Meade thrilled as Frankel's son Eminent strides clear of rivals
The excitement around Newmarket's Rowley Mile was palpable as Eminent, an undefeated son of Frankel, strode clear of his rivals to land the bet365 Craven Stakes and establish himself as a leading candidate for the Qipco 2,000 Guineas in a fortnight.
Local trainer Martyn Meade spent the winter dreaming that Eminent, picked up for a relatively inexpensive 150,000gns having gone through the Tattersalls sales ring unsold, might just be good enough to mix it with the best of his Classic generation.
With this impressive display, which witnessed Eminent put his giant stride to use as he got the better of the Racing Post Trophy winner Rivet in what was the fastest Craven Stakes in more than fifty years, those dreams became a reality, with all roads now leading back to the Rowley Mile for next month's date with destiny.
"It's tremendously significant for me," said a delighted Meade as his colt was trimmed to as short as 8-1 for the 2,000 Guineas by Sky Bet, bet365, Coral and Betway (from as big as 33), making him the shortest-priced British-trained colt.
"This is what we've been waiting six months for, it's the beginning. Did the bubble burst? No, it's still alive. It couldn't be better."
Meade said Eminent had not been fully primed for this outing and expects him to take improvement from it, with the relatively short turnaround for the Guineas being no concern.
"He was not 100 per cent," Meade said. "He was fit enough but I didn't want to overdo him, it's a trial after all. Today he's proved he can do it with the good horses. I think he'll most likely stay further too."
Champion jockey Jim Crowley did the steering and was equally impressed, echoing many of Meade's sentiments.
"I've always liked him," Crowley said. "When he won his maiden here last year he was very impressive, and it's nice that he's proven what he can do today.
"He's a high-class horse and there'll be no problems with him getting further. He'll improve again for the run and hopefully he keeps going forward."
The 2,000 Guineas may also still be on the agenda for runner-up Rivet, although trainer William Haggas stopped short of confirming the son of Fastnet Rock for the Classic.
"Rivet ran alright and you can't say he didn't handle the dip this time," he said. "He may still go for the Guineas. We'll make a plan."
Godolphin's search for a first Craven Stakes goes on, although the Saeed Bin Suroor-trained Benbatl followed up his Doncaster maiden win earlier this month with a fine third.
"Silvestre [de Sousa] came back and said the ground was as quick as he wants it," said Bin Suroor. "He has options of the 2,000 Guineas here or in Ireland, or he could go to the Dante."
War Decree, sent off 9-4 favourite, disappointed as he could manage only sixth of the seven runners. His trainer Aidan O'Brien still has the Guineas favourite in Churchill, and another prominent in the betting in Caravaggio.