To gain one Classic in the stewards' room, Madame Head-Maarek, may be regarded as fortunate; to gain two looks like an outbreak of serial carelessness. At Longchamp yesterday, for the second time in as many weeks, Special Duty, pride of the trainer's Chantilly yard, finished runner-up as favourite in a 1,000 Guineas and ended up as the winner after the horse first past the post was demoted.
But to be fair to the chestnut filly (as Lady Bracknell was not to the hapless Jack Worthing) on each dramatic occasion she was the moral victress, thwarted by the hampering actions of another. And though each circumstance was different, the result for her was the same.
On the Rowley Mile, the interference had been specific; she was carried half-way across the course by one veering rival, Jacqueline Quest, and with the distance between the pair only a nose the placings were reversed. In yesterday's Poule d'Essai des Pouliches the one in front at the line, the 16-1 shot Liliside, caused wider mayhem in a rough race – and although Special Duty was not the only sufferer, she did finish second, beaten a head in a bunch finish, and so was the beneficiary.
Liliside's rider, Jean-Bernard Eyquem, was judged to have emerged from the pack rather too forcefully as he went in pursuit of Joanna in the home straight. It was not only Special Duty, who came with a strong run from nearly last to nearly first under Stéphane Pasquier, who was caught up in the subsequent buffeting, but also Rosanara and the British challenger, Lady Of The Desert.
There was only a length between the first six, split by necks and heads, over the line. An inquiry was inevitable but it took the officials more than an hour to remove the offender, place her sixth behind those she sinned against (as local rules demand), and bump everything else up. The revised first five was: Special Duty, Baine (like Liliside, trained by François Rohaut), Joanna, Rosanara and Lady Of The Desert.
The amended result was a neat mirror-image of events in the same race four years ago. Then, Tie Black, from Rohaut's provincial stable in the shadow of the Pyrenees, was awarded the prize after Price Tag, in the same Khalid Abdullah colours as Special Duty, was disqualified.
Criquette Head-Maarek had mixed feelings about victory. "Obviously, it's good to win two Group Ones, even if rather an amazing way to do it, but I think the stewards again made the correct decision," she said. "Liliside stopped the Aga Khan filly [Rosanara], in particular, from being closer and the rules say she must be disqualified.
"The more I saw the replays of the race, the more I thought she would lose it – but it is always a shame when it happens in big races, especially when the result involves a smaller trainer from the country. But I still think mine was the best filly in the race. She had the worst draw and proved herself a real fighter from that position and with the interference."
For the three-year-old miling fillies, it is game still on; various scores can yet be settled and points made in the Irish 1,000 Guineas, the Coronation Stakes and the Prix d'Astarte, Special Duty's next likely outing. For the colts in the same division, the situation is slightly clearer-cut.
Again, the same horse finished second in the English and French versions of the Classic, but for the British raider Dick Turpin, from the Richard Hannon yard, there was no help from officials. In the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket he was decisively outpointed by the French-trained Makfi; yesterday rather less so by Lope De Vega, who gave his trainer André Fabre a fifth Poule d'Essai des Poulains and his rider Maxime Guyon a first.
Dick Turpin, now bound for the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, was only half a length behind the 10-1 winner, with Shamalgan third (at 100-1) for the Czech Republic and Buzzword (Godolphin) and Meezaan (John Gosden) fourth and fifth. Hannon has a strong hand over the distance; on Saturday the stable's star, the five-year-old Paco Boy, set an impressive standard for older milers in the Lockinge Stakes and next weekend Canford Cliffs goes for the Irish 2,000 Guineas.
On the undercard at Longchamp the sprinter Marchand D'Or bounced back to his best on his first run for Makfi's trainer, the upwardly mobile Mikel Delzangles, charging home in the Prix de Saint-George to deny the Kevin Ryan-trained Benbaun by a head.
American racing will have to wait at least another year for the longed-for Triple Crown winner as the Kentucky Derby hero, Super Saver, could finish only eighth in Saturday night's Preakness Stakes, won by Lookin At Lucky, last year's US juvenile champion. It was his trainer Bob Baffert's fifth success in the Pimlico showpiece.
*Sue Montgomery's Nap
Silver Wind (7.10 Windsor)
Has largely kept better company than today's since his last victory and the combination of a drop in class and distance may allow him to resume winning ways.
Haatheq (6.00 Leicester)
Returns to the scene of his successful handicap debut last month, when he looked progressive enough after a seven-month absence to defy his rise in the ratings.
One to watch
Right Step (A P Jarvis) was never in contention from the rear at Newbury on Saturday in the steadily run three-year-old handicap dominated by the trailblazers but was doing his best work at the end.
Where the money's going
Further support for last week's Yorkshire Cup winner Manifest for the Gold Cup has consolidated his place at the head of the market for the Ascot showpiece to 9-2 from 6-1.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Cape To Rio (6.40 Windsor)