The French manual "How To Train Sprinters" commands enormous sums in the antiquarian bookshops of Paris, and its rarity was underlined yesterday when the Prix de l'Abbaye was exported for the ninth time in 10 years. In fact, the first three were all trained in the North of England, the Lancastrian favourite, Reverence, being sandwiched between the Yorkshire-trained pair Moss Vale and the shock winner, Desert Lord.
Last at Goodwood three weeks ago, Desert Lord has just emerged from handicaps but he did haul Benbaun five lengths clear of the pack at the Curragh on his previous start and Kevin Ryan is adamant about his quality on fast ground. Despite deluges the previous evening, conditions were unexpectedly lively and Reverence, who had won successive Group Ones in the mud, could not cope with the winner's early pace. Little wonder, for his time has been surpassed in this only by Habibti in 1983.
After serial near-misses, Ryan was finally consolidating his breakthrough of last year and will now prepare Desert Lord for the Hong Kong Sprint. It also completed a lucrative weekend for Jamie Spencer, following a switch to Formal Decree when Cesare was scratched from the Cambridgeshire.
"I knew he'd be hard to peg back if he got on the lead," Ryan said. "His times were up there at this level and the clock doesn't lie. He's a fast, genuine horse. They came at him but he didn't stop. With his love of the ground I think he has the ideal profile for Hong Kong."
Another Group One prize found its way to rural Britain when Sergeant Cecil earned yet another set of stripes in the Prix du Cadran. Having struggled to cut the mustard when first promoted to Group company, the Devonshire yeoman has really flourished this autumn and this was his finest hour yet. Frankie Dettori still had a lot of ground to make up in the straight, but they were slugging it out in front and Sergeant Cecil, who has a potent turn of foot for a stayer, pounced close home.
"Even better than a Cheltenham Festival winner," Rod Millman, his proud trainer, said of the reception from travelling fans. "He is unbelievable, a seven-year-old who gets better and better."
Dettori paid tribute to Alan Munro, missing another big win while he awaits a resolution to medical problems. "Alan made this horse," Dettori said. "I spoke to him about the way to ride him best and I know I speak for everyone in the weighing room when I wish Alan a quick recovery."
The showdown between Alexandrova and Mandesha in the Prix de l'Opera had been eagerly anticipated, but the Irish filly, dropped in trip, was rushed off her feet and laboured into third, while it required a daring run up the rail for Mandesha to catch Satwa Queen. On this evidence her owner, the Aga Khan's daughter, Princess Zahra, did the right thing in declining the Arc.
"When we decided to keep her in training as a four-year-old it made the decision easier as we can try [for the Arc] next year," she said.