Ever since the original carnival in 1984, the leading thoroughbreds from these islands have been dispatched over the Atlantic with formality of victory their in-flight companion. However, the statistics showed that before this year's renewal at ChurchillDowns, Kentucky, Britain had won just two of the 70 races.
Luca Cumani, the Newmarket-based Italian trainer, recognised that there might be something wrong with the travellers' approach; that a late arrival after an inconsidered preparation might not be the ideal build-up. He decided to move heaven and earth (well, earth at least) to maximise his chances.
Therefore, some weeks before Cumani's classy miler, Barathea, went through the departure lounge, the inhabitants of Newmarket awoke to find a spectacle as strange as a corn circle in a local field. The trainer had constructed a running rail and lay-out that was, thanks to blueprints, a replica of the Churchill Downs circuit.
In addition, after his homework, Barathea was shipped out, along with stable companions, earlier than the rest of the British contingent. Cumani had noticed that France's horses always arrived relatively early at Breeders' Cups and they had done better than British runners. He concluded there was a connection.
The trainer was an imposing figure in trackwork before the big day. Not an unconfident man, he supervised morning gallops imperiously from a hack, his clothing and demeanour reminding of Randolph Scott on his way in to clean up a dirty Western town.
Cumani, though, looked as though he had lost at the saloon card game when the draw for the Breeders' Cup Mile was announced: Barathea was allocated No 1, according to many the coffin box. The trainer was quickly sobered by the reality.
Emerging swiftly in the hands of Cumani's fellow Italian, Lanfranco Dettori, the British champion, Barathea swept around the rails as if on casters and travelled as convincingly as any other until the home straight. When Dettori, who was "sitting chilly"in local parlance, asked his mount to move from coasting gear, the reaction was shocking. Barathea bolted forward to win by three lengths.
When Dettori left the saddle, he matched the actions of the jingoists who had backed the horse at home. His Angel Cordero vertical dismount had all the appearance of a marionette being jerked from the floor.
In the fall-out, it was only the churlish that pointed out that this was hardly a British victory; that the horse was bred in Ireland, his trainer and jockey were Italian and that his co-owner was Sheikh Mohammed, the Dubaian.
Following the famine, this was a spit roast of a victory.
Richard EdmondsonReuse content