It can only comfort those of us who make serial misjudgements from a more distant perspective that even those most intimate with elite thoroughbreds can get them so wildly wrong. In success or failure, these animals are a constant source of humility. So it was that the opening Classic of the season revealed one colt as a good deal better than his first professional custodians had imagined; and another, at least for the time being, as not yet measuring up to the championship calibre so familiar to his handlers.
It is easy to mock the miscalculation made by the men who supervise Sheikh Hamdan's racing and breeding empire, in discarding an unraced Dubawi colt last autumn for just 26,000 guineas. Easy to tease them over the £7,500 breeders' prize that represented their sole, residual benefit from Makfi's astounding transformation in the Stan James 2,000 Guineas on Saturday. Easy to deride the performance of Awzaan, whose juvenile career had given them much more obvious grounds for optimism, in the same race. Or, indeed, to wonder how many Mafkis might have been bought for Arcano, their expensive recruit last summer, whose reappearance had been so discouraging that he did not even run. But let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
During recent years the Maktoum family's overall investment in bloodstock has not paid off in Classics with anything like the consistency of their rivals at Coolmore, and it is fair to assume this is as much a matter of judgement as luck. Due credit must be given to Makfi's trainer, Mikel Delzangles, for finding his own patrons a stallion prospect for the equivalent of the colt's board and lodging to that point. At the same time, Sheikh Hamdan's operation has seldom been accused of underachieving. And this was hardly a weekend that extended the supremacy of Coolmore's main stable, at Ballydoyle.
St Nicholas Abbey, the unbeaten champion juvenile, started hot favourite at Newmarket on Saturday but could keep on only steadily for sixth. Aidan O'Brien, his trainer, concealed any disappointment with his customary dignity, and hopes the colt may yet live up to his billing over a longer trip in the Investec Derby. "There was little or no pace early on and the race turned into a bit of a sprint home," he said. "St Nicholas Abbey ran quite well, considering he raced a bit fresh early, but was coming home well at the finish."
Sprinting, conversely, could yet allow Canford Cliffs to confirm himself as talented a horse as any in the field, judging by the way he cruised through before flattening into third. His stablemate, Dick Turpin, hung on for second, leaving Richard Hannon to curse the winner perhaps even more than Sheikh Hamdan. In the circumstances, it was unsurprising to learn from Delzangles, who is likely to bringMakfi back for Royal Ascot, that the horse "does not show much at home". His previous trainer, Marcus Tregoning, could have advised anyone as much. Unfortunately, those the poor fellow did tell included Angus Gold, Sheikh Hamdan's racing manager.Reuse content