Champions Day at Newmarket is by design an afternoon of hale and farewell, when the arrival of the shooting stars of the next generation in the Dewhurst Stakes sits on the same card as the Champion Stakes, traditionally an adieu, sometimes a final one, to the older celebrities. Yesterday the two themes became mixed.
There was, perhaps, a signal of things to come on Monday, when it was decided to supplement Mark Johnston's Duke Of Venice into Saturday's Dewhurst field at a cost of £24,000. That contributed to an already potent brew which, at that stage, included Three Valleys, Snow Ridge and Duke Of Venice's stablemate, Lucky Story.
The last-named proved to be a great misnomer, however. Throughout yesterday morning there appeared to be support for any other horse in the Dewhurst apart from him and, later in the day, came the news that the bookmakers had already anticipated.
"He's not going to run," Johnston said. "We weren't happy after his gallop yesterday that he was 100 per cent, and the owner said that unless I feel he is absolutely on top of his form, then we should wait for next year."
It was an unhappy announcement for all those who were looking forward to a vintage Dewhurst. It is a race which always carries with it an air of majesty, largely as the like of Grundy, Mill Reef and Nijinsky have emerged from its cradle.
What even looked a poor Dewhurst two years ago proved to be anything but. That was the day Rock Of Gibraltar beat Landseer with Where Or When in fourth. An assessment at the time was that it had been a weak contest. Piffle.
This legacy now lies principally with Three Valleys, who could well supplant Ireland's One Cool Cat as the 2,000 Guineas ante-post favourite if he performs as trainer Roger Charlton expects, and Snow Ridge. The latter was put into the upper reaches of both the Guineas and Derby consideration after his late swoop over a mile in the Royal Lodge Stakes at Ascot.
"Snow Ridge is a really nice horse," Martin Dywer, his jockey, said yesterday. "He's been very impressive and he's improving. We'll find out just how good he is on Saturday.
"He's a raw talent. At Ascot he was a bit slowly out of the gates, he was a bit green and I ended up getting in a bad position. But his turn of foot got him out of that and he won real nice."
There remains considerable discussion about the distance at which Snow Ridge will prove most adept. The weekend should tell us more as Marcus Tregoning's colt has to drop back to seven furlongs.
"He's got plenty of speed. He quickened from the turn and he broke the track record at Ascot, and you need plenty of speed to do that there," Dwyer added. "Newmarket is a straight track so if I can get him going a bit earlier, I'm not worried about the drop back. It looks like it's going to be a great race."
This particular juvenile championship will also go down as the last for Pat Eddery, the leading active rider in the Dewhurst. If you march back through the mists you can uncover the fact that the 11-times champion first won this event in 1972 on Lunchtime. That was followed by the successes of Grundy (1974), Storm Bird (1980), El Gran Senor (1983), Zafonic (1992) and Grand Lodge (1993). And finally we get Balmont, who was runner-up to Three Valleys in the Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket earlier this month.
"I was very happy with the way Balmont worked this morning and we've made the decision to run in the Dewhurst," Jeremy Noseda, the trainer, said yesterday. "He worked five furlongs up the Al Bahathri [gallop] under his work-rider, Dave Goodwin. It was an easy piece of work for him, but he appears to be in great shape, so we've decided to take the bold approach and give the Dewhurst a spin."
* Ten Carat has been heavily backed for Saturday's Cesarewitch at Newmarket. Ladbrokes reported a tipping-line plunge and have cut the Amanda Perrett-trained three-year-old from 12-1 to 7-1 favourite. "We have been caught on the blind side and have laid bundles," said Ladbrokes' spokesman Balthazar Fabricius. "There was something in the air yesterday when we went 12-1 from 14-1, having taken some decent bets."