The last time Godolphin relied on a supersub in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe the result proved to be Boy's Own stuff as, two years ago, Marienbard stepped off the bench and out of the shadows cast by Sakhee and Grandera to take the Longchamp showpiece.
The last time Godolphin relied on a supersub in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe the result proved to be Boy's Own stuff as, two years ago, Marienbard stepped off the bench and out of the shadows cast by Sakhee and Grandera to take the Longchamp showpiece. This time round, it is Mamool who will be pulling on the royal blue number 12 shirt in the Bois de Boulogne, in the absence of stablemates Doyen and Sulamani.
If history repeats itself in Paris on Sunday, it will be the last of a series of extraordinary parallels in the lives of the two horses. Both are late developers, once perceived as stayers rather than middle-distance performers. At three, both ran in the St Leger; Marienbard finishing sixth as fourth favourite and Mamool fourth as sixth favourite. At four, both won the Yorkshire Cup; both then finished fifth in the Ascot Gold Cup, each beaten seven lengths; and both finished that season with an unplaced run in the Melbourne Cup.
Before going to Longchamp as a five-year-old (his second start in France), Marienbard had won seven of his 16 starts, most notably a pair of Group 1 contests in Germany. Mamool, a five-year-old, heads to France (for his second start there) with seven wins from 17 starts, most notably a pair of Group 1 contests in Germany. Both are bay with a white star and a white off-hind sock. Both have Northern Dancer as his paternal great-grandfather.
But, of course, one must contrast as well as compare and the two roads to the Arc have had their differences, one rocky at the start, the other towards the end. Marienbard rose from the status of journeyman in the Godolphin camp; Mamool, much the handsomer of the pair with more inherent class, had his potential compromised by an injury picked up in the Melbourne Cup.
"Marienbard," said the Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford yesterday, "had always been no more than workmanlike, a scratchy sort of horse. But then, at five, he suddenly turned himself inside out, showed us things we'd never seen from him before.
"In the middle of that summer he started to do extremely well and when he won those races in Germany he looked a very good horse. When he went to the Arc, he had a lot of confidence under his belt and we felt we were going there as a fighting each-way prospect."
Crisford feels Mamool, too, has a sporting chance of finishing in the places, but from a more cautious perspective. "He had always shown a little more dash than Marienbard," he said, "but that injury in Australia was really, really serious. He ripped a hind suspensory ligament off the sesamoid bone, and took a chunk of bone out with it. He has needed a lot of time for him to get over it and there is always the question of whether an experience like that has knocked a horse's confidence."
Mamool did not make his five-year-old debut until six and a half weeks ago when he finished a rather flat third over 10 furlongs at Deauville, before a determined defeat of Alkaased and Bandari in the September Stakes. "He showed very good resolution at Kempton," said Crisford, "but going to a race like the Arc, you'd just like to have seen more from this campaign; more than two runs, to have been tested better at a higher level, and to have won with a bit more authority."
In Newmarket yesterday morning Mamool came through his final wind-up, a six-furlong spin under Kerrin McEvoy, in splendid fettle.
"He went really, really well, and Kerrin said he'd never felt him better and I don't want to put people off him," added Crisford. "But he'll have to step up on what he's done. Marienbard was there, but Mamool has not quite got there in public yet." Mamool is likely to face three derby winners on Sunday. North Light was among the 27 acceptors; Grey Swallow and Blue Canari are to be supplemented tomorrow at a cost of €60,000 (£41,000) apiece.
Oaks winner Ouija Board, last year's runner-up Mubtaker, and outsiders Imperial Dancer and Nysaean are the other prospective raiders from Britain in a race with a safety limit of 20, though connections are still mulling over their challenges.
¿ Seven fillies were declared yesterday for the next Group 1 contest on the European circuit, tomorrow's Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket. They are headed by the current Irish-trained 1,000 Guineas favourite Damson, with the home defence led by Soar and Suez.