The trouble with a course like this one, one of the most difficult in the country to master, is that it can make a man look like a genius or a dunce.
At the end of a week during which the rider Richard Hughes and the trainer Richard Hannon had swept most before them – respectively eight and nine winners and a fourth title apiece at the Glorious meeting – their particular bandwagon finally hit the buffers. Or more precisely, the imposing equine backsides blocking the way of Sky Lantern in the closing stages of the afternoon's feature, the Nassau Stakes.
Sky Lantern, the best of her age and sex over a mile this season, started a well-backed 7-4 favourite to take her Group One tally to four in the £200,000 contest as she tried 10 furlongs for the first time, and give her stable a top-level double for the week, after Toronado's Sussex Stakes. But just as Hughes, who had come with a clear run into the straight before going back in among his rivals, started to launch his challenge beween Sajjhaa and the eventual winner Winsili, that pair closed together, bumped and shut the door in his and his grey mount's face.
A devil's advocate might say that Sky Lantern lacked the tactical speed to go through the gap while it was there but Hughes certainly felt hard done by afterwards. And his opinion was slightly endorsed by Winsili's trainer John Gosden. "Sky Lantern is a gorgeous filly," he said, "and she didn't quite get the rub of the green today." It will probably not have escaped the notice of Hughes and Hannon that a member of Gosden's team was their star's nemesis for her second successive race. Last month Winsili's stablemate Elusive Kate sent her sideways in a controversial finish to the Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket.
Yesterday's contest on the downland switchback was messy enough all round. The well-fancied Just The Judge stumbled and ripped a shoe off, taking part of her hoof with it, at the start and was never a factor thereafter. At half-way the Irish challenger Just Pretending almost took the wrong course when in the lead, though she managed to get back on track without losing much ground or interfering with her rivals. And on the downhill run after the turn for home, Hot Snap was involved in some scrimmaging and, as a strong-finishing third, is another who can be counted unlucky.
The 20-1 shot Winsili, owned and bred by Khaled Abdullah, was keen early but eventually settled in William Buick's hands before making her effort through the last quarter-mile. She readily shrugged off the collision with Sajjhaa and had plenty left to repel the late charge of Thistle Bird (33-1), one of the few with a trouble-free run, by a neck. Hot Snap, also in the Abdullah colours and at 5-1 the better-fancied of the pair, was two lengths back, followed by Sajjhaa and Sky Lantern.
Winsili, a daughter of Dansili, gave Gosden his second successive Nassau Stakes – ironically last year's winner The Fugue was ridden by Hughes – and Abdullah his fourth in five years, the first three courtesy of a hat-trick from Midday, Hot Snap's older half-sister. "My game plan was to follow Hughsie," said Buick, "and hope he wouldn't get too far back, which he didn't. I had plenty of time in the straight to manoeuvre and I decided to take my time because I know she has a turn of foot."
But while yesterday's heroine, who benefits from the calming effect of a hood that covers her ears in public, does little wrong on the track – she has now won three of her five races – at home it is a different matter. "She's quite strongminded and just can't stand still," said Gosden. "If she can't go straight on to the canter in the mornings, if she has to wait her turn, she almost throws herself to the ground in frustration. She's like the Roadrunner."
Winsili and Sky Lantern may yet meet again, in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf in California later in the year. "I was behind the Godolphin filly [Sajjhaa] at the two-furlongs pole, but when I went to edge out round her Mr Buick's horse rolled in and pushed me back. I think I was on the best horse, I was coming to win. But that's racing."
Horses drawn near the stands side rail dominated the finish of the cavalry charge that is the six-furlong Stewards' Cup, with the 12-1 shot Rex Imperator a rather easy winner of one of the season's most competitive sprint handicaps. The four-year-old, ridden by Neil Callan, came in two and a quarter lengths clear of Ajjaad (66-1) with Burwaaz (25-1) and Racy (16-1) next. It was a second Stewards Cup' for trainer William Haggas, who won with Conquest five years ago.