Having explored a long, gloomy tunnel since their return to Europe, Godolphin finally seem to have perceived a glimmer of light.
Electrocutionist, who bears the royal blue standard into one of the defining battles of a troubled campaign, yesterday nourished the stable's esprit de corps with his final earnest gallop before the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot on Saturday week.
And the possibility emerged that a similar air of purpose in the meantime could qualify Echo Of Light for another Group One prize just four days later. As the Dubai World Cup winner, Electrocutionist is already a five-star general. In contrast, Echo Of Light has only just emerged from the massed ranks of cavalry.
But there has never been much doubt about his calibre, and the fact that he was not even the choice of Frankie Dettori from the stable's two runners in a Group Three race at Lingfield last Saturday does not lessen his eligibility for the Cantor Spreadfair Sussex Stakes.
Ridden by Kerrin McEvoy - performing the most valued role of any understudy by keeping Dettori constantly on his toes - Echo Of Light routed perhaps the most competitive field ever assembled on dirt in this country. He had the race sewn up on the home turn. Simon Crisford emphasised yesterday that no firm plans had been made for the Dubai Millennium colt, but supplementing him to the Sussex Stakes was certainly among the options.
"A lot will hinge on the ground, and how the horse is," the Godolphin manager said. "Then there is the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville, and the possibility of stepping him up in trip. Nothing has been ruled out. After all, if we go to Goodwood, we don't need to make any commitment until the five-day stage. But it's something we will be considering."
The stable's desolate season is typified by the problems experienced by Proclamation since Royal Ascot, which mean that he will not be able to defend the Sussex Stakes. After Soviet Song's defeat at Newmarket last week, moreover, James Fanshawe may yet favour a race against her own sex in Deauville, leaving Araafa as short as 2-1 favourite for a race lacking depth. All in all, it may prove difficult to resist releasing this particular cat among the pigeons.
A very small field seems likely for the King George. Aidan O'Brien has said that he will not take on Hurricane Run, his candidates being in the same ownership as the French champion, and the race certainly gives Electrocutionist the chance to build on his typically generous resumption in the Prince of Wales's Stakes.
"He worked this morning in the same solid way he usually does," Crisford said. "Ideally we wouldn't want rock-hard ground in the King George, because he is a horse that would prefer to make a print, but he's fit, a lot sharper than when he ran at Royal Ascot.
"We were happy with that run, and resisted the temptation to wheel him out again in the Eclipse, because the King George was the race on which we wanted to focus his energies. He does take his races pretty well, but we know that we might still be needing him in December. He was prepared for the World Cup early on, and it's a tough ask to keep a horse on the go for the whole year."
It is pretty hard on people, too, though that is precisely what is being demanded of workers in the racing industry in 2007. The continuing saturation of the fixture list reached grotesque new levels in the programme published yesterday.
The record 1,415 meetings now embrace every Sunday except the one immediately before Christmas. There will be 287 evening fixtures taking place on 178 separate nights with 68 under floodlights during the autumn and winter. Positive innovations include a more focused start to the turf Flat season, the main races at the Lincoln meeting being compressed into one card (this time, Doncaster still being closed for redevelopment, at Newcastle) on 31 March. It falls during an unprecedented 27-day interval between the Cheltenham Festival and Aintree.
Nap: King's Crest
(Wolverhampton 7.05)Reuse content