Self-preservation was the instinct uppermost among racegoers after the 2.53pm announcement to evacuate, a call all too reminiscent of Aintree and the Grand National two years ago. That unfortunately will be the lasting reminder of the day.
Fortunately, though, the timing of the evacuation call allowed See More Business the stage to come of age as one of the great jumping horses. Before flag fall yesterday, he was already in the elite of 11 horses to have won both a King George and a Cheltenham Gold Cup; now he is pressing on with his collection of racing's Majors, and, more pertinently, he is beginning to produce displays of some brilliance.
When he first won at Kempton it was set as a triumph surrendered to him by One Man. In March, the failings of others rather than his own brilliance was again said to be the principal factor in the Gold Cup. It had been hard for some people to recognise the scruffiest of champions, a little horse with an apologetic look, the bearer of blinkers.
But See More Business can be denied no longer. Mill House's winning distance of 20 lengths in 1963 may remain, but it cannot be that he succeeded in an easier fashion than Paul Nicholls's horse yesterday. See More Business was not always in the lead but he was always in command. The only smack of encouragement he was to receive came from the hand of Mick Fitzgerald as the pair sailed effortlessly across the line "I wasn't surprised by how well he was going," the jockey said. "He's a very good horse. He is a Gold Cup winner. He travels.
"He jumped superbly today and just galloped from fence to fence. I knew when I looked behind him, half-way down the back straight, that the rest of them were in trouble. We had gone a seriously good gallop all the way and he was just running away with me."
Kempton and Christmas can produce plenty of drama of its own without outside interference and so it proved yesterday as some of the nation's most talented chasers congregated to battle and entertain.
The behemoths yesterday were Looks Like Trouble and Double Thriller, See More Business's stable-mate. Both, however, impressed rather more in the paddock than they did in the race itself. The liver chestnut Dr Leunt with his lazy painter's splashes of white and swaying walk took the eye in this parade, and did so too in the early stages of the race itself when he was immediately rushed into the lead.
Double Thriller chased and so too did See More Business, but there was no panic, no straining, for the Gold Cup winner to keep in touch. It was not possible to tell from his progress that the pace was strong. That was the message that came from those behind.
The young Looks Like Trouble was done for just after the 12th and then others started to drop out. The admirable Dr Leunt forged on in an effort to protect his unbeaten record at Sunbury but, at the top of the home turn, he was wickedly swept aside. If See More Business was tired in the clinging ground, it was a fatigue he kept to himself. He skipped over the final obstacles and left the desperate slogging to Go Ballistic, Dr Leunt and Mulligan behind him.
Then he returned to the co-ordinating country pastels of his connections and steamed away in the cold Middlesex air. See More Business is now as low as 11-4 (with the Tote) to win a successive Gold Cup and further stamp himself in the annals. That landmark might have been achieved already had he not been carried out in the Blue Riband of 1998. "I think he has probably been very unlucky not to have won two Gold Cups," Nicholls said. "If he hadn't been carried out, I think we might now be going for three, then he might have been considered a good horse. I think he's a great horse, anyway.
"He deserves to be favourite [for the Gold Cup]. He has beaten Florida Pearl and what else is there to beat him? If he is in as good form on Gold Cup day as he was today that would be enough.
"I don't know how he has improved," the trainer said. "He has been working with Flagship Uberalles (the stable's Arkle Chase winner) this last fortnight because he's the only one who can make him work hard.
"There has been a transformation in his jumping since the blinkers. He hasn't made a single mistake while he has had them. The trouble before was that the horse had so much ability and he became complacent. It had become too easy for him and he lost concentration.
"He is only nine so, God willing, he can come back here next year. That's why I don't want to run him too much. If we keep the mileage right, we might be able to get another couple of seasons out of him."
In two years there might be a seriously weighty set of gongs on See More Business's breast pocket. Arkle and Desert Orchid ended their careers at Kempton and yesterday we witnessed the continuation of an impressive march to get close to their station in this sport's record books.
n Today's meeting at Kempton is subject to a 7.45am inspection. Andrew Cooper, clerk of the course, said: "We will assess the condition of the track, for as well as the security situation a sharp overnight frost is forecast." If racing does take place, the two remaining races from yesterday's card will not be added to the programme.
n Inis Cara compensated the Limerick trainer Michael Hourigan for the dismal display of Dorans Pride at Kempton by winning the pounds 125,000 Paddy Power Handicap Chase at Leopardstown. Inis Cara was produced with a perfectly timed challenge by Robbie McNally to beat the 20-1 chance Irish Light by three lengths.
n Gary Stevens, who rode 46 winners when stable jockey to Sir Michael Stoute this year, has announced his retirement. The American, who won the Kentucky Derby three times, is retiring because of degenerative arthritis to his right knee.Reuse content