Those two doughty warriors, Pat Eddery and Persian Punch, each contributed to the emotional content of the week here, but until yesterday there had not been an expression of sheer class among the equine population moving the sport high on these matchless downs into its third century. That omission was rectified when Russian Rhythm, winner of the 1,000 Guineas and Coronation Stakes over a mile, took the step up to 10 furlongs in her long, raking stride and captured her third Group One contest, the Nassau Stakes.
There had been doubts about the big, beautiful chestnut's ability to cope with the extra distance on ground softened by rain earlier in the week and, ever the perfectionist, her trainer Sir Michael Stoute walked the course before judging that the sun, which finally arrived full-bore yesterday to justify the festival's "glorious" tag, had done enough. But even so, it was a close enough call.
Russian Rhythm, under tactful restraint from Kieren Fallon, was always travelling strongly behind the pace set by her stablemate, Zee Zee Top, and Place Rouge, right next to the rails where both jockey and trainer had agreed the fastest ground was to be found. But on the downhill run for home in the straight, as the pair in front began to falter, Fallon found himself momentarily foxed, trapped and losing valuable momentum. On his outside, Richard Hughes, riding Ana Marie, spotted his dilemma and kicked into a clear lead. It was a tactic that would have worked against any but a special rival.
But once switched off the rails and into the clear Russian Rhythm put every ounce of her being into catching and passing the French raider, and, with Fallon's reins loose but his driving focus tight, did so by a neck in a time just three-tenths of a second outside the race record. It was five lengths back to Zee Zee Top, with Hi Dubai just behind in fourth.
"When the two in front came back on me I had to switch to the looser ground off the rail," said Fallon, the week's leading rider. "She couldn't really get hold of it properly, but she tries so hard. She has a high cruising speed and a kick and a big heart as well; it is the ones like her and Persian Punch, who really want to win, that make the job worthwhile. She really is brilliant as well; on fast ground she would have won this by daylight."
Options have now opened up for David and Patricia Thompson's three-year-old, including being pitched against colts, but in the immediate aftermath of this success Stoute was not specific.
When a horse named Pantagruel won the first race here in 1802 it took him some time; it was a three-heat contest over six miles in total. Patavellian, the 4-1 shot who won yesterday's 152nd Stewards' Cup, was rather swifter, taking the six-furlong downhill dash in 1min 10.43sec. The five-year-old, with Steven Drowne doing what little steering was necessary, led at half-way and flashed past the post three and a half lengths clear of three rivals in line abreast, turning one of the year's allegedly most competitive handicaps into a rout.
"Mission accomplished," the winning trainer, Roger Charlton, said. "I always felt we had a few pounds in hand and, for once, I was bullish beforehand."
The high-draw bias that has become a self-fulfilling prophecy since connections have been have been able to choose their starting place by ballot was again in evidence. The winner came from stall 27, the runner-up Fire Up The Band, who started 7-2 favourite, from 29 and third-placed Colonel Cotton (16-1) from 28. Among the first 10 only the fourth, Frizzante (33-1), drawn three, came from a single-figure stall.
The threads that give this sport the continuity that is a source of fascination for so many are always in evidence. Among the first batch of horses sent to Rae Guest by Ian Matthews were My Emma and Montecristo. The filly went on to stardom, with the Prix Vermeille and Yorkshire Oaks among her wins before retirement to the paddocks; the colt soon became a gelding and found his métier in handicaps. But he had, and still has, another important role. He used to lead My Emma in her work and now takes her talented daughter, Moments Of Joy, along the Newmarket gallops.
Moments Of Joy is, like her mother, a late developer and did not set foot on a racecourse until winning on her debut early last month. The big, rangy daughter of Darshaan made it two for two in the Gladness Stakes, swooping fast and late under Seb Sanders to catch Discreet Brief close home. Her performance has probably earned a tilt at the St Leger at Doncaster next month. "She is still very green," Guest said, "but this game is all about winning Classics and that is what we would love to do with her."