The magnificent six-year-old mare Goldikova banished any thoughts that age might be withering her at Longchamp yesterday as she took her top-level tally to 13 in the Prix d'Ispahan, in the process serving notice to any younger pretenders that her milers' crown will not be easily dislodged. But although perceived wisdom has been that the first to have a crack will be the four-year-old Canford Cliffs in the Queen Anne Stakes three weeks tomorrow, the mare's trainer, Freddy Head, may yet disappoint those agog for the Royal Ascot showdown.
"She is beautiful in every way and this was a brilliant and courageous seasonal debut for her," he said after welcoming the horse he so adores into the winner's circle. "But at this stage I absolutely won't be committed to Ascot. I'll talk to the owners, then we'll see."
The end-of-season target for Goldikova, who carries the Wertheimer family colours, is an unprecedented fourth Breeders' Cup Mile; the Ispahan and the Queen Anne, in which she narrowly saw off Canford Cliffs' erstwhile, and lesser, Richard Hannon stablemate Paco Boy, were both successful staging posts last year on her way to her third.
Yesterday's Group One victory, over the nine furlongs that is the upper limit of her stamina, was hard enough earned despite rider Olivier Peslier being as gentle as possible. She took over smoothly from her pacemaker Flash Dance two furlongs out, but going to the line had to stick her neck out, albeit with typical determination, to repel Cirrus Des Aigles by only a neck, with her own stablemate Rajsaman a close third and Head may decide to be more sparing with her en route to Churchill Downs.
Another superstar, the Australian So You Think, made it two from two on his European tour. The four-year-old has joined Aidan O'Brien for a tilt at the best middle-distance prizes in these parts and was barely out of third gear as he cruised to victory under Ryan Moore in the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh at odds of 1-7.
The imposing son of High Chaparral had four and a half lengths to spare over Campanologist and he is one who is definitely bound for Berkshire next month, for the Prince Of Wales's Stakes. "Ryan was delighted with the way the horse responded as soon as he asked," said O'Brien, "and it was important for him to sit on him in a race, in case he might be available to ride him the next day."
With notable symmetry, O'Brien took both of the weekend's Irish Classics. Yesterday Misty For Me followed Roderic O'Connor's example the previous afternoon by winning their local Guineas after flopping in the Newmarket counterparts. Both horses are by Galileo, both accounted for the favourite by three-quarters of a length and both their victims were Rowley Mile runners-up. The only difference was the style of victory; the colt, a first such success for O'Brien's teenage son Joseph, made all to beat Dubawi Gold and the filly, a well-backed 5-1 shot with Seamie Heffernan in the saddle, caught Together in the final half-furlong to give O'Brien a fifth winner of his local 1,000 Guineas and his Ballydoyle stable a one-two.
Just as a Classic favourite got going from off the pace too late to foil an enterprisingly ridden front-runner at the Curragh on Saturday, so it was at Pimlico. In the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the US Triple Crown, the trailblazing Shackleford held the fast finish of the Kentucky Derby hero Animal Kingdom by half a length.
* Chris McGrath's nap
Mymumsaysimthebest (7.10 Windsor)
Has progressed in each of three runs since a lengthy break, following a second at today's track with a defeat of two subsequent winners at Goodwood. Up in class, but may have more to offer.
* Next best
Oneladyowner (7.30 Thirsk)
Can be given another chance after a creditable effort, despite being badly hampered in better company at Chester.
* One to watch
Jamaican Bolt (Bryan Smart) has raced just twice, winning his maiden easily on his three-year-old debut, and should find his entry level in sprint handicaps well within his capability.