Jeremy Noseda knows too well the putative slips 'twixt stable and starting stalls and is far too sensible an operator to confront his peers with mouthy challenges. But if, as he prefers to, he is leaving the talking to his horses, then the message from the Sussex Stakes favourite Araafa in Newmarket yesterday afternoon was clear.
The colt, ridden by Alan Munro, looked hot stuff in a workout on the July course 13 days ahead of his date at Goodwood. With one twitch of Munro's reins and one change of leading leg he bounded clear of a solid older yardstick and came back with a challenge in the confident set of his neck and shoulder. "George Washington?" his demeanour said, "Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough."
Araafa is still behind the 2,000 Guineas winner in the ratings, presumably on the basis that his achievements since his fourth place in the first Classic - a turnaround of form in the Irish Guineas, an authoritative defeat of a subsequent Group One winner in the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot - have succeeded only in boosting his rival's status.
"I'm not saying anything about the others," said Noseda, also with a glint in his eye, "but this one is right there and ready and I'm happy. If people don't believe in him now, I don't know what else to do."
As far as Munro is concerned, Araafa's display felt every bit as breathtaking as it looked. "He's an attacker," he said, "a horse you can commit and know he'll keep going. And if you can go early then it leaves no room for error behind you.
"He has a tremendous reaching stride and you can feel a lot of power behind. And even in a gallop like this, you can feel the will of the horse and his determination. He goes on any ground, he's good on the big day. He's the complete article."
Araafa has played his part in Munro's successful relaunching of his career in these parts. "To ride a horse like this is just as good as it gets," he said. "I don't try to analyse the way things have gone too much. I just see myself as lucky to be here."
Twelve months ago, Noseda sent Proclamation on a similar mission across town before taking the Goodwood Group One mile showpiece. "Perhaps it's a bit of superstition that has made me do it again," he added, "but there are other reasons.
"He's quite sparky and when the game's on, he knows it's on. This will have given him a little awayday, and will have done him more good that three routine gallops in terms of settling him and giving him confidence."
Noseda has a more pressing interest in top-level competition tonight, when another of his yard's Classic winners, Vague, reverts to dirt in the American Oaks at Belmont Park. The filly, winner of the UAE 1,000 Guineas at Nad Al Sheba in February, has seven rivals as she tackles 10 furlongs for the first time.
Tomorrow at Maisons-Laffite, Munro rides Dragon Dancer, the short-head Derby runner-up who has the dubious honour of being the best maiden in training. After his runner-up spot at Epsom and fourth in the Irish Derby (ridden by Darryll Holland both times), Geoff Wragg's charge drops to 10 furlongs in the Prix Eugene Adam and will face four rivals, including Linda's Lad, not seen since his disappointing 12th at Epsom, and Markovitch, from Peter Chapple-Hyam's yard.
For the Prix Robert Papin on the same card Evens And Odds (Kevin Ryan) and Not For Me (Tim Pitt) travel from Britain, while the Godolphin team fields its first French runner of the season when Sussex Stakes entry Librettist attempts to put his hat in the mile championship ring in the Prix Messidor.
The last of the European Derbys, the German version, is staged tomorrow at Hamburg. It is not least in terms of international significance, for Shirocco won it two years ago and the field of 15, all locals, is headed by Peter Schiergen's Lauro.
With Ascot's King George meeting next weekend and Glorious Goodwood the following week, the domestic programme today is lowish-key. The most valuable race of the day is the £135,000 Super Sprint at Newbury, a contest with its purse boosted by auction sales.
That shrewd spotter of a bargain yearling, Richard Hannon, has made the five-furlong dash his own, with six victories. He is capable of bringing them home at any price in the betting ring, too; his first winner, Lyric Fantasy in 1992 was a 2-5 favourite and his most recent, Lady Livius last year, started at 100-1.
No-one will get too rich by backing the pick of his three candidates today; Gilded (3.30) is a very smart filly indeed - like Lyric Fantasy a Queen Mary Stakes winner - but her credentials are hard to overlook. Scented Present appeals most of the others.
Caradak lifts the Blues
Godolphin continued their recent renaissance when Caradak took the Lillian Summers Memorial Stakes at Newbury yesterday. Just 24 hours after Ashaawes obliged for Sheikh Mohammed's team in the feature at Leicester, Caradak repeated the trick when making a winning return at the prohibitive odds of 2-7.
The five-year-old, a dual Group Three winner for John Oxx last year, was having his first start in the blue silks, having arrived with Godolphin as part of a package which included the Irish Oaks winner Shawanda.
Nap: Mount Usher (Ripon 3.20)
NB: Tevere (Market Rasen 3.45)Reuse content