They say it might snow here today, and Saeed bin Suroor is in raptures over the possibility. The Godolphin trainer, who returns to Dubai every winter, still regrets the time he just missed a snowfall in Toronto and that delightful smile of his was much in evidence as he discussed the forecast yesterday morning. True, it faded briefly when he disclosed his anxiety about Delegator, whose involvement in the Mile tomorrow is menaced by a bruised foot. But here was one man, at least, who did not seem to be yearning for California.
For many other visitors, however, the return here of the Breeders' Cup represents a sobering challenge after two years making hay on a synthetic track at Santa Anita. The European challenge for the dirt races has all but evaporated, albeit Theyskens' Theory is bred to handle the surface in the Juvenile Fillies on today's preliminary card. For their trump card, certainly, the raiders play to their strengths with Midday in the Filly and Mare Turf.
Her success in the same race at Santa Anita represented a flawless Breeders' Cup debut for her jockey, Tom Queally, who then rode Twice Over to finish third to the mighty Zenyatta in the Classic. It was another persuasive stage in Queally's evolution as an elite rider, his arrival at Warren Place having coincided with – and contributed to – the resurgence of Midday's trainer, Henry Cecil. Their partnership has continued to flourish since. Queally's 98 winners this year include six at Group One level and he will be sustained through the winter by Frankel, the white-hot favourite for the 2,000 Guineas. At 26, the Irishman is palpably approaching his pomp.
Not that it is going to his head. Perhaps Queally's greatest asset, in crucibles like this, is a phlegmatic temperament. Jockeys always tell you that they treat even a Breeders' Cup like any other race, but Queally is one of the few who means it. After giving Midday her final spin, and an enthusiastic endorsement of her condition, he exuded the calm that preserves the ace marksman at high noon.
"I don't get carried away by anything, good or bad," he said. "I don't know if people were expecting me to be pulling the place down after we had that bad luck in the 1,000 Guineas [when Jacqueline Quest was demoted by the stewards] but what's done is done. There's no point dwelling on it. It's the same if you have a big winner. If you get carried away, and then something goes bad, you're setting up obstacles to trip yourself up. I've had 700-800 rides this year, and you're not going to give 700-800 peaches. But I've been getting it more right than wrong, especially on the big occasions, and long may that continue."
Like Frankie Dettori and Jamie Spencer, Queally was spotted and groomed in his youth by Barney Curley, the trainer and gambler whose steady grounding is now being completed by another cherished Newmarket character in Cecil. "The perception of a good jockey comes with the opportunities he gets, and I'm so fortunate Henry has given me those chances," Queally said. "Otherwise people say of a rider that he's up to a given level, but no higher. He understands how I ride, I understand the way he trains, and wants horses ridden. I'm in a very special position, following Lester [Piggott], Steve Cauthen. Every big winner Henry gets seems to be extra special. He has that great following, and I've developed an affection for Warren Place, too."
Cecil willingly reciprocated. "You can see for yourself that Tom's confidence is growing all the time," he said. "I think you have to put him in the top rank now. He has natural talent, it was just a question of giving him a chance. I always tell him to treat every race as a gallop, that it's never the end of the world. You don't want to try too hard, you have to stay relaxed. He's a very nice boy, genuine, and he's taken to it like a duck to water."
Incidentally, Cecil also had some intriguing observations about the dilemma facing connections of Workforce, the Derby and Arc winner, whose participation in the Turf tomorrow has yet to be finally confirmed. Cecil shares their concern about the firm ground, but has scrupulously kept Midday on the dirt in her preparations.
Workforce has, meanwhile, been cutting a gingerly figure on the grass, and Cecil admitted that he would not take that risk. "If you jar them up slightly, you're in trouble," he said. "And sometimes they'll go on it [firm ground] once, but won't do it again."
Ryan Moore, Workforce's jockey, rides Paco Boy in the Mile after Richard Hughes resolved to pursue his duel for the jockeys' title to the bitter end at Doncaster tomorrow. Paul Hanagan extended his lead to three at Lingfield yesterday, before the pair set off for Kempton's evening meeting, where Hughes gained one back, and has a big chance to seal the title today. Hughes, having become eligible to ride at the 11th hour, managed to pick up just three rides at Wolverhampton.
Queally, himself a very feasible future champion, has been watching with a blend of admiration and alarm. "I just wish they'd call it a day and draw, and I know loads of people feel the same," he said. "I'd be gutted for Paul to get pipped, having led them a merry dance for so long, but Hughesie has been riding better than any other jockey in England this year, so he deserves it too. I'd be more gutted for whoever loses, than pleased for whoever wins."
Chris McGrath's Nap
Noble Storm (3.30 Southwell) American-bred who duly took to this surface in a similar race last month, and in the meantime again found only one too good in a hot turf handicap. Pick of the weights even if rivals were at their best, which mostly they are not.
Royal Swain (7.10 Wolverhampton) Did not last home over a longer trip in taxing ground last weekend but this decent bumper horse had previously confirmed himself well treated on the Flat when winning at Catterick, more comfortably than a 4lb rise allows.
One to watch
Sim Sala Bim (S C Williams) Is bred for middle distances next year but showed some gusto kept to 6f at Newmarket last Friday, emerging from midfield late on. Shrewd trainer clearly has something to work with here.
Where the money's going
Theyskens' Theory, third in the Ascot Fillies' Mile, is 11-2 from 6-1 with Coral for the Juvenile Fillies on today's opening Breeders' Cup card.