The pieces of the Classic jigsaw are starting to fit into place, so smoothly and with coincidences enough that even a cynical observer might start to believe in predestination. The Henry Cecil-trained Frankel is a hotter favourite than ever for the 2,000 Guineas after his wide-margin success in Saturday's Greenham Stakes; the last winner of the Newbury trial to win on the Rowley Mile was, 35 years ago, a likewise unbeaten Dewhurst Stakes winner under Cecil's care, Wollow.
The last time Frankel's owner, Khaled Abdullah, won a Guineas was in 1993 with Zafonic, an odds-on shot who had, like his latest contender, made it four from four in the Dewhurst as a juvenile. That was also the last year in which the Guineas and the Derby were taken by different horses wearing the same silks, and the last time the Epsom showpiece was won by a colt unraced at two, Cecil's charge Commander In Chief. And barely an hour after Frankel powered home at Newbury his stablemate and fellow-colourbearer World Domination did likewise on his first public outing and is now Derby second favourite.
Frankel is predicted by bookmakers to start the shortest-priced 2,000 Guineas favourite since Nijinsky, who won at 4-7 in 1970. He is generally a 4-6 shot. His four-length success was not explosively brilliant but certainly better than workmanlike as his class and mighty stride launched him clear of inferior rivals and clear round the bend towards the entrance to the back straight before Tom Queally could pull him up.
The son of Galileo enjoyed a day of R&R yesterday before the build-up to the Guineas, 12 days hence, starts in earnest. Cecil rated his physical and mental readiness at around 80 per cent for his reappearance and two more serious workouts on the home gallops are planned to put him spot on.
As far as the Derby is concerned, Abdullah's plans are all still in the air. Frankel is favourite but, at around 4-1, not a strong one; though his sire won at Epsom his dam was a speedster and there are concerns that the high-mettled colt's style of running, as well as the substance of his pedigree, may compromise his stamina.
World Domination, though, is mile-and-a-half colt through-and-through; he is by a Belmont Stakes winner, Empire Maker, out of an Oaks winner, Reams Of Verse, and the Dante Stakes at York next month is among races now pencilled in. "He'll be trained for the Derby," confirmed Abdullah's racing manager, Teddy Grimthorpe. As for Frankel, his programme will depend on what happens in the Guineas, though all options are still open. "We don't want to be dogmatic," added Grimthorpe, "as we hope he can be extraordinary."
An extraordinary horse represents all that is good and desirable about the sport; its ignoble side, though, is to be laid bare again, with five as yet unnamed jockeys reportedly under investigation by the authorities for their part in a long-standing betting scam involving non-triers, a depressing function of any business where it is possible to make large sums through sharp practice.
Yesterday a more literal up and down was endured by 16-year-old Willie Twiston-Davies, hero 11 days ago of the Fox Hunters Chase. Hours after being told by his trainer father, Nigel, that older brother Sam would replace him on his Aintree winner Baby Run in Saturday's big chase at Sandown, he broke a leg at Stratford when his mount Battlecry slipped and fell between fences.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Delaney's Dream (3.50 Redcar)
Failed to justify favouritism on his seasonal and handicap debut but did not help himself that day by running keenly early on. He stayed on to dispute the places behind a wide-margin winner and steps up in trip today.
Purification (7.20 Windsor)
Derby entry who showed enough in two juvenile runs to indicate he can take this en route to better things.
One to watch
Red Courtier (P Cole), gelded since last year's light three-year-old campaign, had six in front of him at the end of Saturday's 10-furlong handicap at Newbury but was doing his best work in the closing stages.
Where the money's going
Fame And Glory is 5-1 joint favourite for the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot after a hard-fought seasonal debut success at Navan yesterday, his first try at more than 12 furlongs.