Those who cannot bear to let go will comfort themselves with the likes of Voy Por Ustedes at Cheltenham this afternoon – not to mention the many jumping stars in action at Punchestown next week – but for many this is one of the most gratifying days in the whole racing calendar.
Fatigued by gruelling highs and lows over jumps at Cheltenham and Aintree, punters can take the start of the Craven meeting at Newmarket as a cue to focus on the fact that St Nicholas Abbey himself will be seeking his first Classic only a fortnight on Saturday. Over the next five afternoons – two apiece at Newmarket and Newbury, rounded off by a Derby trial at Leopardstown on Sunday – a series of his contemporaries will be indicating the diversity and depth of the opposition likely to be taking him on during the months ahead.
Today's card entwines many key themes for the season. The first Godolphin runners of the season, now saddled by two different trainers, attempt to set down a more auspicious marker than the stable has managed in recent springs. Coordinated Cut, switched to Michael Bell since his flop behind St Nicholas Abbey in the Racing Post Trophy, also makes a fresh start in a valuable sales race - after which Awzaan, an unbeaten Group One winner in his first campaign, goes on reconnaissance with a racecourse gallop.
Henry Cecil's touch with a Classic filly will then be back in mind as Timepiece and Principal Role make their comebacks, the former against colts over nine furlongs, the latter against fillies over seven. Her opponents in the Leslie Harrison Nell Gwyn Stakes include Safina, backed for the Stan James 1,000 Guineas after one spin in maiden company last autumn.
Elusive Pimpernel, second St Nicholas Abbey at Doncaster, is among the nine for tomorrow's Craven Stakes.
Turf account: Chris McGrath
Out of Eden (5.20 Newmarket) Well backed for his debut at Newbury last autumn, but ran too free and failed to get home in the searching conditions. Even the fleeting menace he did offer, however, suggested that an engine lurks under his bonnet. Henry Cecil has a good record in this maiden over the years.
Layla's Dancer (4.20 Beverley) One of the horses to follow listed alongside, and his yard could not be in better form for his reappearance. Sole caveat is the longer trip, not least in a small field when fresh and liable to race keenly, but took time to reach top gear over 8f last autumn, so may be just what he needs.
One to watch
Leslingtaylor (J J Quinn) Has been rolling back the years, already on the mark on the level this spring, and finishing well for fourth after being hampered and left plenty to do in the amateurs' handicap hurdle at Aintree on Saturday. He is back on a good mark in that sphere.
Where the money's going
Gone To Lunch has shown little this winter, but his handicap mark has been falling, and sponsors yesterday laid him to 12-1 from 16-1 for the Coral Scottish National at Ayr on Saturday. In Ruby Walsh's absence, Ladbrokes make Paul Townend 13-8 favourite to be top jockey at Punchestown next week.