Although this has been a thin season at the top table so far for the Godolphin team, at least by its own fairly exacting standards, pickings have been plentiful below the salt. The Blues' 71 victories worldwide this year have included just two at the highest level, most recently Flashing's Test Stakes at Saratoga on Saturday. But if quality is lacking, quantity is a fair stopgap and the horses under Saeed bin Suroor's care in Newmarket are currently running out of their shiny skins.
The last two weeks have produced 14 winners in three countries, a strike rate of 34 per cent. Of the last 15 runners here, only one has neither won nor picked up place prize-money. Slink forward Yirga, only seventh of eight at Newmarket on Saturday.
There have been performances brimful of promise for the future from two-year-olds like Long Lashes, the polished winner of the Sweet Solera Stakes, and Al Zir, a $1.6m colt, and the tough, progressive Black Snowflake. The three-year-old division has not been hacking it, though, but this weekend two of the likeliest lads among that generation – Evasive and Kite Wood – are scheduled to rejoin the road towards elite competition.
Evasive was headhunted by Sheikh Mohammed at the end of June to bolster the ranks of his contemporaries and will have his first start in his new colours – he formerly raced for Cheveley Park Stud from the Sir Michael Stoute yard – in the Group Two Hungerford Stakes.
After two juvenile wins he was highly enough regarded in his former life to make his seasonal debut in the 2,000 Guineas, for which he started third favourite and finished a respectable sixth to Sea The Stars, immediately preceded by the two subsequent Group One winners Rip Van Winkle and Mastercraftsman.
After a fourth place behind the last-named in the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, Saturday's drop in class and to seven furlongs should suit him well at this stage of his career.
The well-related chestnut had his final serious warm-up for his task yesterday morning on the Newmarket gallops, where he powered through six furlongs under Ted Durcan. But however he fares on Saturday and for the rest of this season, the lightly raced Evasive was a longer-term investment, both on the track next year and as a stallion beyond that. His sire is the highly desirable US-based horse Elusive Quality, whose best son Raven's Pass already stands under the sheikh's banner, and his dam is closely related to another top sire, Kingmambo.
Kite Wood, son of another top-class stallion in Galileo, was recruited at the end of his juvenile career as a Derby prospect and although he joined the list of Sea The Stars' victims at Epsom – he came in a never-threatening ninth of 12 – he has thrived since and has another Classic, the St Leger, firmly in his sights. His latest homework was of a high order and, ground allowing (he would not want it too firm), he will take on his elders in the Geoffrey Freer Stakes on Saturday.
Sea The Stars himself, unbeaten in his three runs in top company, is due to turn out a week today in the Juddmonte International at York, with Mastercraftsman chief among his adversaries, though trainer John Oxx is another on weather watch, for the Cape Cross colt will not be asked to operate in soft conditions. "Everything is up to speed with him," said Oxx yesterday, "and we're just waiting to see which way the clouds go."
But one star who will not be seen at York next week is the flying filly Fleeting Spirit, hot ante-post favourite for the Nunthorpe Stakes. The four-year-old, winner of the July Cup, was last night ruled out of the meeting's sprint showpiece by her trainer Jeremy Noseda. "She has had a slight setback," he said, "but we hope to have her back for the Sprint Cup at Haydock next month."
Turf account: Sue Montgomery
Dorback (6.55 Nottingham) His unheralded debut win could hardly have worked out better – two of the three who followed him in have scored since – and he looks the type to follow up en route to better things.
Biniou (7.55 Nottingham) The only one of these to have won on turf this year, the six-year-old can pick up the thread back at five furlongs after a creditable performance over six in the Stewards' Cup 10 days ago.
One to watch
Chandika (C G Cox) Though only third when dropped to the minimum trip for her handicap debut at Windsor on Sunday, this speedy filly put in a good enough effort on an unfavoured section of the track to indicate that losses will be recouped sooner rather than later off her current mark.
Chris McGrath's nap
Monsieur Fillioux (4.30 Lingfield).Reuse content