It must have been a bewildering afternoon for Mr Dinos here yesterday as he emerged from solitary confinement at the quarantine unit of his Whatcombe yard to be confronted by the 75,000 crowd of Ladies' Day. Yet Mr Dinos was not unduly disturbed as he finished the Gold Cup just as he had spent the past three weeks, in isolation. Splendid, six-length, isolation.
Gold Cups are not won like this, neither do they receive this sort of preparation. Paul Cole's Oxfordshire stables have been a sanatorium of late, with 70 per cent of the inmates in the thrall of a virus. Mr Dinos was removed from the main body as soon as sickness arrived.
While Cole collected the prize yesterday, and Kieren Fallon once again received the bouquets for a typically purposeful ride, the significant individual was probably the invisible one, Tom Pirie, Mr Dinos' lad. This was a story of one man and his horse, of a marooned colt and his Man Friday.
"We've had a terrible six weeks with the virus and this horse had to be isolated," Cole reported. "Even I've hardly been near him. I tried not to get involved. Tom's virtually lived with the horse. He's been in charge."
For the first time in a month, though, it was all out of Pirie's hands as the field for the Royal meeting's premier race was sent on its way in mid-afternoon. On the first surge through the valley of the hats, old Persian Punch was in the lead. The prancing action of Black Sam Bellamy was in behind and Mr Dinos, on a tight rein, was third.
Persian Punch was, in fact, the pathfinder for the first two miles of his seventh Gold Cup. He quickened at half-way, on the run downhill on the far side, the first occasion when some in the main bunch started to squeak.
Four furlongs out, Mr Dinos made his imprint. This had been the plan. Cole convinced Fallon that his mount would stay and so did Frankie Dettori, Mamool's jockey yesterday and a previous partner of his main market rival. He briefed Fallon before the start. It was a sort of brotherhood of the whip. "Frankie said be positive and go when you want," Fallon said. "When I had gone by Persian Punch, turning for home, he seemed to find another gear - the sign of a good horse. It felt so good."
After Fallon's move, the rest seem mesmerised as he muscled Mr Dinos into the distance, caught like rabbits in the headgear. Nothing emerged from the crowd and Persian Punch deservedly hung on for second.
Cole came off the stands trembling and in tears. It is over a decade since his pomp - Generous and his sole championship of 1991. Now he had collected his big one. "If I had to name a race I wanted to win it would be the Gold Cup," he said. "This is really a very emotional moment for me. The Gold Cup is a race I have always really wanted to win, I've dreamt about it, but this is the first runner I've had in the race. It's awesome for me.
"I've been feeling under pressure since he won at Sandown, all the more as I persuaded his owner [Constantinos Shiacolas, Dinos to his friends] to come over from Cyprus to watch him. So, with the concerns about the virus and the ground it has been a testing time for us all."
They do plenty of bowing at the Royal gathering and the genuflection extended to Mark Johnston yesterday as he raced to the lead in the fixture's trainers' table with a second double.
Russian Valour initiated matters when he shrugged off the raging favourite, Kheleyf, in the Norfolk Stakes. It was a victory we had to come to expect from a typically enormous Johnston horse. "I thought he was too big early on," the trainer said. "I don't think I've ever trained a bigger horse of his class. He's nearly 100 kilos more than Mister Baileys when he won the Guineas."
Fantastic Love completed the double, while there was a first success at the meeting for Johnston's rival, Sir Michael Stoute, with Spanish Sun in the Ribblesdale Stakes. It was a fortunate win, however, as the fast-finishing Ocean Silk would have triumphed had Jimmy Fortune opened her sails either a little earlier or from a more prominent position. He tried to whip his way back into contention and paid the penalty, four days off at the end of the month.
Johnny Murtagh, too, was a sinner, receiving a single-day ban for his effort in the Hampton Court Stakes. He will be able to spend the time counting the cash though as his mount, Persian Majesty, was allowed to keep the contest despite swerving in front of his field.
* Fran Ferris has been banned for 21 days for dropping his hands and losing a race on Claptrap at Southwell yesterday. The apprentice had his mount clear but eased down and was beaten a short-head by Sambaman.
Nap: Nadour Al Bahr
(Royal Ascot 4.20)
NB: Soviet Song
(Royal Ascot 3.45)