At the worst of times, this is a place that nourishes a nostalgic resentment of change – and yesterday was rather closer to its vintage best. Nature dressed that famous downland panorama in springtime green, and drenched it with the light of a summer sky. And the horses themselves contributed no less well, making their own, powerful stand against the tide of commercial imperatives.
Rewilding, emphatically, and Snow Fairy, potentially, revived the two big races as de facto Classic trials, a status formally resisted by the course's own management. All that remains is for them to repent of their lamentable pragmatism in trimming this fixture to a single day.
Its proximity to the Investec Derby and Oaks had made trainers increasingly reluctant to delay their Epsom rehearsals, when Chester, Lingfield and York offered critical extra recuperation. Feeling tarnished by the trend, Goodwood decided to discard the Predominate Stakes, for colts, and the Lupe Stakes, for fillies. But it supplanted them with two prizes that serve precisely the same animals, and the topographical kinship between Goodwood and Epsom means the races can still produce valid Epsom contenders. Rewilding, certainly, warrants his place in an open Derby, having made short work of a fairly mediocre field in the Blue Square Cocked Hat Stakes. Simon Crisford, the Godolphin manager, was quick to confirm that he would be supplemented at the five-day stage.
That will cost £75,000, but the stakes are already a good deal higher. For Rewilding represents a significant new phase in Godolphin's development. Though its supervisors reject charges that they have underachieved, in recent years, the profile of this colt implies an admission something had to change. He was given his grounding in France by André Fabre and, moreover, stayed there while the traditional core of the stable wintered in Dubai. Transferred to Newmarket only a fortnight ago, he has been sent to Mahmood al Zarooni, formerly assistant to Saeed Bin Suroor, but now with a second wing of the Godolphin stable formally recognised as his personal responsibility.
Rewilding proved one of Frankie Dettori's less demanding assignments, his mount travelling smoothly throughout before quickening away pretty well at his leisure over the final 300 yards. He did drift right, once in front, which was a little unnerving in view of Crisford's observation that the priority had been to see how he handled the undulations, but he was probably merely green on what was only his fourth start.
"He has been running on flat tracks and soft ground in France, and this was a completely different ball game," Crisford said. "But Frankie was really pleased with him. André told us that he had a very high opinion of him, that he could be a Derby horse, and as a half-brother to Dar Re Mi you knowthat whatever you see now, there will be a better product over the months and years ahead."
Crisford also paid tribute to the colt's temperament, another valuable asset for Epsom. Immaturity, after all, delayed the fulfilment of Dubai Millennium after he announced himself for Godolphin at this meeting.
Crisford added that Al Zir, Chabal and Ameer would all be confirmed for the Derby at today's forfeit stage. It may or may not prove significant that Chabal, at York, is by no means the only one of Bin Suroor's charges to run poorly in recent days. Crisford feels that Chabal simply declined to extend himself on the firm ground, but Bin Suroor had another disappointment in Wedding March, who dropped right out after starting favourite for the Blue Square Height Of Fashion Stakes.
Love Divine won the Oaks after winning the Lupe here in 2000, and Snow Fairy could yet try to follow suit after this decisive success, overcoming a bad stumble at the gate to run down Pipette by three lengths. The supplementary fee is less daunting, at £20,000, and she certainly seemed to relish the step up to this intermediate distance. Her trainer, Ed Dunlop, explained that uncertainty over her stamina had discouraged entries over the Oaks trip, but will consult the owners. She would also have to be supplemented to the Ribblesdale, if they opted to wait for Royal Ascot.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Sea Of Heartbreak (8.45 Salisbury) Conditions of this race look tailor-made, and her astute trainer will presumably have picked it out for her long ago.
Jordaura (3.25 Haydock) Having run mainly over sprint distances for his previous stable, produced a career best stepped up to this trip at Ascot last time.
One to watch
A year after finishing second in a big handicap off 90, Arabian Spirit (R A Fahey) resurfaced for a flourishing stable at Ripon the other day, on a mark of 79. Clearly worth monitoring, then, after lack of stamina and/or fitness confined him to third of six.
Where the money's going
Timepiece is 6-1 from 8-1 with Coral for the Investec Oaks.