This is the time of the year when owners, trainers and jockeys look forward to being blessed with a winter warmer, the arrival of a promising two-year-old to keep them glowing over the dark months in anticipation of great glories the following spring.
It is beginning to look fortunate that Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum will be spending the off season in the natural heat of his native Dubai. Until a week ago Sheikh Hamdan appeared to have good grounds for composing a victory speech for next year's 2,000 Guineas. Then it was announced that his glittering young colt Almushahar had damaged himself on the Newmarket gallops, news which was compounded here yesterday on the Rowley Mile when Muqbil dribbled to defeat in the Somerville Tattersall Stakes. Suddenly winter will not be quite as exciting for the Sheikh.
It may be that Muqbil will still be a substantial force in his second season. He was going on at the end of this seven-furlong contest after betraying signs of youth, but there was still great disappointment that he could not build on the huge promise of a Newbury debut success.
There was a sparse crowd to witness his flashy form in the parade ring, an attractive chestnut body decorated with splashes of white. Muqbil's only challenger both in the betting and flamboyance stakes was Ballydoyle's Marino Marini, a striking light grey.
There was a phoney war in the race proper until all five runners congregated line abreast at the four-furlong marker, their jockeys giving the appearance of advancing hussars. Then came the notable feature of Newmarket, The Dip. And then came trouble.
Muqbil threw in a Saturday-night stumble, changed his legs and lugged to the inside. He got going again only when he hit the climb on the other side of the shallow valley, but that recovery was not enough to catch Governor Brown, who had half a length to spare at the line.
John Dunlop, the trainer of the 4-5 favourite, was just grateful to get his horse back. "That was most unsatisfactory," he said. "When he came down that hill I thought he'd broken down or broken his leg with the way he lost his action."
Governor Brown may now return to these environs for the Dewhurst Stakes, although Paul Cole, his trainer, remains unclear about his colt's true merit. "I'm pretty surprised when any of them win," he said. "It's never straightforward and you just hope he's a good horse.
"Richard [Quinn, the winning jockey] thought they were all running a bit green. It's difficult coming down that hill sometimes for two-year-olds, especially when they don't go a great pace early on and they all quicken going down the hill. They do run around a bit."
Marino Marini beat just one home and his display, half-an-hour after the defeat of Sorcerous in the Noel Murless Stakes, emphasised that Ballydoyle has some chopping to do before emerging from the woods.
Sorcerous cost 2m guineas across the road at the Tattersalls Houghton Sales two years ago to the day and that is not an outlay he looks like recouping.
Tholjanah, his half-length conqueror, is considered a Cup horse for next season, but his trainer, Marcus Tregoning, has more immediate matters on his mind, namely the next appearance of stable spearhead, Nayef.
That will be made clear this morning at declaration time for Sunday's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. "If he ran in the Arc we could always go to America for one of the Breeders' Cup races and, from what I've seen so far, he would have a good chance in the Turf or the dirt race [the Classic]," Tregoning said. "He'd obviously have an outstanding chance if he went to the Champion Stakes [back here in just over two weeks] as well.
"There is no question in my mind that the Arc will be a very tough race, with the French horse [Sulamani] in very good form. Islington might be going as well I believe and I would rate her as one of the best three-year-olds, including the colts, in the country."
2003 2,000 GUINEAS: Coral: 8-1 Trade Fair, 12-1 Almushahar, Maghanim, 14-1 Statue Of Liberty, 16-1 Elusive City, Refuse To Bend; Ladbrokes: 10-1 Trade Fair, 12-1 Maghanim, Refuse To Lose, 16-1 Statue Of Liberty, Van Nistelrooy; William Hill: 8-1 Trade Fair, 10-1 Almushahar, 14-1 Statue Of Liberty, 16-1 Elusive City, Maghanim, Muqbil, Refuse To Bend, Van Nistelrooy.
PRIX DE L'ARC DE TRIOMPHE (Longchamp, Sunday): Coral: 7-4 Sulamani, 9-4 High Chapparal, 6-1 Nayef, 8-1 Aquarelliste, 9-1 Islington, Marienbard, 10-1 Manhattan Cafe, 14-1 Asian Heights, 16-1 Falbrav; William Hill: 7-4 Sulamani, 2-1 High Chapparal, 7-1 Marienbard, 8-1 Aquarelliste, Nayef, 10-1 Islington, Manhattan Cafe, 16-1 Asian Heights, Falbrav.Reuse content