Trying to coax another bid at 250,000 guineas, the auctioneer here yesterday made the preposterous claim that the colt before him would "look very cheap when he wins his maiden first time out". But if it is easy to overstate the value of a debut success, then nor should anyone be deceived that defeat first time out spells the end of the dream. That was when Sea The Stars suffered the only reverse of his career, after all, and at least one trainer would almost prefer his debutants to remain eligible for a second maiden.
"Now clearly, that's not to say you'd finish second by design," Brian Meehan stressed. "But I do think it works out better for the horse if they can come on for a first run to win their maiden. That way they're much better equipped for the move up to stakes competition. It's that bit tougher, if they have only had experience of racing once."
A case in point is Most Improved, albeit he was considered sufficiently precocious at home to be sent off favourite for his debut on the July Course. In the event, he was foiled in a photo, but he returned three weeks later to show all the trademark Manton improvement and romp home by five lengths. The runner-up has since won by 10 lengths at Goodwood and tomorrow Meehan will take Most Improved to the Rowley Mile for the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes. At €65,000 (£56,600), the Lawman colt really does look value now.
"And he's a good example of what I mean," Meehan said. "He was so much more effective the second day, and we got a real good look at him. He's a lovely, progressive colt with a wonderful temperament and takes everything in his stride. The form is working out great, his work since has been very good, and he reminds me a lot of other good horses we've taken the same kind of route – the likes of Fast Company and Crowded House."
Meehan was pleased to note Fencing was not among the nine declarations. John Gosden had been concerned about fast ground and will now train Fencing for the Racing Post Trophy.
If Most Improved is living up to his name, the onus is now on one of his senior stablemates to prove that he is not on the downgrade. Since winning the Breeders' Cup Turf last year, Dangerous Midge has finished last of 14 in Dubai and seventh of eight at Newbury. He needs to show plenty more at York today if anyone is to entertain a return to Louisville, but Meehan sounds positive. "I think he was just very ring-rusty at Newbury, not having run since March, and he does need the blinkers now," he said. "The ground was a little dead, too, and it'll be fast tomorrow. He certainly seems in great form at home."
Chris McGrath's Nap
Musnad (4.15 York) Worth another chance after shaping better for new stable.
Radio Gaga (2.00 York) Several subsequent winners have emerged from her maiden.
One to watch
Jo'burg (David O'Meara) looks yet another to revive for his new stable.
Where the money's going
Red Duke is 14-1 from 16-1 with William Hill for the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket tomorrow.