Census looks Classic class on a gloriously grey day

 

Newmarket

The show yesterday may have been at Newmarket, with the spectacular annual race for grey horses, but the substance was at Newbury where Excelebration and Census once again emphasised the superior quality of this year's crop of three-year-olds and, in the former's case, one three-year-old in particular.

Twice has Excelebration finished in the frame behind Frankel, in the Greenham Stakes and then in the St James's Palace Stakes. In between times he ran clean away from his rivals in the German 2,000 Guineas and, dropping in class and distance after Royal Ascot, repeated that feat yesterday in the all-aged Group Two Hungerford Stakes, coming in six lengths clear.

The colt, 5-4 favourite yesterday, may try his luck against the superstar for a third time in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot in October. "We're unlucky to be around in the same year as Frankel," said his trainer Marco Botti, "but who knows, a race is a race, and this horse is still improving."

Census rocketed towards the top of the St Leger betting after decisivelyturning the tables on fellow Doncaster contender Brown Panther, who had been six lengths the better at Royal Ascot. Census, trained by Richard Hannon, stayed on strongly over the extended 13 furlongs of the Group Three Geoffrey Freer Stakes to hold his old rival by a length and a quarter. He is now challenging Sea Moon for second favouritism for the season's final Classic, behind Seville.

At Newmarket, though, there was something of a different quality to savour. One aspect that this sport should never forget as it strives to maintain its slipping foothold in public consciousness is that of spectacle. It is, after all, the look of the thing, in the form of the beauty of hthe beast, that is the initial draw for many.

And here yesterday, there was no denying the captivating charm of one of the oddities in the calendar, a race exclusive to grey horses. As a low-grade sprint, the contest is almost inconsequential in the greater scheme. But as a pageant, it is a delight. Dappled light glinted on dappled hides as 19 silvered darlings paraded beneath the cathedral roof of trees in the saddling area before massing for a dashing white charge down the track.

And shades of grey are by no means dull; there was the near-black tempered steel of Clear Ice, the classic spotted rocking-horse rump of the winner Time Medicean, the milky paleness of Berbice and Den's Gift.

Those who backed the Stewards' Cup winner Hoof It to favouritism for Friday's Nunthorpe Stakes at York will indeed get a run for their money. Mick Easterby's sprinter was yesterday supplemented in – for £20,000.

At Deauville tomorrow, Goldikova faces 11 in the Prix Jacques le Marois. From Britain, Dick Turpin and Cityscape will seek to keep the mighty mare from her 15th Group One victory.

In Chicago last night Jamie Spencer brought Cape Blanco home to win the Arlington Million and complete a double for Aidan O'Brien, who earlier sent out his Irish Derby winner Treasure Beach to win the Secretariat Stakes under Colm O'Donoghue.

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