With races apparently as likely to be recorded in law reports as the formbook, few in Britain noticed when a colt crept under the radar last week with legitimate claims to becoming the middle distance champion of his generation.
In fairness, Rail Link made his big breakthrough at an evening meeting in the Bois de Boulogne, and may have been overlooked even in France among various other pyrotechnics staged in honour of Bastille Day. Unquestionably, however, his performance in the Grand Prix de Paris will command international interest by the time he returns to Paris in the fall.
Rail Link has emerged out of left field, or la rive gauche at any rate. Trained by André Fabre for Khaled Abdulla, he was unraced at two and actually fell on his debut in the spring. But he has since blossomed so rapidly that it seems a pity he will not follow Fabre's established titan, Hurricane Run, to Ascot for the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes on Saturday week.
By beating Red Rocks two lengths at Longchamp, Rail Link merits comparison with Papal Bull, who did much the same at Royal Ascot. As it happens, Papal Bull is still in the King George, but in the same ownership as Hurricane Run. And there is an increasing reluctance nowadays to run three-year-olds in the King George. The major Derbys tend to be preceded by long spring campaigns, and a break is essential in a calendar increasingly tilted towards tough journeys late in the year. Lord Grimthorpe, Abdulla's racing manager, emphasised that they would not hesitate to take on Hurricane Run if the timing were better.
"But the suspicion is that after a couple of quick races, Ascot might come a bit soon," he said. "I certainly hope Rail Link runs in the King George next year, but the likelihood is that he will now be given a break and brought back for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. I imagine he might have a run in the Prix Niel first."
Rail Link's first Group One success already represents a landmark for his sire, Dansili, whose own failure to win at that level did a scandalous injustice to his ability. His serial misfortunes reached a climax in the Breeders' Cup Mile, and it seemed as though they might be genetic when Price Tag, clearly the best filly on the day, was disqualified in the French 1,000 Guineas.
Price Tag also had little luck in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot, and could now seek an overdue success in the Prix d'Astarte at Deauville. Both she and Rail Link represent Dansili's second crop, while the emergence from his third of Strategic Prince, winner of the July Stakes at Newmarket last week, and Thousand Words, who runs at Newbury tomorrow, confirms Dansili a young stallion of infinite promise.
He is abdundantly qualified on pedigree. His mother, Hasili, also foaled Banks Hill, Intercontinental, Heat Haze and Cacique - all Group One winners. His sire, moreover, was the mighty Danehill. Just as Montjeu managed to identify himself as a potential successor to his ageing sire, Sadler's Wells, even though he was conservatively priced and supported, so Dansili has promoted himself as perhaps the most eligible young son of Danehill despite starting with a fee of just £8,000.
Significantly, Dansili has already shown the versatility of his sire, who represented a profound influence for speed in Danzig yet includes Dylan Thomas as the latest of his champions to excel over longer distances. And Dansili's own performance trademark, a turn of foot, seems to be the common denominator among his first stars.
"It's encouraging that Dansili has begun so well because Danehill had a very slow start, especially in Europe," Grimthorpe noted. "It was only when he started doing so well in Australia that people retained the faith in Europe. Prince Khaled always had great faith in Dansili, and supported him throughout.
"Not only does he keep getting winners, but they seem to improve with age - Rail Link being a case in point. There was nothing wrong with him last year, it was just that he was quite a tall, backward, scopey sort who took a bit of time."
NB: Moss Bawn
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