John Dunlop continued his successful harvest of Classic trials as Prince Tum Tum took the last of the domestic eliminators, the Easter Stakes, at Kempton yesterday. But, not for the first time after such a race this spring, the market for the 2,000 Guineas remained undisturbed, albeit not so much as a criticism of Prince Tum Tum's performance as for the very good reason that he is not engaged at Newmarket 13 days hence.
Dunlop and owner Robin Scully may have cause to regret the omission as Prince Tum Tum, ridden by Pat Eddery, showed a pleasing turn of foot to sweep into the lead inside the two-furlong mark and easily held Crimplene's half-brother, Dutch Gold, at bay by a length.
The bay Capote colt – named after Edward VII, who had a 48-inch girth when he ascended the throne in 1901 – was a tricky two-year-old, twice withdrawn following bad behaviour in the preliminaries before he made it as far as a race, but was much more equable yesterday.
"He was a nice horse last year, though quite nervous," said Dunlop, "but he has matured mentally and physically through the winter. We are lucky enough to have some nice three-year-old colts this spring and he has been working as well as any of them. He was well backed today and word clearly got out."
The sole Classic entry for Prince Tum Tum is in the Italian version of the Guineas, a Group Two contest in Milan next month. "We put him only in that one because we were not sure of him getting a mile in the best company," said Dunlop, "but he did appear to stay well enough. But that is the reason he has no big-race engagements over a mile in the near future."
Dust Cover, the least experienced of the field and the first Guineas entry home, outbattled the disappointing favourite, Rimrod, for the minor berth, with Captain Saif even more one-paced back in fifth.
Prince Tum Tum's workmates include Muqbil, winner of the Greenham Stakes and, since Trade Fair's defection, the first British-trained horse in the bookmakers' lists at a best-priced 12-1. The first two in the betting, Aidan O'Brien's charge Hold That Tiger (2-1) and the Godolphin candidate Lateen Sails (7-1) will make their seasonal debuts on the Rowley Mile.
Dunlop had good news of Muqbil but better of Khulood, who ran away with the Nell Gwyn Stakes last week. "Muqbil has come out of his race well, although he has not yet put all his weight back on," he said. "He was light enough to begin with and still looks a bit lean. But the filly looks absolutely fantastic."
Khulood carries the colours of Hamdan Al Maktoum, whose Nasij, trained by Dunlop's son Ed, justified favouritism in yesterday's distaff trial, the Masaka Stakes. The chestnut, confidently ridden in the van by Richard Hills, could be called the winner for most of the mile race and had a length and a half to spare over outsider Lucky Date at the line.
Whether or not Nasij lines up for the 1,000 Guineas two weeks today may depend on whether she escapes the equine flu that is sweeping through Newmarket and has badly hit Dunlop fils.
"We have had 30 horses down with it," he said. "It blows through a yard, and if this filly gets it, obviously she'll miss the Guineas. But the main thing now is that she's a stakes winner."
The flu epidemic has cast doubts over the participation in the 1,000 Guineas of the favourite, Six Perfections, trained in France by Pascal Bary, who is worried about taking the virus back across the Channel. Last year's champion filly is not scheduled to run until the Classic, but the value of her Prix Marcel Boussac form will be examined at Longchamp today when the runner-up, Etoile Montante, reappears in the Prix de la Grotte. In the colts' equivalent, the Prix de Fontainebleau, Hold That Tiger's stablemate Tomahawk puts his French Guineas credentials on the line against five locals, headed by Shuttle Diplomacy. But the most exciting horse on the card is the unbeaten Dalakhani, who will have his Derby aspirations tested by four rivals in the Prix Greffuhle.
At Stratford yesterday, Richard Johnson joined an élite group of jump jockeys when Quedex gave him his 1,000th domestic winner in the opening hurdle race. Only Stan Mellor, John Francome, Peter Scudamore, Richard Dunwoody, Tony McCoy, Adrian Maguire and Peter Niven had previously reached that landmark. Johnson, who rode his first winner in April 1994 and will finish runner-up in the jockeys' table to McCoy for the sixth successive year when the season ends on Saturday, said: "I can't say enough to thank all the trainers, owners and horses concerned."