Suddenly the Arc is upon us and Charlie Appleby couldn’t have set a more difficult conundrum, writes Tony Stafford. In the blue corner is the Epsom Derby hero Adayar, ridden by stable jockey and championship contender William Buick.
In the red corner the Irish Derby and St Leger winner Hurricane Lane. Both have added Group 1 races since their Derby triumphs, Adayar collecting the King George at Ascot from Mishriff, later conqueror of Sunday’s rival Alenquer and a possibly regressive Love in the Juddmonte International.
In all the appeal of a tussle between the best of Irish females, Love, her better-fancied stable-companion and successor in a triple of Oaks wins, Snowfall, and the early-in-the-week favourite, Tarnawa, the 2021 Arc is as much a feature of two stars we won’t be seeing.
Mishriff, whose race planning you could hardly gripe at, with more than £10 million safely in owner Sheikh A A Faisal’s pocketbook even before the Flat season started in the UK, waits for the Champion Stakes two weeks later, but you have to think he would have been a prime contender had he turned up.
More obviously, given that Tarnawa is as short as she is, the news that St Mark’s Basilica is drawing stumps on his stellar career so misses all of the Arc, Champion Stakes and even the Breeders’ Cup, makes for another unfortunate absentee.
Aidan O’Brien did his job to perfection, winning the Dewhurst last October to make him the champion 2yo in Europe in 2020; then two French Classics, the Poulains and the Jockey Club, to reinforce his appeal to a French breeding industry that is finding its feet on the back of the exploits of St Mark’s Basilica’s sire, Siyouni.
It needed one more win after a breath-taking dismantling of the older globe-trotting pair of Addeybb and a tiring Mishriff in the Eclipse and, when he was unable to go to the Juddmonte, there were those ready to suggest the Mishriff of that day might have beaten him.
So thence to the Irish Champion Stakes and in another small field it was vital he restored the glamour. He edged into a lead in the straight and dealt decisively with another dangerous duo, Tarnawa and multiple Group 1 winner and new Iron Horse, Poetic Flare.
The Irish race did not result in any rise in his official mark of 127, established after the Eclipse, and in the meantime that figure was afforded Adayar by dint of his comfortable defeat of key horse Mishriff (who was conceding 11lb weight-for-age, let us not forget) and a Love fresh from her fifth Group 1 win in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at the Royal meeting.
Adayar was the nominal third string for the Derby, not that you would have known it as his odds tumbled from 40/1 to 16/1 in the closing moments leading up to the race. His near five-length demolition of Mojo Star, with best-fancied Appleby runner Hurricane Lane only third, had Buick wondering how he could have got it so wrong.
Since then the 30-year-old has ridden both colts to four more Group 1 triumphs. Adayar at Ascot did enough to convince Buick he should renew the partnership next weekend even though Hurricane Lane had won the Irish Derby, Grand Prix de Paris and St Leger, the last two in imperious wide-margin style since Epsom.
Mojo Star also had to be content with another second place for Richard Hannon and free-spending football agent Kia Joorabchian in the St Leger. Their colt is 66-1 and, with the horse’s penchant for running on well and the stamina shown at Doncaster, he might be the one to pick up the pieces and nick a place in the extra place markets.
Mishriff is undoubtedly the horse that ties in with most of the big horses in this fabulous contest and another who can be gauged with him is the better of the two Japanese entries as far as world form is concerned, Oisin Murphy’s mount, Chrono Genesis.
With career earnings well past £7 million she is almost in the Mishriff class for prize money and she ran a brilliant race when only a neck adrift of Mishriff in the Sheema Classic at Meydan in late February. That followed an easy win at home with a £2 million prize having got to within three quarters of a length of her country’s even more illustrious mare and great champion, Almond Eye.
Chrono Genesis’ only run since Meydan was in a Group 1 race at Hanshin in midsummer when an easy victory was her sixth in 13 career starts. Oisin has a great record riding Japanese horses and it is worth reminding punters that betting on horses from that country on the Pari-Mutuel on the day would be rather foolish if value is your credo.
One big factor in her favour is that her sire, Bago, won the race as a three-year-old for French-based English trainer Jonathan Pease. She is joined in a double Japanese challenge by recent course winner Deep Bond who saw off Broome on Trials Day by a couple of lengths. He is another possible place contender.
I’ve thought Snowfall would win the Arc, seeing as she has all the allowances, ever since her Epsom cakewalk and it would be to her advantage if the rains came. Her latest unexpected reverse has been treated as an irrelevance by the market but dangerously so. It is hard to see why Roger Varian’s filly, Teona, should be four times the price of her Longchamp victim and her trainer has always had a high regard of her talent.
It is no foregone conclusion that either will match Tarnawa after her excellent run over a shorter trip than ideal last time, splitting the winners of a hatful of 2021 Group 1's. Dermot Weld would love another step back into the big time, but I stay with Snowfall and Ryan Moore and take Adayar and Chrono Genesis to fill the places.
Until last weekend the name Westerberg alongside Coolmore runners has not made for a particularly happy association but within ten minutes on Saturday they clicked twice and the winning pair are respectively 8/1 for the 1,000 Guineas and favourite for the Derby.
Throughout the tenure of John Magnier at Coolmore/ Ballydoyle, initially as a 23-year-old with father-in-law Vincent O’Brien on the back of Robert Sangster’s Vernons pools fortune, through the Tabor/Smith heyday in the first two decades of this century and onward, the need is always for new blood and above all new funding to cope with opposition that owns countries, have fortunes within the bottomless pit of cash of the Saudi Royal family, or is a religious leader backed by wealthy adherents.
The Westerberg name disguises the identity of Opel Cars heir Georg Von Opel but until Saturday his appellation on several of the more expensive sales acquisitions of the past two years has been almost a jinx. One source close to the Coolmore action told me the other day: “I feel sorry for George, he’s such a lovely man, but he never seems to get any luck.”
Whether it was out of superstition or business commitments, Herr Von Opel was not at Newmarket on Saturday and missed an explosive last-to-first performance in his maroon and light blue livery (imagine West ham or Aston Villa) by Tenebrism, on her first start since March.
Her win that day six months ago at Naas had been similarly emphatic, prompting favourite quotes for the Queen Mary at Ascot, however she injured her pelvis struggling through the mud. Aidan worried he had not done enough with her to challenge for the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes first time back, but she answered most emphatically drawing away late in a romp.
A daughter of the already repatriated Caravaggio, to Ashford Stud, she carries all the Scat Daddy speed and with Pivotal on the dam’s side, she will be an interesting contender next year.
Just ten minutes later, George’s, or Westerberg’s, colours were to the fore again atop the similarly once-raced Luxembourg, and with even more significance with the 2022 Classics in mind. Started off at Killarney in a midsummer maiden O’Brien often targets with his potential Derby horses, the trainer sent the son of Camelot to the Curragh’s Beresford Stakes and won that Group 2 in a hack canter.
That made it 11 victories in succession in the race and a 21st in all for O’Brien and, given that history, why even 8-13 was available is a mystery. Luxembourg is free of Galileo blood, being by a son of Montjeu out of a mare by Danehill Dancer – entirely Coolmore breeding and ideal as an outcross for all those Galileo mares that will continue to come on stream for a few years yet. How Georg, not to mention John, Michael and Derrick, would love him to put another notch on the Derby Roll of Honour for the team next year.