When he won at Royal Ascot last month, odds of 3-1 against Scenic Blast for the Darley July Cup were recommended here as being "a private mint". Well, the day has dawned, and the Australian thunderbolt is no better than 7-4 – and probably remains pretty good value even so.
There is admittedly one potential fly in the ointment, now that Richard Hannon has decided to run Paco Boy, after all. Dropped to six furlongs, this authentic Group One colt is the rogue element in the race, but the fact remains that Scenic Blast looks suspiciously like the best sprinter seen on these shores since Dayjur and really should be extremely hard to beat.
His King's Stand Stakes form should not be taken at all literally. Though he barely had a length in hand on Fleeting Spirit at the line, he had not only breezed into the lead at his leisure, only to idle in front, he also did so on the slowest part of the track. In fact, he was the only horse all week to make any meaningful impression down the centre. Never mind that Fleeting Spirit meanwhile scuttled through late along the stands' rail. The way Scenic Blast (3.10) had cut through from last to first on the bridle identified him as in a league of his own.
His rider, Steven Arnold, remains inexperienced in this environment and must bear in mind that few horses have made ground from the rear at the July Course this week. He has often ridden Scenic Blast with exaggerated patience on home soil and may well be tempted to do the same over an extra furlong, but if he shadows the pace today it is difficult to imagine anything matching his acceleration.
Paco Boy has long intimated that he has the basic speed for sprinting, again impressing on the bridle when winning over a mile at Ascot on the same day as Scenic Blast. But the development of sprinting as an international discipline has left little doubt that the British horses, whether by nature or nurture, lack the zip shown by champions who ply their trade in other racing cultures.
Art Connoisseur managed to see off a strong overseas challenge in the other Group One sprint at the royal meeting, over this sixth furlong, but the Golden Jubilee Stakes was run at a curiously fitful pace and J J The Jet Plane could well reverse form this time. Among the home team, the best value may instead rest with King's Apostle, who disappointed that day but had previously run a lovely trial at York.
Hannon runs another Ascot winner, Big Audio, in the Meydan Superlative Stakes but he may struggle to confirm Chesham Stakes form with his photo-finish victim, Emperor Claudius (2.00). This well-bred colt is improving with every start and, sure to relish a mile in time, again seems likely to be finishing best.
Arcano has Meehan merry
With the facilities at his disposal at Manton, Brian Meehan is nowadays very much expected to be involved in commensurate races. He certainly did a competent job with Delegator, foiled only by one colt in both the 2,000 Guineas and St James's Palace Stakes. But Delegator has since been bought by Godolphin, and Meehan must now comfort himself with the next crop of Classic prospects.
Little wonder, then, if he stood in the winner's enclosure here yesterday and declared: "It's nice to have two of the smartest two-year-olds in the country."
Arcano, who beat a strong field of maidens at Newbury, had just reeled in Orpen Grey to win the July Stakes, the pair well clear, so complementing the success of Radiohead in the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot.
"He's a horse for the future," Meehan stressed. "That was only his second start, so he's going to improve, and he's a little bit raw – in his mind, as well. He's not just a two-year-old, and he's going to get a mile. The Prix Morny comes to mind as a possibility."
Visually, he was not even the most impressive juvenile on the card, Awzaan having bolted five lengths clear of other previous winners in the conditions race. Awzaan's time was markedly inferior but he will warrant respect if Mark Johnston obeys his instincts and take him to Goodwood.
Delegator's new stable has meanwhile hit a bit of form, and two of its other recruits were both on the mark yesterday. Kite Wood, sold for an eye-watering sum as a Derby prospect, did not cut much ice at Epsom but may yet have a Classic in him, quoted 12-1 for the Ladbrokes St Leger by the sponsors after making all in the Bahrain Trophy.
Dunwoody's final mile
Scenic Blast will be preceded up the straight today – at a rather more leisurely pace – by Richard Dunwoody, who is scheduled to finish his "1,000 mile challenge" at around 2.20 pm.
The former champion jockey, who walked to the South Pole last year, has been confined to a less exotic environment for the past six weeks, walking a mile up and down the Bury Road every hour for 1,000 consecutive hours.
He embraced the challenge on the 200th anniversary of a similarly deranged enterprise undertaken by Captain Robert Barclay. But whereas Barclay was kept going by a 1,000-guinea wager, and needed beating with a cane as he staggered into sleep, Dunwoody is raising money for various charities. So while his masochism is not unprecedented, his generosity of spirit may be. Bravo, Woody!
Turf account: Chris McGrath
Alanbrooke (3.00 Ascot) Blinkers, positive tactics and a step up in trip ensured that everything clicked into place with an easy success at Sandown last week and he is thrown in under a penalty. Reservations about the race coming too soon seldom apply to horses trained by Mark Johnston.
Scenic Blast (3.10) They should suspend play at Cardiff to let the Australians cheer one of their own.
One to watch
After a very unlucky run at York, Last Three Minutes (Ed Dunlop) was again caught in heavy traffic behind Dancourt in the last race at Newmarket on Wednesday. He will surely win soon if getting the strong pace he seems to need.
Where the money's going
Changingoftheguard, trained by Aidan O'Brien, is 9-1 favourite in the sponsors' first show of betting for the Totesport Ebor (York, August).