Aidan O’Brien’s Deauville returns to the scene of his near-miss third in last year’s Arlington Million (G1). Considering that he was trying to emulate Tolomeo (1983) as the only three-year-olds to beat elders in the storied turf prize, the Galileo colt is eligible to improve in this encore performance.

Deauville was already well known to fans on this side of the Atlantic, thanks to his victory in the Belmont Derby Invitational (G1) in his start prior to Arlington. We’ll leave the details of his early career to the 2016 Million scouting report, so please consult the link if you want deep background.

The four-year-old model of Deauville is at least as good, if not arguably a bit better, in keeping with his pedigree. Full brother The Corsican was a progressive three-year-old who reached the next level as an older horse. Their dam, Walklikeanegyptian, placed in Arlington’s Pucker Up (G3) at three, but her half-sister Callwood Dancer was Canada’s champion turf female at four.

Deauville’s reappearing seventh in the March 25 Dubai Turf (G1) can’t be taken literally, in light of the yielding ground and the fact that O’Brien generally doesn’t have his older horses 100 percent cranked for World Cup night. That’s particularly true for Deauville, who hadn’t raced since the Million. His desert junket can be viewed as a more pleasant way to build toward a European return than just a day away for a racecourse gallop at the Curragh.

His season effectively started with the April 28 Gordon Richards (G3) at Sandown, a front-running effort over the stiff 1 1/4 miles that repelled everyone except Sir Michael Stoute’s Ulysses. As fine a performance as that was from Deauville, it may have been even better since Ulysses’ rider, Andrea Atzeni, described the ground as more “good to soft” than the official “good.”

The result took on added significance with Ulysses’ ensuing starts. Third to Highland Reel in the Prince of Wales’s (G1), Ulysses edged Barney Roy in an epic Eclipse (G1), and recently played second fiddle to Arc favorite Enable in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1). The Gordon Richards third, My Dream Boat, can’t boast those credentials, and his upstaging Found in the 2016 Prince of Wales’s remains one of the mysteries of the universe. Nevertheless, My Dream Boat is a regular presence in these major events, and he was actually favored as the defending champion here. In other words, even he contributes to the form’s solid look.

Deauville’s early speed – and quick start – served him well again in the Huxley (G3) around the tight left-handed circuit of Chester. Winding up the tempo on the far turn, he opened up a decisive advantage and held Stoute’s well-regarded Poet’s Word.

Here again the form has held up. Poet’s Word just came back to stamp his class in last Friday’s Glorious (G3) at Goodwood, and the Canadian International (G1) is a possible target.

Deauville’s chances in the Tattersalls Gold Cup (G1) went downhill with the Curragh weather, so his third to Decorated Knight and ill-fated Somehow was about as well as he could have done in adverse circumstances. You can see how he just can’t pick up in the yielding going:

Decorated Knight (whom you may remember as a Million XXXIV contender scratched on raceday) was subsequently runner-up to Highland Reel in the Prince of Wales’s at Royal Ascot, beating Ulysses (as well as current Million hopes Scottish and Mekhtaal).

Deauville also ventured to Royal Ascot, but to shorten up to a mile for the first time since his juvenile days for the Queen Anne (G1). This was a particularly hot renewal to attempt that gambit. Although he didn’t have the turbo finish at this trip, he was a gamely staying-on third to top older miler Ribchester and Mutakayyef in course-record time.

 

Up to nine furlongs for his Million prep in the Meld (G3) at Leopardstown, Deauville caught a rain-affected track. He bravely tried to wire them, only to be worn down after a protracted slog with Moonlight Magic.

Moonlight Magic, a Godolphin blueblood, has long been fancied by trainer Jim Bolger. His past performances have been mostly uninspiring for the past year, but perhaps the close relative of Sea the Stars really is on the verge of fulfilling hopes. If so, Deauville’s Meld loss may take on a rosier hue in time.

With his tactical speed, strong level of form, and arguable preference for left-handed courses, Deauville is eligible to capture the Million trophy that narrowly eluded him at three. His nemesis, however, could be the Chicago weather. He’ll take heart in the fact that the forecast looks favorable (as of Monday afternoon), and hope it verifies so he will find his preferred firm ground.

Photo of Deauville winning the Huxley courtesy of Chester Racecourse via Twitter