There came a stark reminder late yesterday of the frailty of the thoroughbred when America's putative superstar I'll Have Another was ruled out of his bid for immortality in tonight's Belmont Stakes.
The Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner was hot favourite to become the first US Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978, and only the 12th in all, in the New York contest. But heat in a foreleg tendon, a nagging injury which could bring his career to a premature end, prompted his 11th-hour defection. "It is not a tragedy," said the colt's trainer Doug O'Neill, "but it is a huge disappointment." Kentucky Derby third Dullahan is now favourite.
The domestic programme today is strictly one between the lord mayor's shows of last weekend's Derby and Oaks meeting at Epsom and the Royal Ascot extravaganza that starts on Tuesday week. And although there is always the chance of above-average talent revealing itself, perhaps in one of the juvenile maidens at Newmarket on the first Saturday of the season on the July course, the focus of attention at headquarters today is a horse unlikely to be going faster than a gentle trot.
That will of course change at Ascot two weeks today, when the unbeaten Australian sprint sensation Black Caviar is due to show off her lightning speed in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes. Meanwhile, the six-year-old Peter Moody-trained mare, safely arrived at her Newmarket lodgings after a 30-hour flight from Melbourne, awoke yesterday to her first Northern Hemisphere dawn.
She was reported to have taken the gruelling global transit in her mighty stride as insouciantly as she has her 21 races. "She's very bright," said her vet Peter Angus, part of her escort. "After a journey like this they can be so tired that sometimes their eyes are dulled, but she has eaten and drunk on the flight, doesn't seem to have lost much weight and is as bright as a button. The next couple of days will tell us more, but she seems very settled and relaxed."
For the next two weeks, every shake of Black Caviar's head, every swish of her tail, will be under scrutiny, both here and back home, where she is a national heroine.
At Newmarket yesterday, the New Approach filly Newfangled looked a smart prospect with a clear-cut debut victory in one of the aforementioned maidens, earning herself a tilt at the Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot in the process. This afternoon, Chil The Kite (2.20) can stake his claim to a Britannia Stakes run and Irish Heartbeat (2.55), Trade Commisssioner (3.30) and Mulaqen (4.00) are suggested in the track's other televised handicaps.
Tomorrow in France, Ireland's leading jumps trainer, Willie Mullins, will stage one of his customary midsummer raids on France's lavish prize money as Thousand Stars goes for a second successive Grand Course des Haies at Auteuil. The grey, the mount of Ruby Walsh, will be accompanied by stablemates Zaidpour and Mourad in France's top hurdles contest, worth £138,000 to the winner. Malcolm Jefferson's Cape Tribulation, a winner at Cheltenham and Aintree, challenges for Britain.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Van Ellis (2.35 Chester)
Cruck Realta (2.40 Doncaster)