It is rare for reflection on the classics to embrace anything more than the horses. They provide the spectacle, yet they are sometimes usurped by a common theme.
That theme was Galileo. The Coolmore stallion has already posted some astonishing figures but he will have few weekends like the one he enjoyed on the biggest stage in Europe.
It started with the May 31 Investec Oaks (Eng-I), where Galileo's granddaughter, Talent, beat his daughter, Secret Gesture, with another daughter, Moth, back in fourth place.
However, Galileo would trump that 24 hours later in the Investec Derby (Eng-I), which saw his son, Ruler of The World, beat his grandson, Libertarian. Two more of his sons, Galileo Rock and Battle of Marengo, filled third and fourth places.
And if that were not sufficient endorsement of his status as the world's foremost sire, another son, Intello, landed the Jun. 2 Prix du Jockey-Club (Fr-I) with a verve to suggest he deserves billing as the best middle-distance 3-year-old seen out this season.
It would be difficult to know where to start but for an extraordinary Derby renewal at Epsom, where Dawn Approach, himself a grandson of Galileo, was dispatched a strong favorite at odds of 5-4.
For the time being it will be remembered as the race in which Dawn Approach imploded. It is up to Ruler of The World to change that perspective by imposing himself in the months ahead. Come what may, the two colts are unlikely to meet again.
Dawn Approach endeavoured to carry his speed over 12 furlongs, having won the 8-furlong QIPCO Two Thousand Guineas with rare authority. Ruler of The World, meanwhile, seemed the polar opposite: a late-maturing colt who happily gallops all day.
He was part of a five-strong Ballydoyle entry aligned against Dawn Approach, just as Ballydoyle fielded seven against Sea The Stars in 2009. None could derail the heavy favorite then, and although Ballydoyle prospered this time, their collective presence brought no influence to bear on Dawn Approach's demise.
The chestnut literally ran himself into the ground. Having left the stalls in feisty mood, his demeanour degenerated so quickly that he resembled a raging bull after just two furlongs. The more Kevin Manning tried to restrain him, the more he resented it; so much so that Dawn Approach was already spent when Manning let him take the lead soon after halfway.
Dawn Approach's plight was exacerbated by pedestrian early fractions when the consensus anticipated a headlong gallop. Ballydoyle's Flying The Flag and Battle of Marengo saw to that, although quite how much the tactic was designed to unsettle the favorite is hard to divine.
A feature of Dawn Approach in all his previous starts was his relaxed disposition. A sedate gallop should have played to his strengths, since his one possible flaw was suspect stamina. In the event, that was never tested.
"He was more or less out of control," his trainer, Jim Bolger, observed after the colt fell away to finish last.
With Dawn Approach compromised, Ballydoyle was very much in control. Battle of Marengo inherited the lead three furlongs out and made for home, with Ruler of The World and Mars moving forward from the rear, where Libertarian's lack of tactical speed betrayed him as the pace increased.
However, just as the stage looked set for a pitched battle, Ruler of The World took flight. So swiftly did he cut through the pack under Ryan Moore that he struck the front well before the final furlong.
He was never going to get caught from there, even if Libertarian charged home late to deprive Galileo Rock and Battle of Marengo in a three-way photo for the minor places.
"He got there very quickly and very easily," Moore related. "Then he had a look around and I knew he'd have to gut it out from there. He was more than up to it."
Heavy rain and temperatures well below the norm have made this a trying classic build-up for trainers—in particular Aidan O'Brien, who had the usual phalanx of untested 3-year-olds to sift even though his winter favorite, Kingsbarns, had succumbed to injury.
O'Brien's son and stable jockey, Joseph, eventually plumped for Battle of Marengo but in recruiting Moore for Ruler of The World, the colt's claims were plain. Moore rode the chestnut to win a trial at Chester on his second start, which he won convincingly from moderate opponents.
Ruler of The World is now unbeaten in three, and his rate of progress has been such that he won't have to make too much more to hold his own in the all-aged competition to come.
He is also beautifully bred, being a son of the Kingmambo mare Love Me True and thus a half brother to multiple group I winner Duke Of Marmalade (by Danehill). For good measure, this is the illustrious stallion family of Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winners A.P. Indy and Lemon Drop Kid .
Ruler of The World is expected to reappear in the Jun. 29 Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby (Ire-I). He is the first unraced 2-year-old to win at Epsom in 20 years and was the 33rd group I winner for his sire—who wasted no time in advancing further when the focus switched to France the following day.
Intello was desperately unfortunate to come up short on his previous start in the Poule d'Essai des Poulains (Fr-I) over a mile May 12. On that day a bad draw was exacerbated by a troubled trip, after which the bay closed late and fast into third place. He was always going to improve for stepping up in distance and left nothing to chance this time.
Breaking alertly under Olivier Peslier, the Wertheimer & Frere homebred raced prominently until Sky Hunter—like the winner, trained by Andre Fabre—drew alongside him halfway down the home straight. Yet on Peslier's prompting Intello quickened instantly to draw off by two lengths. Morandi's late thrust deprived Sky Hunter of second place in a photo.
A son of the Danehill mare Occupandiste, herself twice a winner in group I company, Intello is a beguiling prospect. His luckless earlier defeat is the only blemish on his five-race record. Like Ruler of The World, he hails from illustrious roots—in his case from to a veritable blue-hen in Fall Aspen.
Fabre's string is in sparkling form and it will be interesting to see how he campaigns Intello. Galileo's influence enabled the colt to handle this 10 1/2-furlong trip comfortably but he may not be as effective over 12 furlongs.
Intello's distaff line has held its speed through several generations, and Fabre has plenty of other candidates for the summer middle-distance prizes. One of them, Ocovango, ran well in the Epsom Derby to finish fifth and looks a more natural stayer.
There was never a doubt middle-distances would suit Talent (New Approach—Prowess, by Peintre Celebre) and the filly underlined the point with a come-from-behind victory in the Oaks at Epsom May 31. She was cleverly ridden by Richard Hughes into the bargain.
Hughes negated the disadvantage of a low post position by dropping off the back of the field and switching to the outside. It probably helped that he wasn't expecting much; he rode Talent for the first time in a gallop the previous week and was taken aback at the filly's failure to pick up a moderate companion.
However, she was a different animal here. Racing with plenty of zest, she moved forward on reaching the straight before Hughes aimed her at stablemate, Secret Gesture, approaching the final furlong.
Even to their trainer Ralph Beckett, the ease with which Talent swept past was a revelation. Beckett was revisiting familiar territory, having won the 2008 Oaks with Look Here. Although he expected Secret Gesture to prove superior, he described Talent as one tough customer. She certainly never flinched under a hard drive from Hughes.
Talent was bred and is owned jointly by James Rowsell's Ashbrittle Stud and Mark Dixon, the latter a nephew of Dick Hollingsworth, an owner-breeder of the old school who prized the Ascot Gold Cup above all other races.
Indeed, Hollingsworth realized his dream of winning that prized staying contest when Longboat obliged him in 1986. He also kept his 1980 Oaks heroine, Bireme, in training at four for a tilt at the race but it was her misfortune was to run into the majestic Ardross.
There is symmetry, therefore, that Bireme is Talent's fourth dam; even more of it in that Talent's dam and granddam were both considered sufficiently talented to contest the Oaks—albeit without troubling the judge.
One horse persistently catching the judge's attention is St Nicholas Abbey, who won his sixth group I prize in completing a hat-trick of victories in the Investec Coronation Cup (Eng-I) May 31. The 6-year-old faced little meaningful opposition but won as he pleased under Joseph O'Brien.
St Nicholas Abbey sets the standard among older horses and the season is taking promising shape. The sophomore ranks appear well stacked, with Ruler of The World and Intello abetted by Dawn Approach and Magician , the latter a late withdrawal from the Derby.
How they stand up to St Nicholas Abbey remains to be seen, although it's worth recalling how ordinary Frankel made the Ballydoyle globetrotter appear in last year's Juddmonte International (Eng-I).