Sir Michael Stoute: Ulysses leads the way for resurgent veteran
|Darley Dewhurst Stakes|
|Venue: Newmarket racecourse Date: Saturday, 14 October Time: 15:00 BST|
|Coverage: Commentary on BBC Radio 5 live|
As the 2017 Flat racing season reaches its final furlong, Sir Michael Stoute is all set to post his most lucrative ever campaign for prize money in Britain.
More than £3.5m - just short of his personal best, achieved in 2003 - has been banked already, principally following the exploits of Ulysses.
A winner at Group One-race level in the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown and the International Stakes at York, the four-year old also finished runner-up to star filly Enable in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.
In France, he was a gallant third (behind Enable again) in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
However, a whole lot of other horses have played big parts too for the Newmarket string, notably St Leger runner-up Crystal Ocean, Ballet Concerto - the winner of three races on the trot before tragically collapsing and dying on the gallops - Convey and the Queen's number one horse Dartmouth.
The results have sparked talk of "a resurgence" for the trainer, champion on 10 occasions between 1981 and 2009, and whose five Epsom Derbys include success with Shergar (1981).
Those numbers demonstrate that Stoute's never exactly gone very far away, but it's just that whereas once he hogged many of the headlines, these days that's more the preserve of his near-neighbour John Gosden and, of course, the all-conquering Aidan O'Brien.
Stoute doesn't disagree.
"I've won more group races this year than I have for a few years so I am having a resurgence," he said.
"We've got some nice horses doing well, which is great for the whole team, and what Ulysses has done has been very satisfying."
Addressing the subject of the County Tipperary-based O'Brien squad, as it bears down on the record for Group One victories in a year (25), he continued: "I don't think we've seen a battalion like Aidan's before.
"It's quite incredible really, but I just get on with my job.
"That [O'Brien's domination] is a fact. If you can't handle it, run away."
Meanwhile, signs for the remainder of the year, and indeed for beyond, look particularly rosy for Stoute and his string at Freemason Lodge, in Newmarket's Bury Road.
It looks likely that Ulysses will travel to Del Mar, California for the Turf race at America's Breeders Cup fixture in November, before retiring to be a stallion at the prestigious Cheveley Park Stud.
Closer to home, Poet's Word has the Champion Stakes on British Champions Day at Ascot on 21 October his agenda, while the unbeaten and much-touted two-year-old colt Expert Eye is targeting the Darley Dewhurst Stakes on Dubai Future Champions Day at Newmarket.
Oh yes, Expert Eye.
You don't need to be any sort of expert to spot the potential of the son of the stallion Acclamation, another talent, like Frankel, Kingsman, Enable et al, from Saudi prince Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte racing and thoroughbred breeding empire.
Striking successes at Newbury and then Glorious Goodwood - by four and a half lengths, with the third, fourth and fifth all winning subsequently - have sent him soaring to the top of the reckoning for the 2,000 Guineas in May 2018.
More immediately, he's hot favourite to give Stoute a first win in the Dewhurst Stakes, traditionally the outstanding race for racing's youngest participants, since he took the spoils with Ajdal in 1986.
During five decades of training, the 71-year-old (first runner: 1972) has had charge of plenty of youthful talent - the fillies Marwell and Russian Rhythm spring readily to mind - but recently the biggest names have tended to emerge more slowly, aged three.
Stoute said: "We have had precocious two-year-olds, but we don't seem to get them now [but] this fellow has come along and is naturally precocious.
"He's the best two-year-old I've had for a while.
"Before he ran we knew he was pretty smart; he's a good-looking horse, very athletic, very well balanced."
Expert Eye, who'll be ridden in the Dewhurst Stakes, as at Goodwood, by jockey Andrea Atzeni, is described as being "in good shape".
"It was a very good performance at Goodwood," said the trainer, "and the form has worked out. We didn't know he'd win like that, but we knew he'd win.
"I contemplated going to The Curragh with him [for the National Stakes, September] but he had a bit of an infection so that knocked that out of the way.
"We've had plenty of time to prepare him - there will be no excuses on that front.
"You are never quite sure of the opposition, but he seems still in good form."
While others are getting excited about Expert Eye's 2018 prospects, Stoute, who believes the one-mile distance of the 2,000 Guineas will be his optimum, refuses to get carried away.
"Let's see what happens [in the Dewhurst] and go from there," he said.