere it was a day for riders' reflection at the Jockey Club. The disciplinary card at Shaftesbury Avenue opened up with a seven-day suspension for Alan Munro following a weighing-room brawl with fellow jockey Richard Quinn.
Munro, a martial arts expert, was found guilty of violent or improper conduct after an altercation which left Quinn with a black eye and swollen cheekbone. "I think it is probably an appropriate penalty in the circumstances," Munro said. "It was a totally regrettable incident and I have apologised sincerely for what happened, both to Richard and to the Jockey Club."
Kevin Darley's appeal against a 10-day suspension collected at Ayr last week for failing to ride out for third place on Meaningful in a five-runner maiden fell on deaf ears. The rider's ban, which starts on Friday, was confirmed after an hour-long disciplinary panel hearing and deliberations which encompassed less than five minutes.
The panel was unanimous in rejecting Darley's explanation that he had ridden his mount out all the way to the line while at the same time being considerate over the colt's welfare.
"I will be quite frank and say that I have been made an example of today, particularly in the light of recent examples," Darley said. "My credibility has been put in doubt and they have basically called me a liar. I am extremely disappointed. I can hardly believe it because it sends out totally the wrong message."Reuse content