It was, at last, business as usual for the Ballydoyle machine at the Curragh yesterday. After a patchy season which has yielded just one Classic and only two other Group 1 victories, Aidan O'Brien's charges sent a clear message for the autumn and beyond.
Derby winner High Chaparral made an eminently satisfactory belated return to action by taking the Royal Whip and an hour later One Cool Cat shot to the top of the two-year-old rankings as he burst the Three Valleys bubble in the Independent Waterford Wedgwood Phoenix Stakes.
Keeping a high-class three-year-old in training for a further season is fraught with risk and High Chaparral's third season debut had been delayed by a shoulder injury.
O'Brien had warned that the colt would be ring-rusty. In fact, he became the first Epsom hero to win on his first run at four in Europe since Mill Reef in 1972.
Mick Kinane kept the 9-10 favourite settled in third as In Time's Eye took the field of six along, asked the question two out and received a ready, willing response. And although High Chaparral tired towards the end he had enough in reserve to hold Mick Channon-trained Imperial Dancer's late challenge by a cosy enough three-quarters of a length.
"He was very mature at two and at three and all I ever wanted was for him to retain his ability," said a delighted O'Brien. "He pricked his ears a bit when he got to the front but perhaps that was to be expected." The son of Sadler's Wells is now second favourite to Dalakhani for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, in which he finished third last year. First will come either the Irish Champion Stakes or the Prix Foy at Longchamp. "Safe ground will be the key" added O'Brien. "He handles any ground, but we won't risk him. We need him to stay around for the rest of the year." One Cool Cat, a sleek, dark son of Storm Cat who cost $3.1m [£2m] as a yearling, completed a remarkable six-timer for O'Brien in the Phoenix Stakes, the first Group 1 on the juvenile season, following in the hoofprints of Spartacus, Johannesburg, Minardi, Fasliyev and Lavery. He did it in some style, too, quickening from off the pace under Kinane to make Three Valleys, who had tracked the Ballydoyle pacemaker Born In America from the off, look very one-paced. As the odds-on favourite, who went to the Curragh with a huge reputation after a stunning victory in the Coventry Stakes, dropped away it was left to O'Brien's second string Old Deuteronomy to fill the runner-up spot, at a respectful length.
One Cool Cat has now displaced Three Valleys as market leader for next year's 2,000 Guineas, as low as 4-1 with Ladbrokes. "The thing is that he's not a six-furlong horse at all," purred O'Brien. "He is crying out for seven or a mile, that's how good he is. We have all the options for him now, such as the National Stakes, the Dewhurst or the Racing Post Trophy. He is some special horse; it is his moves in the middle of his work that knock you dead watching him. And he is still only a baby."
There may have been a reason for Three Valleys' comprehensive defeat; the chestnut was found afterwards to have abnormal mucus in his airways. "I am disappointed but at least we know that wasn't his true running," said trainer Roger Charlton. "Richard [Hughes] said he moved beautifully to post but was never travelling in the race like he did at Ascot."
Three Valleys' stablemate Avonbridge did best of the British raiders in the afternoon's other top-level contest, the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville, losing second place to Etoile Montante by a short-head. A length ahead Porlezza gave her local trainer Yann de Nicolay his first Group 1 win in a long career. The sprint was marred by a crashing fall taken by Zipping, who broke a blood vessel but did get to his feet.
But the Brits abroad did not return entirely empty-handed. Bonus (Richard Hannon) made all to win the Group 3 Phoenix Sprint in Ireland and Big Bad Bob (John Dunlop) took one of the supporting races in France.
Freak storm hits Redcar
As the southern half of Britain baked in near-record temperatures yesterday Redcar's meeting was surprisingly abandoned at lunchtime after a freak storm. At around 10.30am torrential rain swept across the course, forcing officials to hold a 12.30pm inspection. Raceday clerk of the course James Sanderson said: "We were hit by a freak storm. You could not see from the grandstand to the other side of the track and the rain was torrential. We had 30 millimetres in 20 minutes."
Irish jump jockey Kieran Kelly remains critically ill on a life-support machine in a Dublin hospital after suffering serious head injuries in a fall at Kilbeggan on Friday evening.
John Banks, the flamboyant bookmaker who was rarely out of the news in the 1960s and 1970s, has died at the age of 68.