Britain's leading trainer following the dual Guineas successes of Rodrigo De Triano and Dr Devious's Derby victory, Chapple- Hyam has been the nation's most frustrated handler in recent weeks as his horses have been claimed by the virus. 'It's been boring,' he says. 'Very boring indeed.'
Manton, the Wiltshire training complex, has in fact been little more than a sanatorium from the moment Chapple-Hyam, his top hat pulled down to Freddie Davies level, jogged down Epsom's straight to welcome back Dr Devious.
Rodrigo De Triano was confirmed as a sick horse shortly afterwards, following a disappointing fourth at Royal Ascot, while the Blue Riband winner himself was a weakened performer when failing to confirm Epsom form with St Jovite in the Irish Derby.
'They both had the virus very badly,' Chapple-Hyam says. 'And because of their hard races it affected them more. All the horses have been coughing, with temperatures and dirty noses. They looked desperate in their coats and they were lifeless, and if we took them out for an hour, even for a walk, they came back dead.
'The worst thing while we were off was seeing all these two-year- old races, a lot of bad races, with three and four runners. We've got 50 two-year-olds here that haven't seen a racecourse yet and it was getting me mad that I couldn't run anything in them.'
Horse boxes are back on the road out of Manton now, however, and Chapple-Hyam feels a sense of deja vu about the yard's operations. 'Really it's just like the start of the season,' he says. 'Just like being back in March. All the horses are fresh, ready to go and, with any luck, they can run from now until the end of the year.'
In the space of three days next week, Chapple-Hyam will know whether his standard bearers have been resurrected to the point where they can make meaningful contributions in the highest forum.
On Sunday Rodrigo De Triano returns to the racecourse at Deauville in the Prix Jacques le Marois, while Dr Devious is back for the International Stakes at York on Tuesday.
The former worked yesterday morning with his regular galloping companions Ecliptic and Berlin Wall, to produce an assessment from Chapple-Hyam that wavered between a disclaimer and blind confidence.
'He went a mile round the bend here then back up the straight and worked exceptionally well,' the trainer said. 'He'll definitely need the race, but the way he's working and the way he is I think he'll definitely win. I'm more pleased with him now than I was before the Irish Guineas.'
After France, Rodrigo De Triano has races such as Newmarket's Champion Stakes and the Breeders' Cup Mile on his agenda, races which Chapple-Hyam believes will re-establish the colt as a performer of rare distinction.
'I've been at Manton now for seven or eight years and I've never seen a horse work like Rodrigo in all the time I've been here,' he says. 'We've had good milers like Distant Relative, but he couldn't live with this horse at his best and I think he's at his best now.'
Dr Devious, who will work under his Derby jockey John Reid this morning, is slightly less forward in condition, though this will not be forwarded in mitigation should he fail at the Knavesmire. 'The Arc's the main race for him and this is just a stepping-stone really, but he's ready to run for his life,' Chapple-Hyam said. 'There won't be any excuses.'
Next Tuesday may represent a rematch with St Jovite, a horse Chapple-Hyam now believes to be of exceptional merit. 'St Jovite's obviously improved since the Derby, he proved that by smashing them in the King George,' he says. 'I think it's a good job Generous (last year's Derby and King George winner) retired. They called him the wonder horse, but I think St Jovite would have murdered him over a mile and a half.
'Between us and St Jovite it's one-one and all to play for. Now we're in extra-time.'
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