The best jockeys operate in the narrow margin between the carefree and the careless, between nerve and nerves. That is where one of the master trainers in Turf history, André Fabre, discovered Maxime Guyon – and that is how he came to vest so much trust in France's latest riding sensation here yesterday.
Guyon, still only 21, had never ridden on these shores before Fabre hoisted him aboard Byword, favourite for the big race on the second day of the meeting. But he produced a ride of seasoned simplicity to win the Prince of Wales's Stakes, reserving his one flourish of excitement for a clenched salute to the stands as he passed the post.
It was only then, in fact, that the latent dimensions of his performance were disclosed – for here was Twice Over, flashing home on the outside, beaten only half a length. Had Guyon not made his move when he did, from just behind a fairly temperate gallop two furlongs out, things might well have turned out very differently.
Not that the man whose silks he wore would have minded too much. Prince Khaled Abdulla also owns Twice Over, and so had another championship to savour in a summer that has already given him an outstanding Derby winner in Workforce.
It was Abdulla's fidelity, of course, that sustained the trainer of Twice Over, Henry Cecil, through his notorious lean years. And in the same way horses like Byword remind us that an equivalent achiever, over the Channel, has not wholly disappeared behind his new role, grooming future stars for Godolphin. In turn, just as Cecil stressed his rejuvenation by appointing young Tom Queally as stable jockey, so Fabre has shown that he remains alert to any nascent genius that might complement his own horsemanship.
"I was a bit worried about the inexperience of the jockey," Fabre admitted. "But he had a perfect ride, clear without any bumps. Maxime has nerve, and he's young, which is always an advantage. He knows what horses want. He also doesn't use the whip a lot, which I enjoy as well. He rode a beautiful race."
Guyon had already won five Group One prizes on home soil, including the Prix du Jockey Club on Lope De Vega earlier this month. His explosive emergence is all the more startling when you consider that his sole connection with the Turf comes through his mother, who worked in a bar-tabac with a pari-mutuel licence.
Not that he could win this prize on his own, and Fabre "knew" the horse was good enough to win, so long as the rider did his part. "Byword has matured this season," he explained. "He got a bit sick as a three-year-old, had a virus. We gave him time, and now he is really coming to himself."
Bookmakers introduced the Peintre Celebre colt behind Workforce in their Arc betting, at around 10-1, but Fabre does not envisage trying him beyond 10 furlongs. Instead he indicated he might risk dropping Byword in trip for a rematch with Goldikova, who beat him in their previous encounter, in the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville.
Without attaching any blame to Queally, meanwhile, Cecil was frustrated by the way the race had unfolded. "We wanted to be handier and it was such a mess-up," he said. He got blocked in and couldn't get out, and then he was too far back." The long-term target for Twice Over is again likely to be the Champion Stakes at Newmarket in the autumn.
Tazeez was beaten by only another three-quarters of a length in third, a performance instructive of the steady pace, with Stimulation surpassing himself in fourth and Wiener Walzer always prominent just behind. Those ridden towards the rear, such as Shalanaya and Presvis, never threatened to land a blow in midfield.
Cecil did not have to wait too long for succour, however, Timepiece finally coming good dropped back to a mile for the Sandringham Handicap. Disappointing both in her trials and in the Oaks itself, Abdulla's filly stemmed a sustained challenge from Blue Maiden to give Cecil his 72nd winner at this meeting. "Without those years in the doldrums, my ambition would have been 100," he said ruefully. "This filly didn't seem to have a trip, but the stiff mile turns out to be ideal. I know Ascot after Epsom can be a graveyard, but she seemed very well."
With the ground drying and a strong tailwind, there were track records for two fillies: Rainfall in the Jersey Stakes, and Maqaasid in the Queen Mary. The latter, who readily ran down Meow in the final strides, represents one of Sheikh Hamdan's most precious bloodlines and is trained by another dependable operator at this meeting in John Gosden. Her relaxed demeanour implies she may not be merely precocious, and should also help her get a sixth furlong in the Cheveley Park Stakes.
Ryan Moore, who rode Rainfall, completed a double when Strawberrydaiquiri thwarted Spacious in a duel for the Windsor Forest Stakes, while Godolphin pulled a Hunt Cup winner out of the hat in Invisible Man.
Afsare (5.00 Ascot) Looks rapidly on the upgrade, especially impressive stepped up to this distance at Doncaster last time.
Bright Horizon (5.35 Ascot) Improved for the step up from 10f when winding up gradually to win a sprint finish, going away, at the Curragh last time. Likely to relish a stiffer test this time.
One to watch
Alsace Lorraine (J R Fanshawe) Did well to take fourth in the Windsor Forest Stakes yesterday, but could do better still over 10f with cut in the ground.
Where the money's going
Lillie Langtry is 7-2 from 4-1 with Totesport for the Coronation Stakes at Ascot tomorrow.