If conditions do not improve before Tuesday, then he might need all the navigation skills of his namesake. But it is the bookmakers who will struggle to keep their heads above water at Royal Ascot if Cristoforo Colombo can land its first major plunge on the opening day.
Impressive winner of his only start to date, a maiden at Navan last month, the Ballydoyle colt was yesterday laid from 6-1 to 7-2 for the Coventry Stakes by Coral. This looked a significant straw in the wind. Over the years, the most precocious of Aidan O'Brien's juveniles have frequently maintained a position in the vanguard of the stable – last year's Coventry winner, Power, being a case in point. Cristoforo Colombo's own sire, Henrythenavigator, was also ready to roll in time for the Coventry. Both Henrythenavigator and Power went on to win classics the next spring.
Similar comments apply to some of the best horses trained by O'Brien's mentor, Jim Bolger, who has been so candid in his esteem for Dawn Approach – again making the name of a young stallion developed by his own trainer, in New Approach. Dawn Approach won the very first juvenile race of the Irish season, back in March, and after two subsequent wins at Naas shares Coventry favouritism in Coral's book. But Bolger has indicated that he may try him over a seventh furlong in the Chesham Stakes instead, which would leave Cristoforo Colombo a still warmer favourite in the Coventry.
It seems ominously as though the Ballydoyle carousel is already entering a new cycle. Not that its three-year-olds are done yet. Having already accounted for all four classics staged in Britain this season, they now provide the biggest threat to the outstanding French filly, Beauty Parlour, in the Prix de Diane at Chantilly on Sunday. O'Brien left four fillies in the race yesterday, the most notable being Kissed, a late withdrawal from the Oaks on account of drying conditions.
Winner of a listed race by eight and a half lengths on her reappearance, Kissed must be counted unfortunate to have found unsuitable ground anywhere in Britain this summer. The going at Ascot is officially soft, with heavy patches on the round course, after what the clerk of the course described as "quite extraordinary" deluges on Monday. Further rain is anticipated this weekend.
The difficult conditions have forced some trainers to play their hands very late for the two-year-old races. George Baker hopes to run Joey's Destiny, a debut winner at Folkestone on Monday, in the Windsor Castle, while Mick Channon could send Cruck Realta, who won a maiden at Salisbury yesterday, to the Chesham. But there are a couple of gentlemen in Ireland who seem to have dug their trenches some time ago.
Chris McGrath's nap
Hopes N Dreams (6.50 Hamilton) Well in under a penalty today after an easy success over course and distance last week and apparently effective on all going.
Hezmah (3.40 Yarmouth)
One to watch
Cocktail Charlie (Tim Easterby)
Where the money's going
Ladbrokes cut Wizz Kid to 12-1 from 14-1 for the King's Stand and Moonlight Cloud to 8-1 from 10-1 for the Diamond Jubilee.