Strange days indeed on the Turf, which seems to be shifting under the very feet of its emperors. On Thursday evening – even as he prayed for a reprieve for Camelot – John Magnier looked down from his regular pitch at Tattersalls, high above the gangway into the sales ring, and saw a potential heir to his present champion prised from his grasp. Back in Ireland, Camelot was undergoing surgery for colic; here even a bid of 2.4m guineas, for the star lot of Europe's top yearling auction, was insufficient to see off a new superpower in the bloodstock market.
The agent representing Sheikh Fahad al-Thani, the beaming young man whose sudden infatuation with the sport has released a flood of investment from Qatar, promptly answered the Coolmore boss's last throw of the dice with a bid of 2.5m. Down came the gavel, dissipating the tense hush into a hundred excited conversations, and a Galileo colt – out of the dam of another Derby winner, Authorized – was led away as the third-most expensive yearling sold in Europe. It is Sheikh Fahad's family, of course, who have funded Qipco Champions' Day at Ascot next Saturday. Now he had also ensured a stunning climax to a sale that had bewildered the professional community with its immunity to recession.
The duel must have taken Magnier back three decades, to the early days of his rivalry with the Maktoum family of Dubai. But while it subsequently became so intense that Sheikh Mohammed declines to invest in Coolmore stallions – at auction, at any rate – his young Gulf neighbour has now made a spectacular contribution to the boom in Galileo's reputation. To that extent, Magnier gained even as he lost. And he was further consoled, yesterday, by vets who expressed themselves "delighted" with Camelot's response to their intervention.
The Derby winner had been suffering a potentially fatal intestinal condition, so all plans will remain suspended during his recuperation. Magnier and his partners intended to keep Camelot in training, but it will be one step at a time for now.
Camelot, of course, had already prompted upheaval on Sheikh Mohammed's side of the fence. In ending his season with a disappointing effort in Paris last Sunday, albeit in heavy ground, he was ridden by Frankie Dettori. And the Italian's perceived disloyalty to Sheikh Mohammed – his employer for nearly 20 years – is evidently not being indulged quite as he had hoped. Many seem to expect contrition from Dettori, in order to salvage his retainer for next year, but it would be understandable if he preferred to view Mickael Barzalona's promotion as the cue to see out his career in pursuit of dignity, rather than dirhams.
Dettori rides for the first time since at Newmarket today, and takes three mounts for Godolphin. In each of the Group One races, however, the favourite is a midsummer purchase by his boss – and each has remained in the care of not only their previous trainers, but also their previous jockeys.
In the Darley Dewhurst Stakes, Dawn Approach is odds-on to give Jim Bolger a remarkable fifth success in seven years. His Coventry Stakes form has been lavishly advertised, and this colt has all the hard-knocking attributes of Bolger's best horses. Ashdan has shaped immaculately but it is Dawn Approach (2.55) who has the runs on the board.
Though purchased by the sheikh's stud, Reckless Abandon has been leased back to his vendors and runs in their colours in the Vision.ae Middle Park Stakes. But Moohaajim (2.20) looks a good bet to reverse Prix Morny form with him, having lacked experience that day. Moohaajim looked much sharper when impressing at Newbury since, and Adam Kirby had the choice of the pair.
It may yet prove Dubai Future Champions Day best matches its billing in a Group Three race, the Autumn Stakes having drawn so many promising colts that it will surely announce one with legitimate Epsom prospects. Bolger is already thinking that way about Trading Leather (4.40), but nobody can sensibly anticipate the rate of improvement in most of these.
Rather more is known about the field contesting one of Newmarket's most venerable prizes, the Betfred Cesarewitch, not least a well-treated Triumph Hurdle winner in Countrywide Flame. (His performance will be closely monitored at Chepstow, where Fingal Bay makes his chasing debut on the best jumps card of the season to date.) The race still looks pretty impossible, but it is fascinating to see Kepler's Law (3.35) set such a challenge – one that has long looked sure to suit – by his masterly trainer, Sir Mark Prescott, on the gelding's first start since last year.
Channel 4 also has cameras at soggy York, where Model Pupil joined a plethora of withdrawals on yesterday's card. At least Mirza (3.45) handles the ground, and he shaped better in his second start after a break at Ascot last week.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Rangitoto (4.45 Chepstow)
French Navy (5.15 Newmarket)