The Duke of Richmond may still hold the deeds, but once again this enchanting downland spur has unmistakably been appropriated for the week by the same partnership. Richard Hannon celebrated his 250th career success here, while tomorrow he hopes that Richard Hughes can end the meeting by adding its second Group One prize to the one they shared so memorably with Toronado on Wednesday.
In the circumstances, it would seem reckless even to entertain the idea of opposing Sky Lantern, favourite for the Markel Insurance Nassau Stakes. Though beaten in her trial, she won the 1,000 Guineas before showing scorching acceleration to overcome a nightmare draw in the Coronation Stakes, also over a mile, at Royal Ascot. Her status is undiminished by a narrow defeat since – in a rough race with another multiple Group One winner, Elusive Kate – and if she is going to stay the extra two furlongs anywhere, it will be round these sharp turns.
But she has hitherto looked a trademarked miler and her genes offer only marginal encouragement that she might prove as effective over 10 furlongs. Her old rival, Just The Judge, is arguably more likely to get home but the value could instead prove to be the forgotten Hot Snap (3.15).
In fairness, this filly produced a fairly forgettable performance as favourite for the Guineas. But her absence since corroborates the suspicion that she could hardly have been herself, and she had previously produced a remarkable performance for a filly with only one maiden start to her name when hurtling from last to first in the Nell Gwyn Stakes. As a half-sister by Pivotal to Midday, a triple winner of this race, she had little right to win that over just seven furlongs. And, whatever presumption of subsequent improvement is warranted about the runner-up that day, the fact is that her name was Sky Lantern.
The big handicap on the card is the Robins Farm Racing Stewards' Cup, where none arrives in better heart than Tropics, beaten once – by a neck – in his last four starts. Bought for $700,000 as a yearling, he was discarded for just 2,500 guineas as an unraced three-year-old and has proved a terrific bargain for Dean Ivory. But bigger odds are tempting against Rex Imperator (3.50). Still unexposed as a sprinter, he looks the type to relish a hectic pace and could pick them off fast and late. Picture Dealer (2.05), meanwhile, remains palpably ahead of the game in the consolation race, for those who missed the cut.
Some progressive three-year-olds convene for the RAC Handicap, three of them trained by a man whose affection for this place rivals that of Hannon, in Mark Johnston. The progress of Royal Skies (2.40) apparently ground to a halt at Royal Ascot, when he was beaten a long way in the Queen's Vase, but he went with zest before fading late over that extreme distance and will enjoy the drop back in trip.
Whatever happens, it has been another marvellous week for Messrs Hannon and Hughes. And they have much to look forward to with both the colts who won consecutive mile races today: Montiridge, who outclassed his rivals for the Bonhams Thoroughbred Stakes; and Wentworth, who cut down another progressive three-year-old, Cape Peron, in the Betfred Mile. It is not hard, in fact, to picture one or other of them coming back next year for the Sussex Stakes.
Moviesta, meanwhile, earned a crack at the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes at York when landing the Group sprint – a tonic for Harry Redknapp, his part-owner, on the eve of a challenging new season at QPR for the veteran manager.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Velox (3.30 Newmarket)
Green Monkey (2.25 Doncaster)