The maroon and white silks of Sheikh Mohammed have rather faded from the Turf's greatest stages in recent years, but last night in Paris an old sorcerer and his young apprentice renewed their lustre. Cavalryman's defeat of Age Of Aquarius in the Grand Prix de Paris gives André Fabre prospects of crowning his record-breaking training career with an eighth success in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe back over the same course and distance in October. For Maxime Guyon, in contrast, this was unmistakably his big breakthrough as one of the emerging riders on the French circuit.
Four of the eight runners represented Ballydoyle, including Hail Caesar, who set a much stronger pace than is common round Longchamp. Age Of Aquarius, the chosen mount of Johnny Murtagh, followed in a clear second, trailed on the inside by his stablemates, Freemantle and Black Bear Island. Guyon, meanwhile, restrained Cavalryman on the outside, with the odds-on favourite, Beheshtam, covered up by Christophe Soumillon.
As the pacemaker dropped through the field, Black Bear Island had to angle wide and hampered Beheshtam, whose tame progress thereafter implied some kind of discomfort. Mastery briefly seemed to be going best but could not see out the race as strongly as Age Of Aquarius or Cavalryman, who stayed on powerfully to win going away.
It was the Halling colt's first attempt at a mile and a half, following a six-length win over 10 furlongs at Saint-Cloud last month. But he showed ample stamina and so became Fabre's 10th winner of a race that nowadays can be legitimately designated "the French Derby".
Oxx charts wrong route
It would seem a little harsh to charge John Oxx with hastening the decline of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes as a showdown between the Classic generation and their seniors. After all, he is the last man to have won the race with a three-year-old, Alamshar, in 2003. But the decision not to run Sinndar at Ascot in 2000, in order to give him a longer break before his Arc trial, certainly widened the fissure that has since become a chasm.
No three-year-old has even run in the race since 2005, and yesterday Oxx confirmed that Sea The Stars, the outstanding colt of his crop, would not be going to Ascot on Saturday week, either. The Derby winner will instead be aimed at the Juddmonte International Stakes at York on 18 August, while the Tattersalls Millions Irish Champion Stakes the following month remains high on his agenda.
But surely a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush? Oxx is so adamant that fast ground is essential to Sea The Stars – over a mile and a half, at any rate – that he has dismissed the idea of preparing him for the Arc only to be derailed by autumn rains in Paris. Suitable conditions, however, seem far more likely at Ascot in late July than Leopardstown in September, while the colt's next two targets are now only 19 days apart.
That hardly represents the most indulgent platform for the exacting autumn campaign nowadays routinely offered to justify the midsummer disappearance of Classic winners. Remember that the owners of Sea The Stars are from Hong Kong, and it may well prove that they would like him to run at the international meeting at Sha Tin in December.
The suspicion now must be that Sea The Stars will never again run over the Derby trip. After he proved his versatility at Epsom his connections doubtless wish to emphasise his speed to prospective stud investors.
In his absence, the Ascot race looks dominated by Sir Michael Stoute, who has Conduit, Tartan Bearer, Ask and Doctor Fremantle engaged, while the best chance of a three-year-old getting himself involved now rests with Ballydoyle. With Yeats out of consideration, Aidan O'Brien's most feasible candidate would seem to be Golden Sword, who kept up the gallop so pluckily when second to his stablemate, Fame And Glory, in the Irish Derby. Meanwhile Youmzain, the dual King George runner-up whose courage under fire is increasingly being questioned, may be tried in a visor this time round.
Turf account: Chris McGrath
Beautiful Filly (4.50 Lingfield) Returns to the course and distance of her maiden success after bouncing back to form at Kempton last time. Tried in blinkers for the first time that day, she finished well clear of the rest in forcing a photo with a well-treated rival. Up 3lb for that but has a smart sprinting pedigree and very few miles on the clock.
Winchester Red (2.40 Uttoxeter) Cannot conceivably be beaten if running to form, so bookmakers have to calculate the possibility either of a jumping mishap, or a third race in a week sending his petrol gauge into the red. A precarious challenge.
One to watch
Rafiqa (C F Wall) pulled a long way clear of the pack when giving first run to an unexposed rival at Salisbury last Saturday night. Had shaped well over an inadequate 7f on her reappearance, and her progress is unlikely to finish here.