Nil desperandum – so long, that is, as you have men like Tony McCoy and Ryan Moore riding in your cause. Yesterday both found themselves facing similarly steep odds, albeit on very different animals, in very different theatres. But each produced a vintage response, to pull the race out of the fire.
Moore had the advantage of riding one of the most accomplished Flat horses on the planet in Presvis, making his first appearance since Royal Ascot in a Group Two race at Meydan. By last summer, Presvis seemed badly in need of a break, following consecutive punishing, if lucrative, campaigns overseas. He looked right back to his best, however, in winning at the Dubai International Carnival for the third year running. As has happened so often in the past, he soon found himself with an enormous amount of ground to retrieve, dropped in from a wide draw and detached from the rest by perhaps four lengths. Moore reliably kept his cool, however, weaving his mount through the field on the bridle to burst clear in the final furlong. Best of the rest was the pride of Epsom, Steele Tango.
Luca Cumani, his trainer, will now aim Presvis at the Dubai Duty Free Stakes over the same course and distance on World Cup night. "I was very pleased as I thought he would need the race," he said. "Ryan gets on with him like a house on fire."
McCoy had a rather more obdurate escort, as befits a mediocre handicap chase at Warwick. Even so, while it is all very easy with hindsight, it does seem as though some people will never learn. For if McCoy has proved anything over the past 15 years, it is that you should not write off his chances. Merely to see Folie A Deux tailing off, leaving the back straight, proved hopelessly inadequate grounds to assume the game was up.
Some incorrigible exchange punters, however, got it into their heads to lay the 9-4 favourite at the maximum in-running odds, Betfair later reporting £142 laid at 999-1. It was not long before this ceased to look a terribly smart idea. The hapless opportunists watched in horror as McCoy gradually prompted a renewal of interest in Folie A Deux, and as they closed painfully on the other five, toiling runners between the last two fences there could suddenly be only one outcome.
Sure enough, Folie A Deux stayed on to wear down Earl Grez in the final strides. "I knew I still had a chance at the second last," McCoy told Racing UK. "It wasn't a great race. Even though he'd been off the bridle, I hadn't been hard on him. Once I was able to grab hold I was able to get him running."
Table Mountain, an expensive purchase out of Ballydoyle, could meanwhile manage no better than eighth on his hurdling debut at Thurles. Still, as events elsewhere demonstrated, it's far too early to be giving up.
Just The Job (3.50 Fontwell) Easily forgiven midfield finish tried over a longer trip in taxing ground last time.
Basford Bob (4.10 Doncaster) Bumped into a smart one at Southwell last time but lasted longer than all the rest on the bridle.
One to watch
Flinty Bay (Nicky Richards) Represents a stable emerging from a lean spell and promised to contribute soon when second at Market Rasen last weekend.
Where the money's going
Carlton House, an impressive maiden winner at Newbury during the autumn, is 14-1 from 16-1 with Ladbrokes for the Investec Derby.