LEGENDS have a habit of popping up on every page of the Ascot record book, no matter what century you study. Future generations, looking back on the best fillies of the early 21st century, will be fascinated by the form of one FINSCEAL BEO, the filly turning tradition on its head.
Only two in the past 28 years have won Newmarket's 1,000 Guineas, then progressed to the Royal meeting to take the Coronation Stakes, the three-year-old mile crown for fillies - Russian Rhythm (2003) and Attraction (2004) - and there is good reason.
Preparation for the first Classics invariably involves a rush to meet an early deadline, often when the seasons dictate that young horses should be kept in reserve for the warmer summer. It is a huge demand for fillies, and by the time Royal Ascot arrives, they often show it.
All this, of course, makes the performances of the Jim Bolger-trained Finsceal Beo border on incredible. She has run three times in 2007, with all of those outings at Group One level, every one a Classic. Her wins in the English and Irish 1,000 Guineas, and second in the French version, stamp her as not only a filly of the highest class, but one which is also durable.
Bolger reports that Finsceal Beo has thrived on tough campaigning. "She has continued to gain weight between her races," Bolger said. "She has put on three kilos since her Curragh run and I'm happy with her."
The only blip on an otherwise perfect season was when Finsceal Beo was beaten a head by the strong-finishing Darjina at Longchamp last month, on rain-soaked ground that probably blunted her blistering turn of foot.
Bolger started this season with hopes of winning Classics with his outstanding colt Teofilo as well as Finsceal Beo. With Teofilo going wrong only days before the English 2,000 Guineas - and having not been seen out since - it has been left to the filly to occupy the spotlight. Bolger fully appreciates what the filly has achieved. "If she had won in France, then she would have been one win closer her target of a double-digit number of Group One wins," the trainer said.
The John Oxx-trained Arch Swing finished second to Finsceal Beo in the Newmarket Guineas, but trailed in last to her old rival at the Curragh. She was later found to have pulled muscles in her hindquarters, but now, reportedly recovered, is set to take on the Bolger filly again.
On ground that does not appear to have deteriorated significantly, Arch Swing will pose the biggest threat to Finsceal Beo, though Princess Zahra Aga Khan's Darjina, unbeaten in three starts, should also be in the shake-up. Finsceal Beo is my selection.
SALFORD MILL, sixth to Authorized in the Derby, will find Ascot, with its uphill climb from Swinley Bottom, a far more attractive course than Epsom. Hence, he will be the one to follow in the King Edward VII Stakes, though he needs the going to be genuinely good or faster to be seen at his very best. Lucarno, a solid fourth in the Derby, is one to look to for a big run.
Trainer Mark Johnston always has winners at this meeting - Zaham was another feather in his cap yesterday - and the promising SERENGETI (nap) is just the type to give him today's Queen's Vase. This colt continues to progress. (©Daily Telegraph, London)