YORK // Opinion Poll and Lost In the Moment could scarcely be separated when they flashed past The post in the Goodwood Cup last month, but today the two Godolphin horses contest races of vastly different quality.
It was Opinion Poll who crossed the wire first, but it was so close that Lost In The Moment trainer Saeed bin Suroor thought his horse had won. As Frankie Dettori was collared by the stewards afterwards for hitting Opinion Poll with excessive frequency, it shows how things could have been different.
"He is an honest horse, who never runs a bad race," Dettori said of his mount. "He has a lot of courage and is a very hard horse to pass."
Opinion Poll, trained by Mahmood Al Zarooni, takes that courage into today's Lonsdale Cup, a Group 2 race over 3,200m that he won 12 months ago.
For Lost In The Moment, defeat has consigned him to the Ebor, Europe's richest handicap, worth Dh1.3m (US$350,000) and run over 800m shorter.
The result can be seen as a metaphor to illustrate the respective seasons of each horse's handler.
Nothing has gone right for bin Suroor since he was crowned champion trainer for the fourth successive year in Dubai in March. His three stable stars - White Moonstone, Saamidd and Poet's Voice - were predicted for success this British turf season, and yet all three have suffered injury.
Abroad, Bank Merger flopped at Saratoga in the Grade 1 Alfred G Vanderbilt Handicap for his American operation 13 days ago and Cavalryman was a bitter disappointment in Germany last weekend. Bin Suroor has had to wait in the shadows while Al Zarooni has set alight the season with Rewilding and Blue Bunting.
Al Zarooni has had more runners and winners than bin Suroor this season, but their strike-rates remain similar with Al Zarooni on 19 per cent to his more experienced rival's 16 per cent. With Poet's Voice due back at the end of the month things are set to get better for bin Suroor, but this afternoon he may well have to congratulate Al Zarooni once again.
"I was very pleased that Opinion Poll won a big race at Goodwood and is in the same condition," Al Zarooni said. "He won the race last year so the course and distance hold no fears for him. I think that he will be there at the finish once again."