The whimsy was here yesterday, the class at Newbury, and both can be counted valid in a sport where the beauty of the beast is an inherent attraction. The annual Grey Horse Handicap, confined to horses of that eponymous colour, is almost inconsequential in racing's greater scheme, but there was no denying the aesthetic value the 13 runners presented as they paraded before a charmed audience and came home with their front rank almost line abreast in a proper charge of the white brigade.
The jockeys' motley contrasted strikingly with the cool-hued coats of their mono-chrome mounts. Not that shades of grey are dull, though. There was Calypso King, dark as tempered steel; Certain Justice, with platinum flashes among the iron; the pewter glint of Milton's Keen; Celtic Spa, her misty coat offset by an inky mane; the classical dapples of Further Outlook; and the milky paleness of the 50-1 winner, Clearing Sky.
None of yesterday's contestants - the race was a six-furlong 0-85 handicap - could be mentioned in the same breath as the Flat game's amazing greys, horses such as Daylami, Abernant, Mahmoud, Native Dancer, Spectacular Bid or Mumtaz Mahal. Every single lowly one of them, though, owes his or her grizzled coat to a common ancestor, The Tetrarch. Clearing Sky is a five-greats grand-daughter of the 1913 juvenile champion.
Another celebrated silver darling, Kribensis, was also on display as some of the behind-the-scenes brigade had their moment in the spotlight in another novelty crowd-pleaser. At the age of 22, the now snow-white 1990 Champion Hurdle winner earns his corn as a hack at Sir Michael Stoute's, but in the competition for "heath bicycles", as they are known locally, he and the other two top-level ex-racers doing the job, Invermark and Travado, had to give best to Vince Smith's dun cob Jeremy.
The more serious business of the day was at Newbury, where Welsh Emperor, from Tom Tate's small yard at Tadcaster, South Yorkshire, upstaged another Jeremy, the Stoute-trained Jersey Stakes winner, and Godolphin's odds-on favourite Caradak in the Hungerford Stakes.
Welsh Emperor beat his six rivals from the front under a canny ride from Jamie Spencer, who was always controlling a tempo that quickened markedly though the final two of the seven furlongs. Jeremy was the only one to go with the leader, but was always being held and was half a length down at the line. Caradak, flat-footed mid-race, got his second wind in the closing stages to finish another length third.
The Geoffrey Freer Stakes provided another reverse for Godolphin after a fortnight of almost unbroken success for the Blues. The filly Guadalajara showed plenty of guts at the end of a mile and five on soft ground to win her private battle with Munsef by a neck, but half a length ahead, and half the width of the track away, was Admiral's Cruise.
The Brian Meehan-trained four-year-old, stepping up to Group Three company for the first time, swooped from last place under Ryan Moore to lead well over a furlong out, but once in front veered alarmingly right-handed, straightened eventually by the rails. Moore, leading the jockeys' title race, was typically self-critical. "I got there far too soon," he said, "and he wandered on his own. I very nearly messed it up. If I'd waited he would ave won well; you could say he probably won despite me."
Meehan also took the St Hugh's Stakes with the Frankie Dettori-ridden Abby Road, another trailblazer. "A good day at the office," said the trainer. "Admiral's Cruise could be anything; he'll go on from this. We've been patient with him and I think he'll repay us big-time. This time next year we could even be looking at the Arc."
At Deauville yesterday there was a rare, these days, élite winner for Henry Cecil when Multi-dimensional revelled in the soft ground and step up to 10 furlongs to take the Group Two Prix Guillaume d'Ornano. At the seaside this afternoon the star may, or may not, be Ballydoyle's Holy Roman Emperor, depending on Aidan O'Brien's evaluation of the ground. The Danehill colt, already a top-level winner in the Phoenix Stakes, will not travel this morning if underfoot conditions are deemed too soft.
Three are scheduled to challenge for the season's second juvenile Group One event. Dutch Art and Striving Storm represent Peter Chapple-Hyam and Excellent Art Neville Callaghan. The unbeaten Sandwaki leads the home defence.
BETS OF THE DAY
From a yard that specialises in juveniles, Hurricane Flyer (Pontefract 2.20) can build on good debut effort against a more experienced rival.
Whinhill House (Pontefract, 5.20) has not yet hit last season's form but showed signs of a revival last time.