Varian has chance to make his own mark
Whatever the merits or otherwise of its horse-trading with Ascot, Newmarket may well perceive some kind of poignant benediction in the inauguration of its new autumn programme today.
For those seeking centre stage, at a reconfigured Cambridgeshire meeting, include a man determined to treat his own career as a monument to one of the town's most respected citizens, Michael Jarvis, who died on Tuesday.
Back in February, when deteriorating health obliged him to end a training career stretching back four decades, Jarvis handed over Kremlin House Stables to his young assistant, Roger Varian. And he must have found some comfort in the knowledge that he had groomed a talent worthy of his legacy.
In terms of style and substance, it became difficult to see the join. Varian was plainly cut from similar cloth. Unassuming but assured, he has brought horses along — and placed them — with familiar circumspection.
At 22% he enters the final weeks of the campaign with a higher strike-rate than any of his rivals in the top 30. How fitting it would be, then, if Varian ended the week, in which he lost his mentor, with his boldest step yet into the future.
Tomorrow, he seeks his first Group One prize when Firdaws, who has shown such promise in two maiden starts, contests the Shadwell Fillies' Mile. But first he saddles one of his most promising colts, Farraaj, in the big race on the opening day of the meeting.
Given his general conformity to the temperate example of Jarvis, it feels surprising to see Varian turning Farraaj round for the Somerville Tattersall Stakes just eight days after that impressive performance at Sandown.
“He didn't get a hard race last week, and has come out of it quite well, and I'm conscious we might lose the fast ground in October. We are turning him out again quite quickly, but he seems fresh and well,” he said.
Tell Dad, thrashed at Sandown, was pressed straight back into service to dominate a competitive sales race last weekend. Farraaj's rivals today are a mixture of the seasoned and the unexposed.
Jim Bolger reckons that the ground was too soft for Zip Top in the Anglesey Stakes while Crusade, having shown little on his first visit to these shores, built on his York debut with success at the Curragh just nine days later.
Varian had the option of running perhaps the very best of his young prospects, Ektihaam, in the Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes on Saturday. But Angus Gold, racing manager to Sheikh Hamdan, confirmed yesterday the colt would wait for the Darley Dewhurst Stakes on October 8.
Godolphin are entering the autumn in especially good fettle, and their twin stables shared four winners at Goodwood yesterday.
These included Hunter's Light, supposedly the least fancied of three Godolphin runners in the listed race, and both maiden winners. Nine furlongs in testing ground so found out Welcome Gift's rivals that he romped home by ten lengths, while Genius Step was following some illustrious hoofprints in the opener.
It was in the equivalent maiden, two years ago, that Workforce first announced himself. By no stretch could his trainer, Mahmood Al Zarooni, be considered junior to Saeed Bin Suroor.
In only his second domestic season, he has won twice as much prizemoney as his old boss, and tomorrow provides the most obvious obstruction to Firdaws in Lyric Of Light, winner of the May Hill Stakes. She is 13-8 favourite with Victor Chandler, with the Doncaster runner-up, Fallen For You, again rated the biggest danger at 9-4. Firdaws is 5-1.