There was a time when racehorses didn't pussyfoot about. Take Lanercost, winner of the first Cambridgeshire Handicap in 1839. Trained on the Berwickshire coast, he won on successive days at Dumfries in mid-October before being placed in a tiny, enclosed, unsprung horsedrawn wagon for the five-day journey to Newmarket over 340 miles of bad roads.
When he arrived in Suffolk he was so stiff and sore he was unable to exercise, so his training was completed by his being confined to his box for four days and sweated under heavy rugs. He emerged to win his race by daylight, giving 11lb and more to his rivals.
Lanercost competed for six seasons, his 22 victories also including an Ascot Gold Cup. He would undoubtedly regard a horse like CIMYLA (nap 3.55), who will have only the 11th run of his career in today's 164th Cambridgeshire, as a right nesh southern softie. But the rock-hard 19th-century pride of Scotland might have approved of some of Cimyla's attitudes.
On his first run this year the Chris Wall-trained four-year-old responded to being hit in the face by a flailing whip by trying to bite his rival. Not long after that our lad had his see-you-Jimmy tendencies removed and after four months off the track, made a most encouraging return on his first outing as a gelding, at Doncaster three weeks ago.
This afternoon's edition of the historic handicap presents its usual puzzle. The edge pieces of the jigsaw can be presented as the unique demands of the straight, undulating course and a race usually run at an end-to-end gallop, the draw, which traditionally favours horses running from high-numbered stalls on the far side of the track, and the underfoot conditions, today much eased by rain.
Without any guide on the lid of the box the picture can be anybody's guess; the past decade has produced winners at rates from a mightily punted 4-1 favourite in Pasternak to last year's 100-1 shocker Spanish Don. Though only seven market leaders have prevailed in the post-war era, today's likely favourite, Ashkal Way, must be on any short-list.
But Cimyla, one of the least exposed in the field, has plenty of ticks - he comes to the fray fresh, he is progressive, he is drawn 27, he has his ground and his Newmarket stable could hardly be in better form - and is at a sporting price.
Others to consider are last year's beaten hotshot Pedrillo and St Petersburg, rested since running well on consecutive days at Goodwood in July. Today brings two top-level tasters before tomorrow's feast in the Bois de Boulogne, the Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket and the Prix de la Forêt at Longchamp.
On the Rowley Mile, Sir Michael Stoute must surely have the key, with three of the 10 runners, Chic and Peeress in the Cheveley Park Stud colours and Favourable Terms bearing those of Maktoum Al Maktoum. A one-two-three would not be out of the question, with the pick being Chic (3.15), who was beaten narrowly by Attraction in the race last year and denied her revenge in the Matron Stakes three weeks ago by jockey error.
Three British raiders - Iffraj (Michael Jarvis), Court Masterpiece (Ed Dunlop) and Somnus (Tim Easterby) - travel for the seven-furlong Parisian feature, which must rate one of the softest Group Ones of the season. Sun Chariot was one of the best fillies of the last century, winner of the 1,000 Guineas, Oaks and St Leger of 1942. The listed juvenile contest on the Newmarket card commemorates another triple crown heroine, Oh So Sharp, who won her laurels 20 years ago, and has spotlighted some smart distaffers, most notably Islington. As a daughter of Selkirk, the well-regarded Scottish Stage (2.40) should cope with the ground.
Violette (2.55) was among the entries for the seven-furlong race but is sent north instead to run less far for more money, and Redcar's most valuable prize is £111,360 well within her grasp; she was a good winner of a Group Three race last time.
At Epsom, Cape Royal (3.30) may be the one in the whose-turn-is-it-this-time sprint handicap down the world's fastest five furlongs and Torrid Kentavr (2.30) can give stylish young horseman Tom Eaves a thrill as the apprentices have a go round Tattenham Corner in their "Derby".
HYPERION'S SELECTIONS FOR TODAY'S ALL-WEATHER MEETINGS:
SOUTHWELL: 11.10 Jostile 11.40 Magic Amour 12.10 Night Warrior 12.40 Rahjel Sultan 1.10 Anissati 1.40 Caerphilly Gal.
WOLVERHAMPTON: 7.00 Daring Affair 7.30 Law Breaker 8.00 Shunkawakhan 8.30 Spirit Of Coniston 9.00 Bethany's Boy 9.30 Accomplish.