In this business, of course, your blunders aren't left gathering dust in gloomy halls for a century. You can guarantee that this time next year there will be another Mrs Danvers (Hellvelyn) out there - maybe graduating from Tattersalls this week; maybe, like the unbeaten winner of the G3 Cornwallis Stakes, led out unsold at 1,000 guineas at Ascot in February. So while the timing of her latest success may be a little inconvenient for certain agents, it does embolden everyone else that there is still hope for us all. A collective vote of thanks, then, to Johnny Portman for his endeavours with a filly hardly built like an ugly duckling. Portman himself bears an increasing resemblance to Christopher Lee, around the time he played Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man - so maybe he, too, is destined for ever greater celebrity in the second half of his career.
As it happens, that lost Raphael was uncovered by Bendor Grosvenor, a kinsman of the Duke of Westminster who owes his name to the family's 1880 Derby winner. Bend Or is a key link in the chain that achieved the modern hegemony of the Darley Arabian line, albeit not through his champion son Ormonde, but through Bona Vista, culled by Lord Rosebery as a yearling and sold off in turn, early in his own stud career, to Hungary. So rest assured: with Thoroughbreds, we are only ever making mistakes that have been made a thousand times before. No shortage of conviction, needless to say, about those who could afford a crack at the three kings of Book I, Dubawi, Galileo and Frankel; nor those who so reliably join the perennial stampede for unproven new stallions. To be fair, while these latter often spend the most idiotic money of all, I would make an exception this time round. Even I can see that Intello, Camelot and Declaration Of War have been represented by some outstanding yearlings. As ever, however, it was those who looked most sure-footed in that porous middle market whose acuity you most admired last week. But you fancy that it is through the rest of the sale that they will find their true reward.
Churchill Rock Solid. But Caravaggio Could Still Take Wing.
Even in what seems very likely to end as a year without precedent, few of us are learning anything new about Aidan O'Brien. Four more Group 1s in eight days have only amplified a familiar blend of genius and modesty. Of course, all four winners also reiterated the greatness of their sire. But it is precisely O'Brien's intimacy with both Galileo and his stock that sustains this relentless cycle of success. It is in that context that you could not ignore all the talk preceding Churchill (Galileo) throughout his first season. It's not so much that imposing physique, as his mentality that gives such confidence to his handlers, in and out of the saddle.
After indulging the rest of us with a more flamboyant performance in his first Group 1, when outstaying a likely sprinter at The Curragh last month, Churchill reverted to type in the G1 Dubai Dewhurst Stakes.
Some pretty respectable outfits fielded some pretty plausible colts against him on Saturday. But where Seven Heavens (Frankel) for instance, showed frills of immaturity, a write-off after barely a furlong, Churchill played his hand in a manner at once understated and emphatic. Those who took him on must have been chastened that none of them could even beat his pacemaker, albeit they can console themselves that Lancaster Bomber (War Front) was well entitled to leave behind his form on softer ground. It may be less of a comfort that none of their jockeys saw fit to join him along the stands' rail, despite serial advertisement of its helpful properties in earlier races.
The odds against Churchill for the G1 2000 Guineas are now nearly as short as those against his stablemate, Air Force Blue (War Front), after the same race last year. While this copper-bottomed colt seems guaranteed to train on, we should not forget the raw brilliance shown by Caravaggio (Scat Daddy) back in the summer. His setback has not only denied him a possible raid on California, but may also require O'Brien to alter his usual approach next spring, when Caravaggio will be at the kind of crossroads that may require a trial at 7f. In principle, however, the contrasting styles of the Ballydoyle pair already evoke the showdown between Rock Of Gibraltar (Danehill) and Hawk Wing (Woodman) in 2002. You could set your clock against the Rock, of course, while Hawk Wing had a more fitful flair. But there was only a short head - plus the width of the Rowley Mile-between them at the line. After saddling a 1-2-3 in the Arc, and the first two in both juvenile Group 1s at Newmarket, it would be no surprise to see O'Brien maintaining the same belt-and-braces success back on the Rowley Mile next spring.
An Intricate Maze
There was a still more familiar look, incidentally, to the way Rhododendron (Galileo) streaked clear in the G1 Dubai Fillies' Mile the previous day. This looked a performance every bit as authoritative as the one posted by Minding (Galileo) last year, and it is surprising that the bookmakers don't seem to see it that way. Perhaps they are confused by the G1 Moyglare Stakes. They wouldn't be alone. The six fillies beaten by Intricately (Fastnet Rock) have since made five starts between them. Two won Group 1 prizes, and another two finished second at the same level. The going was officially no worse than yielding that day, but the dry autumn is certainly putting a different complexion on things. No doubt the winner's trainer has inherited a special gift, but otherwise there are minimal grounds for crediting the form at anything remotely approaching face value.
Not Yet a Total Monopoly
Okay, then. Surely we can find a lifeline for someone out there, struggling to stem the Ballydoyle tide? Step forward Zainhom (Street Cry), a big raw, inexperienced colt who was so impressive in the G3 Dubai 100 Autumn Stakes over a mile. Given a sensibly restrained ride up to the post, after pitching and rolling through the Newmarket dip, Zainhom was clearly still learning all the time but nonetheless managed to bear down strongly into second.
His dam by Storm Cat (Storm Bird) has yet to produce anything out of the ordinary, but is closely related to the G1 Breeders' Cup Mile runner-up Aragorn (Giant's Causeway); and is herself out of a sister to the dam of One Cool Cat (Storm Cat). So there is definitely something to work on in the background. Certainly Zainhom looks the type to keep progressing next year and is very much in the right hands to do so.
Mind you, if you can cast Sir Michael Stoute himself as David then you must be dealing with some Goliath.