There was an episode in the 1960s TV comedy about a talking horse, Mr Ed, in which the eponymous hero confided to his human sidekick, Wilbur, that his racing buddies once let one of their number win because it was his birthday. The trouble with today's upstarts is that they tend not to read scripts, notably Makfi at Deauville.
The occasion was supposed to be the day that Goldikova, the darling of the turfistes, won her 11th Group One prize and with it posted a new European record for such deeds. But Makfi, not even regarded as chief among the mare's rivals after being well beaten at Royal Ascot, spoilt the party by choosing the richest mile race in these parts, the Prix Jacques le Marois, to bounce back to his best form.
The French-trained three-year-old had sprung a surprise when he took the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket at 33-1 and while his position in the market yesterday was not so outrageous – he was third favourite at a shade over 4-1 – his capture of the scalps of not only the magnificent Goldikova but also her tough five-year-old contemporary Paco Boy left the Normandy seaside crowd, ready to hail their queen, stunned.
Goldikova cruised through seven of the eight furlongs with her customary regal poise as her two pacemakers, Only Green and Saying, took the field along, but when push from jockey Olivier Peslier came to shove she failed to quicken in testing, rain-softened ground. Makfi, however, could, and drew away potently under Christophe Soumillon to win by two and a half lengths. Goldikova, the 13-10 favourite, at least confirmed her Queen Anne Stakes defeat of Paco Boy by a neck.
Makfi's performance to take the £303,000 purse not only confirmed his place among the season's elite, which had been in some doubt after he trailed home behind Canford Cliffs in the St James's Palace Stakes in June, but nicely stirs up the division's pecking order. At Ascot the son of Dubawi had, apparently, been harbouring an infection; yesterday he looked perhaps better than his previous best – when he had Canford Cliffs fairly and squarely behind him in third on the Rowley Mile.
"I was of course disappointed after Ascot," said the winning trainer, Mikel Delzangles, yesterday, "but afterwards we found he was sick so there was a reason. He has proved today that he is the top miler we know he is. He did act on this ground better than the others, but the state of the ground is not important to him, he can go on any."
A showdown between Makfi and Canford Cliffs, already hailed as the champion of his generation, will be one to relish and may come in next month's Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. The Ascot race, along with the Prix du Moulin at Longchamp, is under consideration before another party-pooping attempt, in the Breeders' Cup Mile. Goldikova has already won that contest twice and her end-of-season target is an unprecedented third victory at the US meeting.
Before that, she may try again to improve on her top-level score, which she shares with two other females, Miesque and Dahlia, in either the Prix de la Forêt or the Moulin. Yesterday's defeat was her first of the year. "No excuses this time," said her trainer, Freddie Head. "We were beaten by a better horse on the day and under the conditions."
The racecourse future of Paco Boy, a Richard Hannon stablemate of Canford Cliffs, is undecided. The horse, recently sold and with a guaranteed berth at stud next year, has now been thrice beaten by Goldikova. "He didn't quite get home on the ground," said Hannon, "but ran his heart out as usual."
The wrist injury of the champion jockey Ryan Moore, third behind Paul Hanagan and Richard Hughes in this year's title race, has ruled him out of tomorrow's opening of the Ebor Festival at York. His place on the Sir Michael Stoute-trained St Leger prospect Total Command in the Great Voltigeur Stakes will go to Peslier. Nine are down to go in tomorrow's Group One feature, the Juddmonte International, including Rip Van Winkle, the Ballydoyle-based market leader, and Hannon's 2,000 Guineas runner-up, Dick Turpin.
Sue Montgomery's nap
Chica Whopa (7.10 Windsor) Returns to the scene of her third against colts a week ago, when she indicated the trip was well within her capabilities.
Silver Colors (3.00 Kempton) Nothing like as good as her dam, the Kentucky Derby heroine Winning Colors, but is gradually learning her job.
One to watch
Hampered in running when a close third at Leicester last week, Spensley (J R Fanshawe) should soon find compensation.
Where the money's going
Janood, a stylish winner at Newbury on Saturday, has followed his Godolphin stablemate Saamidd into the early 2,000 Guineas lists, 20-1 with Totesport.
Chris McGrath's nap
Walcot Square (3.30 Kempton)