The return of Kauto Star at Haydock on Saturday permits no doubt that the jumpers now command centre stage, but it none the less remains necessary to restore the spotlight to the Flat for one or two final bows.
Not that the 19th Cartier Awards, presented in Mayfair on Tuesday evening, were merely a retrospective on one of the great seasons in Turf history – for all that Sea The Stars himself has been retired. In collecting the trophy for Champion Older Horse, Gerard Wertheimer strongly hinted that Goldikova (who would herself have been judged outstanding in any normal year) might well remain eligible for the same award in 2010.
Freddy Head, who trains Goldikova, could not explicitly confirm that she would be trained for an unprecedented third success at the Breeders' Cup. "But it is looking more likely that she will stay in training," he admitted.
Head's sister, Criquette, was also on hand to celebrate recognition for Special Duty as Champion Juvenile Filly. Lord Grimthorpe, racing manager to her owner Khaled Abdulla, noted that this filly reflects not only the cosmopolitan composition of Juddmonte Farms – having been bred in Kentucky, foaled in England, broken in Ireland, and trained in France – but also its debt to Bobby Frankel, who died on Monday. Among the many horses Frankel trained for Juddmonte was Quest To Peak, the dam of Special Duty. "Someone asked me who would replace Frankel," Grimthorpe said later. "And the answer was nobody, because a man like that is irreplaceable."
Sariska and Fleeting Spirit were two other female Award winners, respectively for Three-Year-Old Filly and Champion Sprinter, who will be seen again in 2010. Yeats, Champion Stayer for the fourth year running, is finally off to stud, but the future is clearly bright for Coolmore's other winner, the Champion Juvenile, St Nicholas Abbey.
And while Sea The Stars himself has gone, he has already performed a considerable service by prompting Coolmore to persevere next year with Rip Van Winkle and Fame And Glory, both of whom would almost certainly have achieved enough at three, but for his intervention, to pursue a career at stud.
Sea The Stars was duly recognised as Horse Of The Year, and of course Champion Three-Year-Old Colt, and so drew a touching tribute from his young owner, Christopher Tsui, to the "very special ladies" who made the adventure possible – his mother, Ling, and the colt's dam, Urban Sea, herself an Arc winner for the Tsui family. Urban Sea, who died earlier this year, has already produced one champion in Galileo.
"My mother took her to Ireland looking for the best stallions in Europe," Tsui remembered. "She went there by herself with one mare, not knowing anybody. [Told] that Urban Sea didn't have the pedigree or the looks to be a champion, my mother always replied the same way – that Urban Sea was beautiful, and would create her own pedigree. Urban Sea did more than that. She leaves behind a great legacy. Sea The Stars was born out of my mother's love and belief in her. I believe he was on a mission to honour his mother. Winning the Arc completed a circle that started 16 years ago."
But the biggest ovation of the night was reserved for John Oxx, trainer of Sea The Stars. Though aghast to receive a surprise Award of Merit, his response proved equally in character, wry and humble. The fact is that the supervision of Oxx made Sea The Stars immune to the petty resentments so common in racing. In the testimony of Michael Kinane, the rider of Sea The Stars: "To question his ability as a trainer would be like questioning Shakespeare for words." Johnny Murtagh, the Ballydoyle stable jockey, remembered his own debt to Oxx. "He's a gentleman," he said. "And when he gets those top horses, he never misses."
Not that every leave-taking on the Flat is proving so decorous. It emerged yesterday that Peter Chapple-Hyam, not for the first time, has somehow contrived to provoke one of his most precious patrons. Lawrie Inman, the young lion of the City whose investment had offered fresh impetus to Chapple-Hyam's stop-start career, told the Racing Post that he is moving three colts from the yard, leaving only a yearling filly. Monitor Closely, the St Leger third, and Coordinated Cut, rated a potential Derby colt, are joining Michael Bell. Chapple-Hyam must be counted every bit as exasperating as he is talented, which is saying a great deal.
Turf account: Chris McGrath
Leaving Alone (4.30 Kempton) Unfancied for her Salisbury debut and was soon behind, only to finish strongly on to the heels of the placed horses. The third went on to win at Newmarket and this nicely bred filly should prove sharper.
Fantastic Cuix (4.0 Kempton) This filly has a super pedigree and finished strongly into midfield in a big field at Doncaster first time out. She hit her head on the gate that day, and looks sure to improve considerably.
One to watch
Though only fourth in the end, the unexposed James De Vassy (Nick Williams) had them all stretched on the turn in a hot handicap hurdle at Cheltenham on Sunday and was only run down on the final climb.
Where the money's going
Zaynar, the Triumph Hurdle winner, is 2-1 from 9-4 with the sponsors for Saturday's Coral Ascot Hurdle.