Even the very best horses cannot stimulate quite the same curiosity about the sport as some of the men around them. None the less, those champions contributing to the weekend's entertainment on four legs are overdue some attention.
The tumult surrounding Kieren Fallon has even overshadowed a putative rematch between the outstanding colt in Europe, Sea The Stars, and the only one among his many victims retaining feasible hopes of revenge, Fame And Glory. In reality, heavy rain at Leopardstown during the week mitigated neglect of the Tattersalls Millions Irish Champion Stakes. John Oxx is adamant that Sea The Stars requires fast ground, so it was a pleasant surprise when he declared the colt, reserving the right to a final decision today. After a pretty tough race against Mastercraftsman at York, just 18 days ago, discretion is likely to prove the better part of valour, with exacting international assignments still ahead.
Perhaps Oxx felt some patriotic debt to the race, as the one remaining opportunity for his champion to run on Irish soil this year. Either way, Aidan O'Brien has done his own duty by running Mastercraftsman, as well as Fame And Glory. Admittedly it would do no harm, should his big rival fail to show, for Fame and Glory (3.30) to give his stablemate a more comprehensive beating than Sea The Stars managed at York last month.
For the conviction at Ballydoyle is that Fame And Glory's sole career defeat, behind Sea The Stars at Epsom, was partly of their own inept devising. That day Sea The Stars, stepping up from a mile, gained first run on the guaranteed stayer, Fame And Glory, in a sprint finish. There was no messing around at the Curragh next time, when Fame And Glory extended to five and 16 lengths respectively his superiority over two other Ballydoyle colts with whom he had, unfathomably to O'Brien, passed the post more or less in unison at Epsom.
The Fallon saga dovetails neatly with the best race contested in Britain today, as he takes the mount on the favourite for the Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock. High Standing has proved an inspired buy for his connections, but is a pretty short price for a horse yet to try his luck at this level – for all that he warrants a promotion in grade.
Fleeting Spirit did win a championship race at Newmarket last time, but has since had a setback and will resent every drop of rain. In contrast the hampered runner-up that day, Main Aim (3.30), has been eager for easier ground and had excuses when disappointing at Goodwood last time.