Fast forward to Dubai World Cup
Public preparations for Cheltenham now being more or less complete, it would be churlish to disregard those horses that yesterday confirmed themselves, if not stronger or braver, then certainly a good deal faster than any assembling for the Festival.
A series of trial races for Dubai World Cup night at Meydan featured the reappearance of a Breeders' Cup winner, in Vale Of York, and an Arc third, in Cavalryman. And if both ultimately failed to land a blow, the Godolphin stable none the less enjoyed another big night at its “home” Carnival.
One of its three winners, a young colt named Mendip, could become a real star.
Vale Of York, on his first appearance since that rather perplexing success in the Juvenile at Santa Anita, could only keep on steadily for fifth as Mendip hurtled half a dozen lengths clear in the Al-Bastakiya Stakes.
Ahmed Ajtebi had ridden Vale Of York at the Breeders' Cup and Frankie Dettori was more than happy once again to leave the colt to his understudy.
Mendip had won both his previous starts, a Kempton maiden and a race earlier in the Carnival, and is now in danger of overtaking Vale Of York as Godolphin's premier candidate for the Kentucky Derby.
As a son of Harlan's Holiday, he has every right to prove as effective on dirt, but first he must tackle the UAE Derby on World Cup night.
Godolphin's mediocre record in the Kentucky Derby has invited scepticism whether it can ever be won from Dubai, but that will only goad Sheikh Mohammed into trying to prove otherwise.
The stable's most eligible candidates to date missed out through injury, while the success of Desert Party last night — in a sprint, on his first start since a midfield finish at Churchill Downs last year — implied that he was one of those that never had adequate stamina for the task.
Red Desire, the Japanese raider, collared Gloria De Campeao in the Maktoum Challenge and may now be switched from her original target, the Sheema Classic on turf, to the most valuable prize in history — the $10m World Cup itself.
Cavalryman briefly threatened before just flattening out behind the placed horses.
Red Desire produced remarkable acceleration, but still more striking was that of Luca Cumani's Presvis, who returned to top form back under Ryan Moore later on the card and will now go for the Duty Free Stakes.
Back on the home front, Mikael D'Haguenet has been ruled out of the Cheltenham Festival, ending speculation that last season's star novice hurdler would go for either the Arkle or RSA Chases without having had a run this season.