Lemon Souffle had none of the glossy look associated with thriving animals as she circled the parade ring, her hide parchment dry. Minutes later though, the brown-papered parcel showed it contained a jewel as Richard Hannon's filly earned a 14-1 quote for the 1,000 Guineas.
For the Marlborough trainer this was triumph in a conflict between eye and science. 'Her blood was all right, 300 per cent, but I just wished I could have had her looking better,' he said. 'Her coat's always dry-looking to me.
'This filly never looks right, but I'm told the whole family is like that.'
If Lemon Souffle hardly looked a vision of vitality, there was also much to mistrust in her main rivals before the Group Three race.
Snipe Hall virtually dragged her lass around the parade ring, her teeth champing on the bit and emitting a sound like nutcrackers on a walnut, while Rohita was a stiff-legged recalcitrant at the start and could only be persuaded into the stalls in the darkness of a hood.
All three were stragglers until the mid-point, but when the combined surge came it was clear that the main thrust belonged to Lemon Souffle.
Hannon, his nerve dismantled by having to replate his filly in the parade ring, observed the winner flash past the post from an unusual point. 'I couldn't even hold these,' he said, pointing to his binoculars. 'I had to watch from the betting shop.'
Boldness, however, had returned by the time Lemon Souffle was back in the winners' enclosure. 'I've had sharper horses than this one, but she has got more gears and can quicken as well as anything we've ever seen. She's always had this lovely daisy-cutting action.
'We've got the (1,000) Guineas in our sights now. I'm sure she'll get a mile, in fact I'm sure she will be even better at the distance.'
There was also some ebullience from Lord Carnarvon, the filly's owner. He said the horse's name came from one of his wife's recipes, adding in the plugging manner of a chat-show that the family repasts were now available in book form.
Lester Piggott described his mount as the best two-year-old seen this season, an opinion repeated by the Jockey Club handicapper Geoffrey Gibbs, who believes Lemon Souffle would beat the top-rated colt, the Royal Ascot winner State Performer.
The abbreviated attention span of Piggott seems to last longer in interviews these days, and mumbles were dragged out of him on his winner, his health, and the new whip laws.
And of course there was the regular query about how much longer this could all go on. The 57-year-old's hair is almost white now and his face strikingly ravined, but he will continue as long as horses like Lemon Souffle are provided for him. His elixir is climbing into the saddle.
The day's other Group race, the Princess Of Wales's Stakes, saw the dual Derby failure, Desert Team, uphold the good record of three-year-olds in the race, paring the course record into the bargain and earning a place in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
'I've always believed in him and for the first time in his life he got a bit of luck in running,' Jim Bolger, the winning trainer, said.
Good fortune, Bolger added, is one of racing's greatest allies. Whatever runs into Lemon Souffle is certainly going to need it.
Intrepidity, the Oaks winner, was yesterday supplemented for the Irish equivalent at The Curragh on Saturday at a cost of IR pounds 25,000 to her owner, Sheikh Mohammed. Her stable-companion in Andre Fabre's yard, Wemyss Bight, is likely to prove her stiffest rival. William Hill quote Intrepidity at 11-10, with Wemyss Bight on 11-2.
Results, page 31
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