On the face of it this is the end of the road for Seattle Rhyme as the Arc hope he looked last time at York, as the top class prospect he was last year. No excuses for fitness. He has now had two races back after his hoof problems of the spring. Yet here he was only third, beaten three-and-a-half lengths and a neck by Jeune and Red Bishop, neither of whom have pretensions of greatness.
Yet there may still be hope for Seattle Rhyme, whose imposing chestnut frame was so beautifully toned that stable lad Raymond Smith was in the money for 'best turned out horse' even before he had left the paddock. The real thing at Longchamp in a month's time will be very different to this kid-glove dress rehearsal round the sharper contours of Kempton.
What you will not get at Longchamp is five runners, no gallop in front and jockey Cash Asmussen much more interested in getting his partner to learn to settle than worrying about the finish.
So while old Ile De Chypre led this September Stakes field at what can best be described as 'a married man's gallop', Asmussen had to achieve a minor miracle of strength and persuasion to get Seattle Rhyme to accept the idea that his duty was to switch off and act as the whipper-in. For a few moments before the turn Seattle Rhyme supporters were congratulating themselves at how peacefully their hero was travelling at the back. Seconds later they got an ugly shock when war was declared up front.
Suddenly this was no sedate gallop but a desperate sprint up Kempton's 600-yard straight. The one thing you did not want to have your horse do was to lollop. But Asmussen had got Seattle Rhyme into lolloping mode and now he found his partner unwilling to change it.
With a few more runners there would have been a few more flotsam and jetsam to give stimulus as you pass. With only five runners there was a crucial two lengths of daylight between Seattle Rhyme and the rest of the pack. Unless my eyes mistake me, for at least 100 yards the horse did not see what the race had to do with him.
Meanwhile, at the head of affairs, the ultra-handsome Jeune had quickened up from a position only a little ahead of Seattle Rhyme and now showed just how able he can be when things go right. Answering Ray Cochrane's calls he sprinted clear of the group and behind him Seattle Rhyme laboured up and finally failed to pass Red Bishop before the post was reached.
Never believe excuses is usually the best motto and to be fair, trainer David Elsworth would not go on the record with any instant answers. But the way he clenched his teeth as he said 'We'll still be thinking of the Arc' made you think that he, too, will be giving Seattle Rhyme one more chance. I will be looking for a big each-way price tomorrow morning.
There was one other notable failure yesterday. Musicale, the filly who ended last season with as much promise as Seattle Rhyme, appeared to blow out completely in the Matron Stakes in Ireland. But otherwise the big guns breezed through.
An hour later at The Curragh the two-year-old filly Sayyedati won the Moyglare Stud Stakes for the Newmarket trainer, Clive Brittain, and confirmed her present position as favourite for next spring's 1,000 Guineas. Across in Lancashire another Newmarket product, Sheikh Albadou, came back to his best in the Haydock Park Sprint Cup. At Kempton, Silver Wizard won the Sirenia Stakes in a style that suggests he might be one of the best horses Epsom has produced in decades.
Sheikh Albadou, who beat the Lester Piggott-ridden Mr Brooks decisively, now travels to New York for a big race at Belmont. Silver Wizard goes for Newmarket's Middle Park Stakes before being lined up for next year's 2,000 Guineas. But that's not all he has to play for.
Questioned as to his colt's ability afterwards, trainer Geoff Lewis said: 'They say this is the best horse I have ever trained.' He then paused and thought of the 21 years since he was the jockey who steered the immortal Mill Reef through both Derby and Arc de Triomphe victories and said: 'He's not just that. He's the best horse I will ever train.' Silver Wizard cannot rest on yesterday.Reuse content