Of all the virtues in the possession of a racehorse trainer, patience is generally the one most sorely tested. Right now, the Job of his job is Newmarket-based David Simcock, who has under his care a colt of rare talent, one who was last year rated the equal-best of his age in Europe. The trouble is, though, that his charge operates best on ground with some yield to it, so that while the other joint juvenile champion Frankel has made hay, in the form of his brilliant 2,000 Guineas victory, during the driest of springs, Dream Ahead has yet to embark on his three-year-old career.
And, perforce, he has drawn on another of the necessary skills of the trade, that of keeping an athlete which has no concept of programme planning or future glory at a continual strong simmer without boiling over. "A human," he said yesterday, "say a competitor in the [athletics] golden league, knows his programme, Oslo one month, Rome the next, and even if his schedule changes he can rationalise it.
"With a horse, it's down to the judgement of the trainer. And, particularly with one that hasn't raced for a while, you have to find a physical and mental balance. One great thing about horses is that they are largely animals who thrive on a routine – they're fed at the same time each day, exercise at the same time in the same places – and staying within those sorts of familiar parameters keeps them level."
Though he has not raced since disappointing behind Frankel in the Dewhurst Stakes in October, Dream Ahead, who carries the colours of Dubai businessman Khalifa Dasmal, has been fit and ready enough to run out of his skin since April. Happily, he has not exploded out of it.
"Horses can be physically very expressive," said Simcock, "and you get to know your individual and when, if necessary, to put the pressure on or take it off, by juggling routine or steady canters and faster, more competitive, work. You can't explain to them, but you try to give them the right signals and hope they respond and that everything stays stable."
Dream Ahead's next possible engagement is an eagerly-anticipated rematch with Frankel in the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot on Tuesday. Weather, of course, allowing.
"We respect Frankel enormously after his Guineas performance," said Simcock, "but we're excited at the prospect of taking him on again. But when we do, it will be under our conditions, especially first time out, which means at least good ground. We've been patient this far and we can be patient again; there are good prizes later in the season and I hope I'll have the horse for the next two years."
With showery weather forecast this week and over the weekend, Simcock will carry on with Dream Ahead's preparation for the Ascot opening day, including a serious spin this morning. "After that," he said, "we'll monitor the situation and he may have a blowout on Saturday."
If the rain does not come, there will be another three-week hiatus; Simcock has nominated the Prix Jean Prat at Chantilly in early July as back-up. "What he has done this year is grow up tremendously," he added of the imposing brown colt, "not only physically, but he's turned a corner mentally and is straightforward in his attitude. He was the only two-year-old to win two Group Ones last year and his work is now that of a high-class miler. I just hope no one forgets about him."
Even if Dream Ahead does miss the St James's Palace Stakes, opposition to Frankel, long odds-on for the Group One contest, will include at least one other of last year's top-level juvenile winners. Wootton Bassett, from the Richard Fahey yard, was yesterday reported on course for the Royal Ascot assignment.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Intiqaal (4.50 Haydock) His prowess on the home gallops has not yet been rewarded with a victory, but today's step up to a mile and into handicap company may provide the key.
Kitty Wells (3.20 Haydock) A sister to Milan who rose sharply in the ratings after taking her maiden but seemed unlucky not to cope last time over today's course and is sure to have benefited from that run.
Where the money's going
Green Destiny, a clear winner at Newmarket on his four-year-old debut, is now clear favourite for next week's Royal Hunt Cup, 7-1 from 8s with Ladbrokes.