Racing aficionados have been here many times before but, nevertheless, the tap of adrenalin will once again be twisted full open this afternoon. One poor animal always gets sackfuls of expectation thrown over its shoulders at the season's outset and this year the beast of burden is Alhaarth. The colt has to win today to keep notions alive that he might be the new wonder horse.
If a wash of popular emotion counts for anything Alhaarth will indeed collect Newmarket's Craven Stakes as he is trained by Dick Hern, who raises applause even in his most crotchety moments. The Major considers that Alhaarth was the best two-year-old he has ever trained and now comes the test to see if the colt can elevate himself to the station of some of Hern's other Classic winners, Brigadier Gerard, Nashwan, and Troy.
Minutiae means much where a champion juvenile is concerned and the prosaic conversation in Lambourn this spring has concerned how much Alhaarth has grown over the winter. Not much seems to be the simple answer, but Hern remains convinced that his horse has developed in other directions.
This afternoon's field may be small but it will satisfy the purists because as well as Alhaarth, last year's Dewhurst Stakes victor, it also features Beauchamp King, who won the other great test of juvenile ability, the Racing Post Trophy. That renewal, though, looked the lowest calibre for several years.
A third name to toss into the stew is Pommard, who has not achieved great heights on form but who has been incomparable in conversation in Newmarket's watering holes this last fortnight. However, the recent fortunes of his trainer, John Gosden, suggest there may be a flat black cat on the drive at Stanley House. Alhaarth (3.40) has to be the selection.
The preceding Feilden Stakes contains no fewer than eight entries for the Derby. Heron Island will be well fancied as he carries the daunting mantle of being Peter Chapple-Hyam's Epsom horse, but the winner may be produced by a man who has Derby candidates like frog spawn in his yard this season.
Henry Cecil has made a hugely successful start to the campaign and is represented here by Storm Trooper (next best 3.05), one of many talented animals he sent up the Polytrack gallop on Warren Hill early yesterday morning before the hooded eyes of several pale pressmen.
It is a measure of the battalion at Warren Place that Storm Trooper is considered some way behind the vanguard. There are warmer words for Tenby's brother Bright Water (who runs at Newbury on Saturday), Silver Dome (an entry for Sandown's Classic Trial) and a colt who may mature into the best of the lot, Commander In Chief's half-brother, Dushyantor.
Yesterday's results, page 27
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies