EVEN the beautiful surroundings of Goodwood, with its rolling fields and woodland, may not be enough to cheer grieving hearts when one of the summer's most enduring festivals starts today.
This is because those who bring Delegator to the first big race of this carnival are still absorbing the grisly shock of the accident that claimed their most accomplished performer, Rewilding, at Ascot on Saturday.
Though Rewilding was stabled with their other trainer in Newmarket, Mahmood Al Zarooni, the whole Godolphin team will share mixed emotions if Saeed Bin Suroor can win the Lennox Stakes with Delegator.
The private turmoil of the stable's owners and management will, no doubt, be rendered manifest through Frankie Dettori, who has been nursing his bruises since Rewilding freakishly broke down and fired him into the ground.
They all know that Delegator has now become still more important to the Godolphin cause, pending the emergence of fresh stars from the Maktoums' expensive new parade of young stallions. And, on the face of it, both the distance and calibre of this race represent a happy medium for him.
True, his performance over six furlongs at York in May appeared to vindicate the theory that his true metier is sprinting. But he has top-class form to his name over a mile -- in his youth beaten only by Sea The Stars in the English 2,000 Guineas -- and winning the Celebration Mile over this course on his first start for Godolphin later that season.
Seven furlongs round this sharp track should play ideally to his strengths, likewise the drying conditions, and he is easily excused defeat when stranded by the draw in the July Cup.
Delegator is an authentic Group One operator, but there are two persuasive reservations. The first is that he has produced some of his very best performances after a break, and has only had 17 days since to absorb his effort at Newmarket. The second is the concession of 11lbs -- through a combination of a penalty for his York success, and weight-for-age -- to a smart three-year-old.
Hopes that Strong Suit (3.10) might make a Guineas colt proved misplaced when he sank without trace behind Frankel in their trial. In fairness, he was plainly not himself that day and showed the benefit of a wind operation when resurfacing to win the Jersey Stakes over this trip at Royal Ascot.
Since tried over a mile in Group One company at Chantilly, he responded well to a superb ride by Richard Hughes and was only caught in the final strides by two closers.
This trip round a bend looks ideal, and he looks more solid than his stablemate and contemporary, Libranno, which enjoyed the run of the race over his favourite track when finishing in front of Delegator in the July Cup.
We will never know quite how Rewilding might have fared on Saturday, but he would certainly have had his work cut out to run down Nathaniel -- whose emergence as the best British colt of his generation over 12 furlongs means that Fiorente will start at short odds for the Gordon Stakes.
Fiorente had finished closest of Nathaniel's pursuers in his previous start, at Royal Ascot, albeit he was still thrashed pretty comprehensively. In his defence, connections favoured some pretty eccentric tactics on the day, and there can be no doubt that Fiorente (2.35) -- bred to progress well -- is doing so very quickly in the early stages of his career.
Those seeking a less intimidating price might do worse than consider Yaseer, which has been freshened up since his disappointing run in the Dante and is tried in a visor.
The other Group prize on the opening day, the Molecomb, brings together some zippy youngsters over one of the sharpest sprint tracks in England. Charles The Great has not had long to recover from his all-out defeat of a big field at Newbury, and Stonefield Flyer can lead the home defence after finishing second in an unusually strong Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot.
But the Irish invaders have a strong hand through Requinto, which looks all speed, and Boris Grigoriev (3.45). Having previously looked wayward, this colt went best for longest over six furlongs in dead ground last time and looks value for this test of pure speed.
All this is just an aperitif, of course, for one of the most intoxicating races of the season in the Qipco Sussex Stakes tomorrow. As expected, Frankel and Canford Cliffs have frightened almost everyone else away and were joined by just two others when final declarations were made yesterday.
The intrepid creatures in question were Rajsaman, trained in France by Freddy Head, and Rio De La Plata. The Godolphin veteran would be a startling source of succour, but in this game triumph can be every bit as unaccountable as disaster. (© Independent News Service)