If Yohan Blake had been at Deauville yesterday he might have given Excelebration, winner of the Prix Jacques le Marois, an empathetic pat. The mile contest was the colt's second Group One victory – but without the presence of the exceptional talent that is Frankel, it would have been five.
The Jamaican multiple silver medallist would understand. With racing's own lightning bolt due to step up to 10 furlongs next week at York, yesterday's stage was clear for the rest to scrap for the title of the eight-furlong division's next best. Excelebration, consigned by Frankel to the runner-up spot in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes last season and the Lockinge and Queen Anne Stakes this time, by increasingly insulting margins, duly took the consolation gold medal.
The Aidan O'Brien-trained four-year-old had eight other top-level winners among his 10 rivals, but his victory was smooth enough, and decisive. Kept sensibly close by Christophe Soumillon to the rather steady pace cut out by the British raiders Elusive Kate and Cityscape, he responded willingly to his rider's roustings to hit top gear and take the trailblazers going into the final furlong. He strode clear in the last 100 yards to secure the prize by a comfortable length and a quarter.
Soumillon was a last-minute substitute on the 11-5 favourite for Ryan Moore, shaken by a fall in an earlier race. "It was a fantastic chance ride to get," said the Belgian, "and I feel very sorry for Ryan. He did tell me before his fall that he thought the horse would win." Moore, with no mounts booked today, is likely to be back in action at Yarmouth tomorrow.
Cityscape, trained by Roger Charlton, held Elusive Kate, from John Gosden's yard, by a neck for second spot and up front was the best place to be, for the slow gallop until the closing stages caused a degree of bunching and interference in the pack. The chief sufferer was the home side's top-class sprinter Moonlight Cloud, who finished fast but too late for a close fourth, with Alan McCabe's charge Caspar Netscher belying his place as 99-1 outsider of the field on her heels in fifth.
Excelebration, who won last year's Prix du Moulin at Longchamp, may face Cityscape again in the season's mile finale, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Champions Day at Ascot in October. Provided, of course, that Frankel – whose rivals at York are set to include another high-class Ballydoyle inmate, St Nicholas Abbey – does not drop back in distance again.
O'Brien's success in France was his first in the Normandy seaside season showpiece. He trod a far more familiar path at the Curragh, where Pedro The Great gave him a record 12th victory in the Phoenix Stakes, the first juvenile Group One of the European season. Yesterday's win, though, was with the stable second string, a 10-1 shot. The better-fancied of the Ballydoyle pair, Cristoforo Colombo, clipped heels and came down as Joseph O'Brien tried to find a gap between the favourite, Probably, and the rails. Happily, both horse and rider rose apparently unscathed.
Cristoforo Colombo was travelling well enough at the time but not as well as Pedro The Great, who strode away from Leitir Mor with great gusto to win by nearly three lengths. The Henrythenavigator colt is likely to test his own elite credentials further in next month's National Stakes, but he did not impress bookmakers as a Classic prospect and was introduced into next year's 2,000 Guineas betting at 33-1.
Two Group One wins in just over an hour is not a bad afternoon's work, but there was disappointment for the O'Brien team when their former champion sprinter Starspangledbanner finished last on his return to athletic action after proving subfertile at stud.
The Turf Account
Chris McGrath's Nap
Jubilant Queen (2.20 Ffos Las)
Came up against a smart one on debut but is well regarded herself and the step up to six furlongs should suit her well.
Lupin Pooter (5.50 Thirsk)
Looked somebody when he defied a rise two runs ago and headgear may assist in putting a disappointment behind him.
One To Watch
Trader Jack (Roger Charlton) has been running with great credit and sometimes little luck in classy handicap company and his turn looks sure to come.
Where The Money's Going
Address Unknown, Saturday's Ascot winner, was the weekend's Ebor Handicap mover across the board, and is now as short as 16-1 from 33s.