Yet again the strength in depth of the Classic generation at Ballydoyle is inviting invidious comparisons with the Turf's other superpowers. At Godolphin, in particular, a recent mood of renewal was abruptly suspended after both the first two Classics were won by their great rivals. Godolphin failed even to muster a runner in the 2,000 Guineas, while its two fancied fillies in the 1,000 Guineas both finished tailed off. The stakes will be uncomfortably high, then, when the unbeaten Mandaean measures his Investec Derby prospects in the Betfred Dante Stakes at York tomorrow. And there is commensurate significance, surely, in the fact that the imported colt will be ridden by another new recruit from France.
When Mickael Barzalona signed for Godolphin during the winter, along with Silvestre De Sousa, its managers stressed that there would be no formal pecking order beyond the seniority natural to Frankie Dettori, who has ridden in their service for the best part of two decades. But while Dettori was originally lined up for Mandaean tomorrow, Sheikh Mohammed has now decided that Barzalona should take the mount.
The young Frenchman burst on to the international scene with that extraordinary display on Pour Moi in last year's Derby, and will be expected to keep the ride should Mandaean earn his place at Epsom. He is already set to ride Godolphin's leading Investec Oaks candidate after establishing an affinity with Kailani in her trial at Newmarket – which success came as an immediate tonic for the Sheikh's team, just a couple of hours after the 1,000 Guineas debacle. Dettori knows that Barzalona is being groomed as his heir, but will none the less be taken aback by the pace of change.
The next couple of days represent just about the last chance for a fresh hat in the Epsom ring, but there is a disappointing lack of depth to the Tattersalls Musidora Stakes today. Inevitably, however, Aidan O'Brien is able to send over an eligible filly – even though he already has both the top two in the Oaks betting, in Kissed and Maybe.
Though Twirl was a beaten favourite on her reappearance, she actually ran very well against a smart older rival over a bare mile. It was still only March, after all, and her first start outside maiden company. Her physique suggests continued improvement, and she should really find her stride over this longer distance and galloping straight.
Her obvious rival is The Fugue, but it is a little unnerving to see an inexperienced filly turned out just 10 days after such a big run in the 1,000 Guineas. Striking winner of her only start at two, The Fugue kept on well from off the pace at Newmarket in a race dominated throughout by the runaway Homecoming Queen, finishing just behind Maybe in fourth. She obviously has plenty of talent, but runs here largely to help connections decide if she might see out the longer trip at Epsom. As such, their hand has been somewhat forced, and Twirl (2.30) duly looks the safer bet.
There is greater competition for the other Group race on the opening day, the Duke of York Totepool Stakes – where one of last season's most progressive sprinters, Hoof It, meets one who has started the new campaign in a similar vein, in Mayson. The latter is clearly entitled to be sharper of the pair, but neither have any secrets from the bookmakers – unlike the French raider, Restiadargent, or indeed a more familiar animal in The Cheka (3.0). Unexposed in this discipline, he is twice the price of Mayson despite beating him when dropped to this trip for the first time on their reappearance.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Escape To Glory (2.0 York) While well beaten at Newmarket last time, had tanked through the race until badly hampered and eased.
Gatewood (1.30 York) Looking well treated on his promising start in maidens and unexposed after an early end to that first campaign.
One to watch
Lightning Cloud (Kevin Ryan) Remains on the upgrade, judging by the way he saw off everything else in a group marooned by the draw when returning at Ascot last Saturday.
Where the money's going
Excelebration is 11-4 from 7-2 with Coral to end Frankel's unbeaten record in the JLT Lockinge Stakes at Newbury on Saturday.Reuse content