After posed portraits for Fame And Glory and Jan Vermeer, not to mention Canford Cliffs the previous day, what was supposed to be the centrepiece at the Curragh yesterday instead proved something of a crowd scene. So while Bethrah's Classic success formally entitles her to top billing, the fact that four other fillies finished within half a length suggested that other performances over the weekend will retain rather more resonance by the end of the season.
Either way, Bethrah has certainly made giant strides since winning a maiden at Limerick barely a month ago. Trained by Dermot Weld for Sheikh Hamdan, she then won a trial at Leopardstown by a neck, and this time rattled through a gap on the rail to cut down Anna Salai in the final strides of the Etihad Airways Irish 1,000 Guineas. Weld indicated that the Marju filly could improve again over 10 furlongs, while her jockey, Pat Smullen, paid tribute to the way she twice manoeuvred her way out of heavy traffic.
Anna Salai had travelled powerfully and for a long time threatened to give her new trainer, Mahmood Al Zarooni, a first Classic success – albeit he would have given due credit to André Fabre, who only completed her grounding in France a couple of weeks previously. She was beaten just a head, with Music Show confirming herself best of those that ran in the Newmarket original – where she had been marooned by the draw – a neck away in third.
Remember When confirmed she will not remain a maiden for long, beaten only another few inches, while her stablemate Lillie Langtry made an eye-catching return from injury just behind, only given a couple of slaps after being delayed in her run. Bookmakers cut both these fillies for the Investec Oaks, though whether Danehill Dancer can sire a Classic winner over a mile and a half remains to be seen. As a three-parts sister to Dylan Thomas, Remember When has far better prospects of staying than Lillie Langtry, with her speedy maternal pedigree.
Their trainer, Aidan O'Brien, had perhaps already achieved his principal mission for the day, engraving the most legible of signposts to future success for Fame And Glory and Jan Vermeer.
The former, understandably, became heartily sick of bumping into Sea The Stars all last season, but any disenchantment with his calling was clearly not permanent. With his Irish Derby success in mind, this leisurely seven-length destruction of Group One rivals for the Tattersalls Gold Cup confirmed that there can now be few around to match him over 10 furlongs on fast ground, either.
After artfully restoring his confidence this spring, O'Brien is disposed to give Fame And Glory a midsummer break after the Investec Coronation Cup. That is only a week on Friday, which is hardly ideal, but whatever happens at Epsom it is easy to see him returning in the autumn as a major player at Longchamp and Louisville.
His task yesterday was, admittedly, simplified by the abject performance of Cutlass Bay, by no means the only such disappointment for Saeed Bin Suroor in recent days. Nor was he the first for whom fast going was proposed as a possible excuse. This colt, like Anna Salai, had only recently been transferred from Fabre, for whom he was unbeaten in five starts. In fairness, Bin Suroor had sent out Kite Wood barely half an hour earlier to win his reappearance at Longchamp, so it may be premature to make sweeping conclusions about the health of his string. Regardless, his former assistant, Al Zarooni, is certainly enjoying better luck during his first weeks with his own stable, and their mutual bosses at Godolphin must be relieved that all their eggs are no longer in one basket.
As for Jan Vermeer, his flamboyant resumption in the Airlie Stud Gallinule Stakes prompted bookmakers to include him among the various Ballydoyle colts now dominating betting on the Investec Derby. In fact, he is now as short as 5-1 with Ladbrokes and, having been held up in the spring, he is sure to improve. O'Brien did caution, however, that he could yet go for the Prix du Jockey-Club at Chantilly, having already won a Group One prize in France last autumn.
"The race will bring him on a lot," he said. "Johnny was very impressed and we'll now have to decide whether he goes to Epsom or to the French Derby. We have Cape Blanco, St Nicholas Abbey, Midas Touch and this one – and in an ideal world we'd like to divide them between Epsom and France. Hopefully, we'll have made a decision by a week on Monday, but Viscount Nelson is definitely in the mix for the French Derby."
That colt finished third behind the brilliant Canford Cliffs on Saturday, just ahead of his stablemate, Steinbeck, whose promising resumption warrants another crack at the winner at Royal Ascot. In due course, no doubt, they will be crossing swords with the older milers – among whom Paco Boy shone the previous weekend, and Goldikova on her own comeback at Longchamp yesterday. Several masterpieces, it would seem, are taking shape from the Flat racing palette of 2010.
*Chris McGrath's nap
King Of Eden (4.45 Carlisle)
Could be ahead of his mark judged on his form this term. The way he was staying on when hampered last time suggests this extra furlong will suit.
Moody Tunes (2.45 Carlisle)
Looks the clear pick at the weights after an excellent start for his new stable.
One to watch:
Spice Fair (M D I Usher) caught the eye over 12f at Salisbury last week.
Where the money's going
Kingsgate Native is 7-1 from 10-1 for the King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot.