As it always should be, it was a horse who was the star of the show here yesterday. A fleet of international jockeys were strutting their stuff in the Great Britain & Ireland v the Rest of the World team competition that is the Shergar Cup but the remarkable Young Mick put them in their place. With Gerald Mosse in the saddle, he provided the ROW side with their sole success in six races but such was the ease of his victory that the identity of the rider was almost immaterial. Charlotte Church, who provided the post-racing musical entertainment, could probably have won on him.
All right, Young Mick is just a handicapper, not a top-level performer. But pound for pound he is the most improved horse in training and his progress has been a testament to his small-time Newmarket trainer George Margarson. The four-year-old could not win a bad maiden at Wolverhampton in January off a mark of 52; yesterday he romped in off 96 in the Challenge to record his third 12-furlong success here, including one at the Royal meeting, and his ninth of the year.
His next target is the Ebor Handicap at York in 10 days' time, for which he is now among the market leaders at around 10-1. "Today was nothing more than a paid exercise gallop for him," said a delighted Margarson. "He'll be out again tomorrow for a 10-furlong canter; if he wasn't he'd be climbing out of his box.
"That seems the key to him, he thrives on hard work. Back in January he wasn't doing on the track what he was showing at us home and I finally lost my temper. I ran him four times in nine days, he won three, the penny finally dropped and he hasn't looked back." Young Mick, owned and bred by Mike Kentish, will be stepping up two more furlongs on the Knavesmire. "Whether he gets the trip, we won't know until then," added Margarson, "but my guess is he will. Everyone laughed when I put him in the Melbourne Cup, but I think they'll have to take him seriously now."
For all its place on a novelty day, the Juvenile has produced some smart performers in its short history, having two subsequent Group 1 winners, Tout Seul and Kinnaird, in the past three runnings. Yesterday's easy four-length winner, Eddie Jock, is on his way up the ladder and may turn out again in the Acomb Stakes at York.
Racing, with so many individual axes grinding in each human-equine partnership, cannot really lend itself to a team event; yesterday was hardly a rider cup, never mind a Ryder Cup. The result, about as inconsequential as that of the Charity Shield, was, for the record, a 158-95 point victory for the home side, including doubles from Seb Sanders and Ryan Moore.
But on the credit side, the day provides something different in the lull between the Goodwood and York festivals and yesterday's crowd of over 21,000 compares very favourably with that on an ordinary Saturday here.
At Newmarket, English Ballet produced at stylish display to take the Sweet Solera Stakes, the Group 3 contest that often pinpoints top-flight young performers, notably Soviet Song, who beat Summitville four years ago. The Barry Hill-trained filly was slowly away but swiftly found her balance and stride ground and with a quarter-mile to go quickened on demand on the rain-softened ground to go clear of Princess Taise and win, her ears pricked, by a length.
The most important of the weekend's two-year-old events is today's Group 1 Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh. Last year George Washington announced his arrival in the top echelon of his generation with a devastating eight-length rout of his rivals, becoming the seventh winner of the race to emerge from Ballydoyle in eight years.
The latest Aidan O'Brien wunderkind is Holy Roman Emperor, one of the last of the Danehills. The colt was supplemented to the six-furlong dash at a cost of E30,000 (£20,000), so it may be reasonable to assume his connections are confident of his atoning for a disappointing Coventry Stakes, when he was only 15th of 21 runners. The Royal Ascot winner, Bryan Smart-trained Hellvellyn, reopposes.
This afternoon's other top action is in France, where Peeress (Sir Michael Stoute) and Librettist (Saeed Bin Suroor) challenge from Britain for the Prix Jacques Le Marois . The O'Brien raider is Ad Valorem, with the home defence led by Stormy River.
BETS OF THE DAY
The experience of well-bred Hadahoo (Leicester 2.20) in a similar race at Newmarket two weeks ago should tell.
Has been off for four months, but Cursum Perficio (Leicester 3.20) is unexposed and well-drawn for one who races prominently.