The single most significant factor in the globalisation of racing arrived because a young RAF officer, Frank Whittle, had a good idea back in the late 1920s. His invention, of course, changed world travel and commerce for everyone and everything, but whereas a leisurely journey on a liner in days past could be a pleasurable experience for people, for horses it was a daunting experience, not to be considered lightly. In 1923, for instance, it took the Derby winner Papyrus eight storm-tossed days to cross the Atlantic on the Aquitania for a £20,000 match with the American champion Zev in New York, a contest which, unsurprisingly, he lost.
Nowadays equine athletes circle the world with swift impunity and it is appropriate that the latest international superstar to step out on a British track is named J J The Jet Plane. The speedy South African champion makes his debut on these shores tonight at Windsor, his prep for Royal Ascot later this month.
J J The Jet Plane, named after the cute airborne equivalent of Thomas The Tank Engine, is in the care of international maestro Mike de Kock and has the Golden Jubilee Stakes on the Saturday of the Royal meeting as his target.
Last year in his native country the five-year-old won twice at the top level over tonight's distance of six furlongs and comes to the shores of the Thames via a victory at Nad Al Sheba, Dubai, in February. He is currently lodging in Newmarket, where he showed considerable dash in a piece of work four days ago, ridden by De Kock's assistant Juan Nel.
Ryan Moore is in the saddle this evening, when J J must give weight away to all six rivals. "His preparation has gone very well," Nel said yesterday, "but he's not quite 100 per cent at this stage. The race will bring him on. Giving weight away is always a concern, but then I think he's a better horse than the others. If all goes well, we'll be looking forward to Royal Ascot."
The Golden Jubilee Stakes, the King's Stand Stakes at Ascot four days earlier and the July Cup at Newmarket next month are the European legs of the Global Sprint Challenge, which also takes in races in Australia, Japan and Hong Kong.
The series, in its fifth year, has enlivened the division in these parts, with victories for Spain (Equiano), Australia (Miss Andretti and Takeover Target), Hong Kong (Cape Of Good Hope) and contenders from South Africa (National Colour) and New Zealand (Seachange).
And though injury has ruled the Hungarian speedball Overdose out of this year's cosmopolitan Ascot party, the Hong Kong star Sacred Kingdom, regular attendee Takeover Target and his rising star compatriot Scenic Blast, plus Saturday's latest sprint revelation Ialysos are among those who will be there.
Ialysos is now based with Luca Cumani, but had won seven straight races at Markopoulou in his native Greece before scorching home in the Achilles Stakes – of course – on his British debut at Haydock on Saturday.
The home side's defence of the King's Stand Stakes was boosted yesterday by the victory in France of hardy little Tax Free. The gelding, trained by Dandy Nicholls and ridden by his son Adrian, survived a stewards' enquiry after a rough finish to the Prix du Gros-Chene at Chantilly, getting home from the Italian raider Black Mambazo by a neck. It was a fourth victory from his past five runs for Tax Free, still inching up the ladder at the age of seven, and sweet compensation for the demotion of his stablemate Inxile at Longchamp last month.
Kevin Ryan's charge Benbaun came third, but last year's first and second in the Group Three five-furlong contest, Marchand D'Or and Equiano, filled the last two places this time.
The first sprint of the day in front of the Grandes Ecuries came at the end of a 12-furlong race, and resulted in another successful British raid as Scintillo, from Richard Hannon's yard, defied a typically escargot-esque Gallic early pace to take the Group Two Grand Prix de Chantilly. Under a brainy ride from Richard Hughes, the four-year-old prevailed by a head from Chinchon, with about a length covering the first six.
Nap: Perfect Friend (5.00 Leicester)
NB: Pride Of Kings (3.00 Leicester)