Damp weather and uninspiring successes had given the first two days of the meeting the romanticism of the telephone directory, but here at last was true Mills & Boon material. Two men, with 133 years between them, pulling the mind back to sepia-tinted days of glory; a 25th Royal Ascot win for O'Brien and a victorious ride at the meeting for Piggott 42 years after he had partnered his first winner here.
There are not many pages in this book left and O'Brien used the moment to lead in his horse, something he has not done since Nijinsky took the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at this course 23 years ago.
College Chapel's scarlet and white colours were also a reminder of times past. They were bequeathed to O'Brien by his father and passed on to the trainer's wife, Jacqueline.
The O'Briens' home at Ballydoyle remains the prince among training establishments, but there are more equine ghosts than modern-day thoroughbreds working the gallops these days. The yard has only 10 horses, and College Chapel, who has now raced just three times and, remarkably, won Group races on each occasion, is one of only three three-year-olds in the stable.
The Group One winner Fatherland is another, which shows that while the O'Brien candle may have plenty of wax at its base the flame still flickers strongly.
Piggott allowed himself a smile as he dismounted, and reported that the good days were not at an end. 'Lester said he floundered early on,' O'Brien said. 'But the horse will have learned a lot from that as it was the first time he has had to get down and race.'
College Chapel will have to dig down as far as he can go next time as he may now be supplemented for the July Cup and a possible encounter with Zafonic. (O'Brien can be excused not entering his colt initially as the horse had not seen a racecourse by the time of the closing date).
Drum Taps, who won his second consecutive Gold Cup yesterday, may become the first British-trained horse to contest the Melbourne Cup. Lord Huntingdon, the seven-year-old's trainer, will meet with officials from the Victoria Racing Club next week in an effort to negotiate a change in quarantine rules, which prevent training a horse once it has landed in Australia.
Whatever the rigours, it appears Drum Taps has the hardiness for the job. 'He's the toughest battler I've ever ridden,' Lanfranco Dettori, his rider, said, 'and that's why I wasn't worried when Quinny (Richard Quinn on runner-up Assessor) came at me.'
To see Drum Taps skipping across the Berkshire ground was a strange sensation for those who prepare the veteran. 'He's an amazing horse in his work,' Huntingdon said. 'I remember last year on the gallops he just managed to beat a selling plater.'
John Carroll is used to finding racing flotsam such as that beneath him, but yesterday was a different feeling as he enjoyed his first Royal Ascot success on John Gosden's Learmont.
The northern jockey has found a fertile trough partnering Jack Berry's juveniles, but, for many, is a man with a single string. Gosden will not have that.
'He's a very good rider with good hands and good opinions,' he said. 'John's got a bit of a reputation of being a one-dimensional jockey because he rides a lot of five-furlong horses early in the season, but he's a lot more than that.'
Learmont's win represented a first success of the meeting for the house of Maktoum, also later successful when Thawakib took the Ribblesdale Stakes.
Peter Chapple-Hyam has quickly established his versatility, and the handler of Rodrigo De Triano and Dr Devious confirmed his aptitude for training fledgling horses when Turtle Island (Norfolk Stakes) and State Performer (Chesham Stakes) completed the colts' juvenile treble launched by Stonehatch in Tuesday's Coventry Stakes.
While this was further fuel to the thought that Chapple-Hyam will be a man for the future, he will have recognised that yesterday was all about looking back. Looking back to old times with the old guard.
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