It was 13 years ago that the Aga Khan's colt put 12 lengths between himself and a sweating field in this race before success in the Derby, and Broadway Flyer was also an emphatic winner yesterday, albeit by the narrower margin of five lengths.
There, however, the parallels end. Though John Hills's colt is now second favourite for Epsom, his overall form is nowhere near that which his predecessor accumulated. Post-race, the trainer said his horse could do no better than beat what was put in front of him (the same argument Mickey Duff proffers after Frank Bruno has slapped down an ill-matched opponent) and added that Broadway Flyer could play a significant part in a non-vintage Classic year. It will have to be downgraded to Pomagne standard.
That said, Broadway Flyer was by far the most captivating of yesterday's runners, both before and during the race. As his rivals minced around the parade ring, the son of Theatrical suggested he was born for a stage, exhibiting a long, languid stride with a confident catwalk swagger.
Michael Hills, the trainer's brother, must have felt similarly upbeat as he was the first jockey into the ring, but the early moments of the race proper must have shaken him. 'He's such a big horse that he stumbled coming out of the stalls,' the rider said. 'I had to find a leg from somewhere to carry on with the race.'
There the problems ended. Broadway Flyer was soon tugging along his field, and, whenthe afterburner was ignited four furlongs out, the adjoining rope seemed to snap as he pulled clear. 'That's definitely Derby form,' Hills said after dismounting. 'There's no point comparing it with other years, we're racing against horses who are going to compete in this year's Derby. They've got me to beat.
'He handled the turns well, but he was looking around and this will have done him a world of good for Epsom. He was switching legs a lot, but next time he'll know more about what's required. For a big horse he's quite agile and he does respond to your call.'
Broadway Flyer will now go straight to the Derby, and attempt to reverse the misfortune the race has provided for the Hills family down the years. Father Barry has supplied the runner-up on four occasions and John Hills remembers his schooldays when the first of those, Rheingold, lost by a short-head to Roberto in 1972. Another of the unfortunates, Glacial Storm, was ridden by Michael Hills.
From morning odds of 25-1, Broadway Flyer, John Hills's first Derby entry, is now as low as 10-1 second favourite for the journey around Tattenham Corner. 'I'm going to Epsom with a horse that's got a real crack at the race,' he said. 'We're not going there on a wing and a prayer.'
The trainer can at least be fortified by episodes of history. Subsequent Group One winners Old Vic, Belmez and Toulon have recently won the Chester Vase, which has been considered a Derby trial ever since 1923, when both races were won by Papyrus (his form was worth the paper it was written on). It remains to be seen if the same can be said about Broadway Flyer.
THE DERBY (Epsom, 1 June): Coral: 7-1 Mister Baileys, 10-1 Broadway Flyer & Colonel Collins, 16-1 Bal Harbour, King's Theatre & Linney Head; Ladbrokes: 7-1 Mister Baileys, 10-1 Broadway Flyer & Colonel Collins, 12-1 Bal Harbour, 14-1 State Performer, 16-1 King Of Naples & Linney Head; Sporting Index: 8-1 Mister Baileys, 10-1 Colonel Collins, 14-1 Bal Harbour, Broadway Flyer & Linney Head; William Hill: 6-1 Mister Baileys, 12-1 Broadway Flyer & Colonel Collins, 14-1 Linney Head, 16-1 Bal Harbour.