Frankie Dettori kisses the trophy after winning the Qipco 1000 Guineas Stakes on Mother Earth

Graham Cunningham on 1000 Guineas day at Newmarket as Mother Earth and Frankie Dettori steal the show

Absent friends the theme

You only miss them when they're no longer a part of the vivid backdrop.

Bookies barking odds atop their joints; serious punters darting from paddock to betting ring; bloodstock wiseguys sizing up past purchases and potential clients; crusty members steeped in Guineas lore since Brigadier Gerard swept clear of Mill Reef fifty years ago; even the lads of the village guzzling their fifth frothy before the first.

The jarring sights and sounds that greet new arrivals to Newmarket nowadays are from a very different era.

A disembodied Tannoy voice puts a Covid era spin on the old Members and Tatts divide by informing people that they need to find their place in the Green or Amber Zones before the twain divide, while a fair chunk of the main stand is given over to its new purpose as a vaccination centre which has delivered more jabs (over 10,000) than Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua combined since January.

But the Rowley Mile is still resplendent in bracing spring sunshine and, for all that Qipco 1000 Guineas day has a hermetically sealed feel, a little of the old mystique remains.

Trainers scan the paddock knowing that what follows could define their season; owners hop from toe to toe hoping the dream will stay alive: and a sense of boom or bust hangs in the air as the much-vaunted Santa Barbara makes her reappearance in the Qipco 1000 Guineas.

Action from Newmarket on 1000 Guineas day

Santa fails to deliver

In the end it proves a bust with the promise of a belated boom to come at Epsom next month.

Santa Barbara lives up to the pre-race hype in the paddock – strong and attractive with loads of scope – but inexperience finds her out badly as she hangs left off the bridle under Ryan Moore and fades into fourth behind vastly more experienced stablemate Mother Earth.

Frankie Dettori’s roars of “yes!” and “come on” split the silence as he captures his latest G1 on a supposed Ballydoyle second string, while Aidan O’Brien gives the strong impression that the result isn’t a shock given the question being asked of his two runners.

“It was unfair to the favourite to come but we had to come with a view to going for the Oaks,” he said.

Santa Barbara was only 5-2 joint favourite with Alcohol Free come the off as punters sensed that the Guineas might be too hard a school for a once-raced maiden winner and O’Brien is confident this hard lesson will yield dividends come the Cazoo Oaks.

“We felt by coming here she’d learn enough for three runs but it was a risk doing it,” he added. “We never took her off the bridle at home but she’ll learn a lot from that and she has plenty of time to get over it.”

Santa Barbara

Frankie still drinking from fountain of youth

Mother Earth’s name goes on the Guineas trophy but Father Time was also on the remarkable Dettori’s mind after he recorded the 20th British Classic success of his career and his first since turning 50 last December.

“Aidan likes the oldies,” he joked. “He had Georgie Duffield when he was 53 (when Giant’s Causeway won the Coral-Eclipse) and now he’s going for the 50s and over again!”

And Mother Earth’s success, gained in thoroughly professional style, completed an epic weekend for veterans on both sides of the Atlantic.

“I didn’t have the pressure to ride the favourite and Aidan gave me a lot of confidence and told me to forget about Santa Barbara,” he said.

Dettori didn’t need telling that Kevin Manning had won Saturday’s 2000 Guineas aged 54 and swiftly reminded the media scrum that John Velazquez had also won the Kentucky Derby at 49 aboard Medina Spirit overnight.

Frankie Dettori in the immediate aftermath of winning the 1000 Guineas

Angel proves heaven sent as youthful Boughey rolls on

O’Brien was just 27 when Desert King gave him his first Classic success in the Irish 2000 Guineas of 1997.

George Boughey notched the first Listed success of his career at a similar age thanks to Mystery Angel in the Betfair Pretty Polly Stakes and, although that’s where comparisons end for the moment, it’s clear that Newmarket has an upwardly mobile young handler in town.

Mystery Angel was by far the most experienced filly in a race won by Oaks heroines like Ouija Board, Talent and Taghrooda in the past and put that experience to good use in tenacious style under Ben Curtis.

Boughey has already passed last season’s total of 26 winners – at an impressive strike rate of better than one in four – and now has the high-class problem of deciding whether Mystery Angel should be supplemented for the Oaks.

“She’s not in the Oaks but she’s getting a bit of prize money in the pot at the moment and it might be something we have to have a go at,” he said.

Mystery Angel (white and black silks) wins the Pretty Polly at Newmarket

Jarvis jumps back into big time

William Jarvis sported the same up-and-coming mantle now worn by Boughey many moons ago.

Newmarket born and bred, he started young in 1988 and got hot quickly, winning good races with Contract Law and Weld then finding his first genuine star in champion juvenile Grand Lodge, who was short headed by Mister Baileys in the 2000 Guineas of 1994 before winning the St James’s Palace Stakes under Michael Kinane.

A fast start doesn’t guarantee a golden future – and Jarvis has averaged just twelve winners a year over the last decade – but stable star Lady Bowthorpe gave him his biggest win since the Grand Lodge days when swooping late under Kieran Shoemark in the G2 Betfair Dahlia Stakes.

“We’ve had some barren years but my approach is still the same,” he said. “I haven’t got enough horses but I still love it and a filly like Lady Bowthorpe gets you out of bed in the morning no problems at all,” he said.

And now, 27 years on from Grand Lodge, the still-svelte Jarvis is relishing the chance to aim for more Ascot glory in the Duke of Cambridge Stakes.

“I’ve still got the same morning suit as in the Grand Lodge days," he added. "And so we’ll hopefully be getting it out for the third week in June again this year.”

Lady Bowthorpe gallops to victory at Newmarket

Light at the end of the Covid tunnel

Let’s hope Jarvis, Dettori, O’Brien and the rest of the Guineas weekend stars will have an audience to dress up for by the time Royal Ascot comes around.

The schools are back, we can eat and drink outdoors again and, from May 17th, British racecourses are preparing to welcome racegoers back, albeit in phased and limited manner.

With luck and a following wind, the 2021 edition of the 1000 Guineas could go down in history as the last lockdown Classic.

It will surely be some time before Britain emulates Churchill Downs – who welcomed a crowd of over 51,000 for the Kentucky Derby on Saturday – and the general public will be absent again as a series of major Classic trials take place at Chester and York over the next two weeks.

But, following a torrid year, that public are becoming increasingly liberated, motivated and vaccinated. It’s been a dark year and it's not light yet. But, thankfully, it's getting there.

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