DAWN APPROACH'S stunning five-length demolition of the Qipco 2,000 Guineas field at Newmarket on Saturday could hardly have been any more comprehensive.
The big question coming into the season's opening Classic was whether or not Jim Bolger's unbeaten colt had the scope to improve enough from his spectacular juvenile exploits to maintain that superiority over his peers at three.
On this evidence, not only has he done so, but it looks as though he might well have progressed even further ahead of his peers.
Having won last term's opening two-year-old race over five furlongs en route to clocking up six flawless victories, Dawn Approach needed to produce something special to emerge from the three-year-old Group One with his reputation enhanced.
Incredibly, he did, claiming a momentous first triumph in the race for the perpetual revelation that is the Coolcullen wizard.
The thing that defined Dawn Approach's wins in 2012, not least his top-level victories at the Curragh and Newmarket, was the way that he responded for pressure. His was an understated brilliance, marked by a determined resilience that enabled him to grind down his rivals. On his first stab at a mile, Kevin Manning's game partner again exhibited all that character to see off Toronado by the furlong pole, before striding clear of the 150/1 shot Glory Awaits.
However, this time he travelled far more kindly through the third quarter than he did last year, displaying the sort of tactical pace you wouldn't necessarily have associated with him.
Naturally, a tilt at the Derby is now on the agenda, with Bolger reiterating yesterday that Dawn Approach would "more than likely" go to Epsom.
In light of the Mahmood Al Zarooni doping scandal that has besmirched Godolphin's good name, Sheikh Mohammed would relish seeing his royal blue silks carried to a timely first victory in the Epsom feature.
Dawn Approach's pedigree doesn't scream 12 furlongs, but his sire New Approach managed to win a Derby after fighting hard for his head from the get-go, while his dam is a half-sister to Danticat, a winner over most of 13 furlongs at Down Royal in 2006. He settles well, his class will get him a long way, and a horse with his constitution won't wilt easily.
Critically, it's hard to envisage any of his Guineas victims bridging the gap over a longer trip. Ballydoyle's Mars emerged with some credit in sixth on just his second racecourse appearance, but he will need to find nearly nine lengths on the winner. Not likely.
After that there are Mars' Aidan O'Brien-trained stablemates Kingsbarns and Battle Of Marengo.
However, Kingsbarns' prep has been interrupted to the point that he is not yet back in full work, and it's worth remembering that Van Der Neer, over seven lengths back in third on Saturday, got to within two lengths of him at Doncaster in the autumn.
Battle Of Marengo possesses a similarly durable temperament to Dawn Approach. We will learn some more about him in Leopardstown's Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial on Sunday, as we will of Michael Stoute's Telescope in the Dante at York four days later. Still, both will have to go some to usurp the new ante-post favourite for Flat racing's crown jewel.
On Saturday, Dawn Approach avenged his sire's narrow defeat in the 2008 Guineas for his remarkable 71-year-old trainer, breeder and part-owner, and the suspicion is that he has the potential to be more than a match for many of his elders later in the year.
He was the sixth successive Irish-trained winner of the Guineas to plunder the £400k feature on its seasonal bow, a feat that brilliantly advertises the exquisite capabilities of our premier handlers.
Now he has an opportunity to emulate Sea The Stars and Camelot by becoming the third raider in four years to do the Guineas-Derby double. He will take some stopping.
Hughes delight at first British Classic success
Richard Hughes avenged Toronado's defeat on Saturday to claim a first British Classic success on Sky Lantern for his father-in-law Richard Hannon in yesterday's 1,000 Guineas.
A ready winner of the Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh in September, Sky Lantern (9/1) had finished a well-beaten second to Hot Snap in the Nell Gwyn Stakes last month, but turned that form on its head here.
Settled in the middle of the pack early on, the grey travelled through to pass Just The Judge inside the distance, with Ballydoyle's Moth back in third.
"It has taken a long time," the 40-year-old champion jockey admitted. "My wife was so upset (after Toronado's defeat) – I was consoling her all night – but today was great.
"I believed in this filly. I gave her a bad ride the last day, but she's a good filly and loves that fast ground."
Moth didn't get the clearest of runs under Joseph O'Brien, keeping on at one pace for third when she did get out. She was subsequently promoted to 7/2 favouritism for the Epsom Oaks.
Aidan O'Brien was also out of luck in Churchill Downs on Saturday night, with Lines Of Battle managing a respectable seventh-place finish in a Kentucky Derby run in desperately sloppy conditions.
The UAE Derby winner never really threatened under Ryan Moore, as Orb stretched its unbeaten record this year to four for Hall Of Fame trainer Shug McCaughey.
Orb had been the clear 7/2 favourite in the morning, but had drifted to 6/1 co-favouritism by the off. He challenged wide under Joel Rosario in the 139th edition of the 'Run for the Roses' Grade One, eventually prevailing by a couple of lengths from 50/1 shot Golden Soul.
Rosario, who steered Animal Kingdom to World Cup glory in the $10m Dubai World Cup in March, was winning this $2m prize for a first time, as was the Kentucky-born McCaughey.
Sole powers to Palace victory under Murtagh
Sole Power justified odds of 7/2 favouritism by running out a decisive winner of the Palace House Stakes for Johnny Murtagh on Saturday.
Eddie Lynam's 2010 Nunthorpe hero bounced off the fast ground to set up a tilt at the Temple Stakes at Haydock, a race in which he finished second to Bated Breath last year.
The consistent sprinter will then be aimed at the King's Stand Stakes at Ascot.
on fire at Limerick
Rodger Sweeney's Fiery Oscar (11/2f) cantered to its fourth win on the spin under the trainer's son Colman at Limerick on Saturday.
Switching back to hurdles after scoring over fences at Tramore, the improving eight-year-old made light of a career-high mark of 111 to come home nearly 10 lengths clear. "He is like wine," the trainer joked afterwards, "he is improving with age."
Easy Vic was first past the post in the three-mile handicap hurdle, but went home with a second beside his name for a third time in a row after being disqualified by the stewards.
Tony Martin's 7/2 favourite squeezed up The Blarney Rose (12/1) after the last, and the regulators were left with little choice but to reverse the placings.
Easy Vic's rider Andrew Lynch received a six-day ban for his part in the incident, but Martin wasn't long gaining compensation when the Ruby Walsh-ridden Living Next Door obliged at odds-on in the handicap chase.
Henry de Bromhead saddled his first winner for JP McManus when Elegant Statesman (13/8 fav) took the maiden hurdle under Mark Walsh.
Numbers of the week
2m– Cost in euro of redevelopment at Sligo, which was unveiled yesterday.
2 – The number of Classics that Jamie Spencer finished second in at Newmarket, the Tipperary native hitting the crossbar with both Glory Awaits and Just The Judge.
Tweet of the week
4th of May last year Powerful Presence was our 100th winner. 4th of May this year Bedloe's Island is our 200th! 100 winners in exactly 12 months
Fermoy-born David O'Meara highlights the rapid ascent of his Yorkshire training establishment.