To some, the card here today matches the greatest strengths of the British Turf with some of its most maddening weaknesses. On the one hand, you can see top-class horses contesting prizes saturated with tradition. On the other, the occasion is pretty safely immured against the curiosity of outsiders. Channel 4 is here, admittedly, but its assistance will be of little help to the working man.
The last race condenses the dichotomy, being confined to horses owned by members of the Jockey Club. The winner will not be tainted by even a farthing in prize-money. For some, evidently, the sport's heritage is literally beyond price.
The time will duly come, no doubt, when the day's two Group One races will be relocated to a weekend – possibly even the new, roaming showcase meeting intended to give the Flat season a definable climax. For now, however, many cognoscenti and professionals will cherish precisely the purity of the occasion, unadulterated as it is by anyone merely seeking an excuse to dress up, or drink, or sing along to some ageing rock star.
Certainly, the traditionalists would be justified in rejecting the glib assumption that interest is best guaranteed by big fields. Only five colts line up for the Shadwell Middle Park Stakes, but you would go a long way just to see a match between, say, Showcasing and Poet's Voice (3.05). The latter just about got away with a seventh furlong in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster, but a first start at this trip will undoubtedly play to his strengths. Connections of Showcasing have meanwhile cut to the chase, quickly recognising sprinting as his métier, and while the strict form of his Gimcrack success might have its limitations, the time identified his as an unusual talent.
Then there is Awzaal, who has taken each rung on the ladder with such flair that this next one could well prove within his compass; while you can only dismiss Arctic and Radiohead by deciding that they respectively require softer ground or five furlongs.
As for the fillies, in the Electrolux Cheveley Park Stakes, Lady Of The Desert sets the standard on her performance in the Lowther, but the French raider, Special Duty, held her own against Group One colts at Deauville last time and represents a stable with a fine record in this race. Special Duty (2.30) went off so fast in the Prix Morny that Arcano had to break the course record to run her down –which is more than another of the summer's outstanding juveniles, Canford Cliffs, was able to do.
This identification of an elite cadre among the juveniles gives the existing Flat programme all the "narrative" momentum many of us could possibly desire. Godolphin introduced yet another decent type in the opener here yesterday, for instance, Fareej running green before organising himself up the rising ground. But there seems little danger of Sir Parky breaking into the noblest caste next season despite holding all comers at 33-1 in the Somerville Tattersall Stakes – a scenario that seemed as remote beforehand, when he seemed thoroughly exposed by seven previous starts, as in the race itself, where he already looked flat out when stretching for home.
Akmal was a more obviously progressive candidate for the Directa Noel Murless Stakes, and duly justified his promotion from handicaps to win his sixth prize under another deft, front-running ride from Richard Hills. The flourishing jockey, who predicted that Akmal could even develop into a Cup horse as a four-year-old, has had an unprecedented run for his patron, Sheikh Hamdan – and has corresponding expectations for Ghanaati when she returns to the scene of her 1,000 Guineas success in the Kingdom of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes here tomorrow.
"I've never had a better run," Hills said. "It started in January in Dubai, and I've been very fortunate that all Sheikh Hamdan's trainers have individually been having a good year. It's a big team effort, and everything seems to have gelled this year. Ghanaati had a holiday after the Sussex Stakes, but she worked very well last week – and while you never quite know with fillies, at this time of year, all the signs are very good."
Turf account: Chris McGrath
Spate River (9.20 Wolverhampton) Made an encouraging return from a long absence at Sandown in August, and was then left with too much to do after missing the break when well backed at Kempton last time. He remains relatively unexposed.
Esaar (3.40 Newmarket) Made a really promising debut in what looked a decent maiden at Newbury, travelling best for a long way.
One to watch
Thunder Bridge (D K Weld) did not make his debut in the most obvious cradle for future stars, in a median auction race at Sligo, no less, but he won with staggering ease, by 13 lengths, in a very good time.
Where the money's going
Dar Re Mi takes on Sea The Stars in the Arc on Sunday and a suggestion she might stay in the company of colts prompted Totesport to introduce her at 10-1 for the Breeders' Cup Turf.Reuse content