It is saying something when their riders are worthy of these horses. But that seems a fair judgement on 24 hours congested by three champions in their pomp: Christophe Soumillon, who won all three trials for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp yesterday; Frankie Dettori, whose prolific weekend in Britain yielded another candidate for the race in Sixties Icon; and, needless to say, Kieren Fallon himself. His performance on Dylan Thomas at Leopardstown on Saturday was yet another reminder of the infamy that will ultimately explain either his prosecution, or his persecution.
On the track itself, of course, answers are always turned into new questions. Nobody, for instance, could previously have speculated on the relative prospects of Shirocco and Dylan Thomas in the Breeders' Cup Classic without seeming drunk in charge of an opinion. But the likelihood of both switching to dirt, to take on Bernardini in his own back yard, is perhaps the most intriguing development of the weekend. The most depressing was the heart attack that claimed the life of Electrocutionist, whose Dubai World Cup success had made him a far more obvious candidate for the Classic.
Shirocco maintained his unbeaten record this season in the Prix Foy, at the marginal expense of his stablemate Hurricane Run. It must be said that Fallon rode the latter with rather less venom than he did Dylan Thomas, but then that was the kind of race it was - barely a race at all. Soumillon was equally tender on Shirocco, as indeed was Christophe Lemaire on Pride, who finished up breathing down their necks. Despite the small matter of £50,000 to the winner, this was little more than a game of paintball for an artillery regiment.
As a result, all three camps were unanimous in their satisfaction, though nobody can be adamant as to the finishing order when they meet again, fully fit and focused, over course and distance on 1 October. Not even André Fabre, who trains both Shirocco and Hurricane Run and had stated beforehand that he wanted neither to have a hard time. In the event, Soumillon gained first run before Hurricane Run, galloping lazily, reduced his advantage to a neck "I knew he would struggle as he doesn't like small fields," Fallon said. "But when it comes to big races he raises his game."
Fabre said that Hurricane Run, having run during the summer, was "a bit fitter" than when preparing for his Arc success last year on this card, and then disclosed that a crack at Bernardini was "a strong possibility" for Shirocco, who won the Breeders' Cup Turf last year. Fabre, with Arcangues, remains the only European trainer to have won the Classic.
Just half an hour later a sumptuous performance from Mandesha in the Prix Vermeille raised the possibility that Soumillon would not be available for Shirocco in the Arc. She is trained by Alain de Royer-Dupré for the Aga Khan's daughter, Princess Zahra, and the jockey is retained by the family. Mandesha would need to be supplemented, but is progressing so rapidly that the gamble might well be warranted. "We will look at the sectional times before deciding," the Aga Khan said. "It's a nice problem to have." In the circumstances, he may not pay too much attention to Soumillon's assertion that 10 furlongs remained her optimum trip.
With the Canadian International at Woodbine on 22 October an alternative to the Arc under consideration for Sixties Icon, Dettori was careful not to commit himself yesterday: "André said don't sell myself too early as he may have something for me."
Soumillon, who later won a Group Three sprint for William Haggas on Majestic Missile, had to work hardest in the third trial, the Prix Niel. Ultimately, however, Rail Link found extra to repel the challenge of Youmzain. Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to Khalid Abdullah, felt that the Dansili colt deserves to take his chance - assuming the ground does not turn soft.
While Dragon Dancer and Papal Bull do not appear to be progressing, judged on their efforts here, both Rail Link and Youmzain had beaten Red Rocks on their previous start. That colt went on to finish third to Sixties Icon in the St Leger on Saturday, and much depends on whether he matched his earlier form over the extra distance. If so, connections of Sixties Icon would be entitled to conclude that he would have at least as good a chance as Rail Link in the Arc.
Jeremy Noseda is at the sales in Kentucky and so missed his first British Classic winner. Nobody had any doubts over the eligibility of his trainer, but it would be edifying if Sixties Icon could help to redeem the Leger itself. He did not beat a field of authentic Classic calibre, but certainly did so in appropriate style.
For the moment, however, the quality of their opposition means that Sixties Icon remains behind Dylan Thomas among the resurgent three-year-old crop. Back on fast ground, the latter showed terrific spirit to win yet another epic finish provoked by the indefatigable Ouija Board.
Even when the mare dashed into the lead, Fallon always seemed to have things under control, though his use of the whip down the colt's shoulder was not terribly pretty. He protested that he did not have room to go for the backhand, and escaped with a caution.
Either way, the fact that he has abandoned hope of obtaining permission to ride at the Breeders' Cup cannot help the cause of Dylan Thomas. They are unbeaten together, and the odds are already stacked against the Danehill colt matching the magnificent run of Giant's Causeway when he made his dirt debut in the Classic. Dylan Thomas has an unadulterated turf pedigree, and Coral keep Bernardini as their 5-4 favourite, with Shirocco 8-1 and Dylan Thomas 10-1.
PRIX DE L'ARC DE TRIOMPHE
(Longchamp, 1 October)
Coral: 5-2 Hurricane Run, 3-1 Shirocco, 7-2 Deep Impact, 8-1 Rail Link, 10-1 Pride, Sixties Icon, 12-1 Sir Percy, 14-1 Mandesha, 20-1 Ouija Board.
William Hill: 11-4 Hurricane Run, Shirocco, 7-2 Deep Impact, 5-1 Rail Link, 8-1 Mandesha, Dylan Thomas (doubtful), Sixties Icon, 10-1 Pride, Ouija Board, 14-1 Hala Bek, Sir Percy.
Nap: Irish Wolf (Folkestone 4.20)
NB: Mr Loire (Wolverhampton 2.30)