Cavalry charge leads to tilt at Aussie classic
There was to be no Goodwood Cup fairytale for The Queen's horse Estimate, nor for Brown Panther, bidding to win the race for the second year running.
Instead another huge crowd on the Sussex Downs were happy to applaud the Kieren Fallon-ridden Cavalryman, an amazing old trouper battling his heart out to win yet another big pot at the age of eight.
Cavalryman is that rare beast, a veteran horse who has also hung on to all of his enthusiasm for racing as he moves into middle age.
It is five years since he finished third in the Arc de Triomphe, but he is arguably as good as ever and perhaps capable of winning better races still before he's finally done.
Certainly, trainer Saeed bin Suroor wasn't talking about Cavalryman's retirement post-race; rather about the challenges to come, including the thrilling prospect of a second crack at the Melbourne Cup on November 4.
With Brown Panther – owned and bred by former football star Michael Owen – left trailing when Fallon kicked for home on Cavalryman and Estimate dropping out tamely, it was left to last year's runner-up Ahzeemah, also trained by Bin Suroor, to test Cavalryman's resolve and though he could not quite get past his stablemate, he did enough to convince Godolphin to book another ticket to Australia.
As for Estimate, she is a thorough stayer and would not have been suited by the stop-start pace.
It may also be that the hard race she had against Leading Light in the Ascot Gold Cup last month left its mark.
Mind you, it didn't prevent the seven-year-old Irish mare Missunited, a gallant close third at Ascot, following up with another wonderfully gutsy display in the Lillie Langtry Stakes – another great blow for the oldies.
Pulled up lame, she was immediately retired to the paddocks.
A frustrating run of near misses over the first two days hadn't quite dented the confidence of trainer Richard Hannon and rider Richard Hughes, but it's fair to say that a defeat for Ivawood, their banker of the week in the Richmond Stakes, would have been quite devastating.
They never had a moment's anxiety, though, as the two-year-old who created such a favourable impression in the July Stakes at Newmarket took apart a decent field to finally get them off the mark. They were also successful later with Shagah in the maiden.
Ivawood, by the speedy Zebedee (and named after The Magic Roundabout's animator Ivor Wood), is not entirely certain to stay a mile, but will be aimed at next year's 2,000 Guineas, for which he is now a best-priced 12-1 favourite.
Hughes, a huge fan of this imposing young colt, feels that it might be best to keep him to six furlongs for the time being, but added: "He's fast and he stays well. He's got everything, really."
Hannon was relieved, as much as anything.
"We've hit the crossbar a few times this week and now we've scored a penalty," he said.
"But I've never doubted the well-being of the horses."
Encke runs in today's Glorious Stakes, his first appearance since denying Camelot the Triple Crown in the 2012 St Leger.
The highest profile of the 22 Godolphin horses involved in the Mahmood Al Zarooni drugs scandal and banned from racing for six months last year, Encke will surely be a little ring-rusty today and cannot be expected to beat the likes of Hillstar and Pether's Moon after such a long lay-off.