However cold its comforts, they will always be cherished by some. The Craven meeting may lack the melodrama sought by those fatuously meddling with the Flat calendar, but it opened here yesterday in a fashion guaranteed to satisfy the foibles of those who view the return of racing to the Rowley Mile as an immutable rite of spring. Sure enough, the sky sagged heavily over a grey horizon; the breeze retained the last vestiges of winter; and the horses – well, the horses did exactly what they always do at this meeting.
As has increasingly been the case, those races once viewed as indispensable trials for the Guineas, back here in barely a fortnight, caused scarcely a tremor in the ante-post markets. In the circumstances, there was perhaps more interest in horses that might sooner volunteer themselves for the Investec Derby in June.
However, what had looked a really instructive contest for the Blue Square Feilden Stakes was played out in one dimension when Frankie Dettori hypnotised his pursuers on Dordogne, and then in the following race Midsummer Sun, a big talking horse on the Heath this spring, proved hopelessly tongue-tied on his debut.
When it came to deeds rather than words, it fell to the Yorkshire trainer Richard Fahey to underline the ability of his horses to make profitable incursions from the north. Admittedly the best of them, Wootton Bassett, remains "two weeks behind schedule" for the Qipco 2,000 Guineas, but Fahey may be back here regardless the following day for the fillies' version.
Fahey's Barefoot Lady, who laid solid foundations in sprints at two, yesterday found sufficient improvement over a seventh furlong to run down the Ballydoyle raider, Sing Softly, in the final strides of the Lanwades Stud Nell Gwyn Stakes. Barefoot Lady is not in the 1,000 Guineas, but her owner is apparently favourably disposed to the idea of reinvesting her spoils here in a £30,000 supplementary entry fee.
"When they're this genuine, you don't know how good they are," Fahey reasoned. "There might be a question mark about the mile, but she came home well there." The filly none the less remains 33-1 with Totesport for the Qipco 1,000 Guineas.
Fahey and his stable jockey, Paul Hanagan, had already shared a lucrative success in the latest leg of a series confined to graduates of the Tattersalls Sales. Hanagan was wearing the silks of the Channel 4 pundit, Jim McGrath, as Sir Reginald showed the benefits of a gelding operation to trouser a prize four times as valuable as that won by Pausanias in the European Free Handicap.
The prizemoney in races of this type has caused uncomfortable disparities with those Pattern races that must instead rely on kudos. Not that Sir Alex Ferguson especially needs the cash. As co-owner, the Manchester United manager will have been thrilled that Pausanias could cut down Rerouted by a length, so soothing the disappointment of What A Friend's failure at Aintree. Again, Ferguson could not be present, as he was off to Germany to scout his next Champions League opponents in Gelsenkirchen. As it happens Richard Hannon suggested he might now train the colt for the German Guineas.
As for Midsummer Sun, he never looked likely to organise a challenge as Ocean War confirmed the teenaged riding sensation, Mickaël Barzalona, as a man apparently immune to his environment. Having impressed for Godolphin in Dubai this winter, he was brought over to broaden his horizons at this peculiar course, and met the challenge with familiar aplomb.
Native Khan, fourth in the Racing Post Trophy, is favourite for the big race today. At the odds, however, the raw promise of Yaseer arguably makes him more interesting.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Society Rock (3.35 Newmarket) Goes very well fresh, as when dazzling on his reappearance at Ascot last season and, returning from a break, as a 50-1 Group One runner-up at Royal Ascot.
Labarinto (5.50 Newmarket) Stable loves to target this race with one thought to be ahead of his rating, and this well-bred colt progressed with each of his starts over inadequate distances as a juvenile.
One to watch
Eternal Rule (Alan Swinbank) Was well backed to build on his debut success last autumn when reappearing at Ripon last week, but conceded a start to the other principals when meeting traffic, before finishing strongly for second.Reuse content