Barry Hills reckons he has never previously worn a panama at this meeting, and those dressed less conservatively – which is to say, just about everybody else – ended up with flesh the same colour as the sandstone city walls. Thankfully the Roodeye's other perimeter, the glittering River Dee, yielded a delicious, soothing breeze. And, as such, the answer to yesterday's big question might almost be said to have been blowing in the wind.
Doctor Fremantle, named in honour of the cooling current that disturbs the minds of cricketers in Perth, had suggested himself as the obvious solution to the Bank of America Chester Vase. And while his display is unlikely to resonate in Turf history in quite the same way as those of Shergar or Hyperion, it may yet measure up to that of the colt who won it last year.
Soldier Of Fortune won by only a short-head, remember, but went on to win the Irish Derby by nine lengths. In between he ran fifth at Epsom, but Doctor Fremantle can go there only if Khaled Abdulla pays a £75,000 supplementary fee. As he already has the Vodafone Derby favourite, that seems a remote contingency for now, albeit things could change after Twice Over runs at York next Thursday.
As a cricket fan, Sir Michael Stoute doubtless contributed to the christening of Doctor Fremantle. It had seemed significant that the colt's trainer had been prepared to sacrifice valuable handicap options to come here, and sure enough he again started favourite. In five races, indeed, he has yet to start bigger than 13-8, but this was the day when public performance finally matched home reputation.
Certainly this is a smart colt. Presumably he shows plenty of speed on the gallops, and he was pretty free in the early stages here, but his pedigree is laden with stamina and the step up to a mile and a half was always going to suit him. So, too, did the track. Ryan Moore was able to glide along the inner and Doctor Fremantle really cut the corner as Pampas Cat led them into the home turn.
At that stage, he looked like careering away, but an intermittent gallop had provided no real foundation to do so and Moore had to drive him out firmly to hold All The Aces by half a length. In fairness, the pair did take each other five lengths clear of the rest, and the runner-up looks useful in his own right.
Teddy Grimthorpe, Abdulla's racing manager, implied that Doctor Fremantle could follow Soldier Of Fortune to the Curragh, provided he proved himself good enough in the meantime. The King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot beckons as a test of his progress.
"He missed the break slightly and it was a muddling race, but the split came against the rail and he quickened well," Grimthorpe said. "He pricked his ears when he got through, and idled. We would not be thinking of supplementing for Epsom at this stage. Twice Over is our only Derby contender at the moment. We missed the Guineas to give him the best chance of winning the Derby, and the Dante is the best Derby trial."
The race turned into something of a pig's ear for the stable that sent over Soldier Of Fortune last year. Vivaldi beat only two home, including his pacemaker, who proved wholly incompetent for that task. Aidan O'Brien will be hoping things work out rather better today, when Sligo is likely to guarantee the pace for Achill Island in the Addleshaw Goddard Dee Stakes.
Last autumn Achill Island (2.15) finished second in both the Royal Lodge Stakes and the juvenile turf race at the Breeders' Cup, but he did not offer a great deal on his resumption in France last month. He can be expected to show considerable improvement for that, however, and while he may not be a true Derby colt, he may not have to be.
His most fascinating rival is Alexandros, who makes his debut for Godolphin after showing enough speed last year to make the frame in a Group One sprint. This trip should suit him better, so it will be disappointing if he does not go well. Even by the ludicrously impatient standards of racing, it is far too early to be wringing hands over Godolphin's form. But they had an excruciating comeback weekend and will be anxious to improve morale before their recent recruit, Campanologist, meets Curtain Call at Lingfield tomorrow.
However he gets on with Achill Island, O'Brien will be hard to beat in the Blue Square Ormonde Stakes with MACARTHUR (nap 2.45). He showed absolutely nothing over an inadequate trip on his return but you can expect a different horse here, with the stable gathering its stride. The sponsor's overnight offer of 5-2 looks excellent value.
LINGFIELD 2.10Jill Dawson 2.40 Mean Mr Mustard 3.10 Fromsong 3.45 Tawaash 4.20 Duty Doctor 4.55 Dream Bee
AINTREE 5.45 Khachaturian 6.15 Cape Greko 6.50 Otarie 7.20 Benetwood 7.55 Andy Anshan 8.25 Maraafeq
RIPON 5.55 Rayvin Mad 6.25 Not Now Lewis 7.00 Westport 7.30 Eglevski 8.05 Alsadeek 8.35 Danzatrice
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