Denigration of the present crop of three-year-olds has become ever more fashionable, following the first defeat of Camelot, and is hardly discouraged by reflection on the race that was thought to have announced his most credible rival in the Derby. Bonfire, winner of the Dante Stakes in May, disappointed at Epsom and then in the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown. He was promptly castrated and put away until next year. And the colt who pushed him so hard at York, Ektihaam, trailed in 15th on his only subsequent start, in the Prix du Jockey-Club.
In fairness, Ektihaam scoped poorly on his return; moreover he was one of several runners to lose all chance when hampered, an increasing problem since the Chantilly race was abbreviated in distance. And Saonois, the winner, is now being acknowledged for rather more than opportunism, after impressing in his recent trial for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. It might yet be, then, that Ektihaam can make a small stand of his own on behalf of the Classic generation when he resurfaces in a Listed race at Goodwood today.
It would not seem terribly encouraging, admittedly, to see him wearing blinkers for the first time in the Eve Trakway Foundation Stakes. But Roger Varian, his astute young trainer, has given Ektihaam an entry in the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot next month and sounds optimistic that this powerfully built colt, with only six races under his belt, can profit from increased maturity now. "We have given him a lot of time to get over a very rough race at Chantilly, and he has been training very well recently," Varian said yesterday. "He has form on soft ground, we are hopeful he will run well."
Something spectacular might be required even for Ektihaam to be asked to make up the numbers at Ascot, assuming all remains well with Frankel, who makes what is likely to prove his penultimate public appearance on his home track on Saturday, when he will gallop over the Rowley Mile an hour before racing.
Varian saddles an interesting runner in the Betfred Cambridgeshire Handicap, the big betting heat that afternoon. Mijhaar shaped nicely on his return from a break at Kempton a couple of weeks ago, and several bookmakers saw money for him yesterday. William Hill go 12-1 from 16-1.
Newmarket has missed most of the deluges – unlike Redcar, where today's meeting has been lost to waterlogging – and the three-day meeting is set to start tomorrow on good going.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Button Moon (4.50 Goodwood) Seems to have turned over a new leaf of late, consuming too much energy in bursting clear at Bath the other day after travelling like one ahead of her handicap mark.
Girl Of Cadiz (7.50 Kempton) After qualifying for a modest rating with three spins in maidens, showed much more in her first handicap over course and distance and Richard Hughes takes over in the saddle now.
One to watch
Kirthill (Luca Cumani) Needed all the breaks if he was to cope with a drop in trip to 10 furlongs at Newbury last Saturday and did well to manage fourth after meeting traffic.
Where the money's going
The French raider Talk About is 25-1 from 66-1 with the sponsors for the Betfred Cambridgeshire Handicap at Newmarket on Saturday.