Ryan Moore will hardly permit the use of the "C-word" in his hearing, but perhaps now even he might accept that talk of the championship is no longer presumptuous. After all, even if they bestride the Turf, the meek still have a long way to go before they can inherit the earth.
Certainly, it had previously seemed incongruous that he should have so much quantity on his CV, yet so little quality. Yesterday Moore addressed that discrepancy with a first Group One success, getting Notnowcato home by a nostril in the Juddmonte International Stakes. That extended his lead over Jamie Spencer to 28, and while he is not suddenly going to abandon his native habits of diffidence and modesty, he softly acknowledged the significance of the moment.
"Obviously I'm in a good position in the championship, but there's a long way to go and it's not all over yet," he said. "Anyway, even if I do get the title, I would say winning this race will mean more to me."
Characteristically, Moore deceived himself that he had just been thwarted by Maraahel - an illusion prompted by an incautious salute to the crowd from Richard Hills. And if the breakthrough seemed overdue, it should be remembered Moore is still only 22. It was at this meeting that he had twice been foiled in similar finishes to the Nunthorpe Stakes, on The Tatling, but it was not so much the stage that was fitting as the impresario.
Notnowcato and Maraahel are trained by Sir Michael Stoute, who has shown such faith in Moore's readiness but needs the jockey himself to win over the stable's patrons. After all, Notnowcato would presumably have been ridden by Michael Kinane, his partner all season, but for his desertion to the odds-on favourite, Dylan Thomas.
As it was, the Irish colt pulled too hard off a hesitant early pace, and on this slower ground he was one of the first beaten. Moore shadowed Frankie Dettori on Cherry Mix, before taking over with fully 500 yards to run. Maraahel emerged with a prolonged challenge but Notnowcato held on, like the boxer who clings to his opponent, waiting for the bell. The pair pulled three lengths clear of Blue Monday. Maraahel had also been narrowly foiled in this race last year. "They are two brave horses but, hopefully, the other one's turn will come," Stoute said. "Notnowcato has had a hard race so I imagine we'll freshen him up for the Champion Stakes at Newmarket and finish his season abroad, maybe in Hong Kong."
Moore and Stoute had earlier been dispirited by a tame performance from Papal Bull in the Ladbrokes Great Voltigeur Stakes, though there was another epic finish. Richard Hughes and Youmzain crept through to pounce on Dettori and Red Rocks, who had led going well halfway up the straight. "He broke his tooth in the stalls," Hughes said. "I was a little worried in the first half mile, as he was carrying his head funny. But he's a pretty good horse."
The sponsors offer 7-1 against him following up in the St Leger, staged here next month with Doncaster closed for redevelopment. Brian Meehan is keen for a rematch, feeling that Red Rocks may have been in front too long, though it must be said his colt has run at least as well making the running in the past, and cannot be certain to last the extra distance.
There were anxious undertones about the success of Sergeant Cecil in the Weatherbys Insurance Lonsdale Cup. In this instance it was the winner's usual jockey, Alan Munro, who is in the wars. Rod Millman, Sergeant Cecil's trainer, said that Munro has "a bug" but otherwise there has been no confirmation of the condition that reportedly required his plane to France on Sunday to turn around.
Munro missed the Group One success of Dutch Art and now had to watch Dettori win on his old favourite. "Frankie gave him a fantastic ride but it is Alan who gave this horse his confidence," Millman said. "Let's hope he's back soon."