Monday Mish Mash: Legers, Arcs and the Like…

Encke get first run on Camelot in the St Leger

Encke get first run on Camelot in the St Leger

Crikey. That was an interesting weekend of top level racing. Inconclusive in the main. And perhaps more interesting as a consequence.

We expected to hail the first triple crown winner for 42 years on Saturday afternoon, but that wasn't to be as either pilot or conveyance (or both) were found wanting when push came to shove.

And, in a post which features news of Arc trials, Geegeez syndicate horses (current and future), and free betting systems, let's start with the push and shove of Donny's 3.40 race from two days ago.

The stage was set. Camelot, the undisputed champion of the three year old division - if that isn't damning him with the faintest of praise - pointed his hooves towards the Donny jamstick.

He missed the break by a beat, as if that matters over one mile six and a half furlongs. It didn't matter of course. Young rider, Joseph O'Brien, had Camelot beautifully settled on the inside, and he cruised into the race. Indeed, at the quarter mile pole, he was still on the bridle, with the O'Brien fundament skywards a la Carberry.

Swinging though he was on the bit, there were four horses in front of him and, perhaps crucially, forming an equine wall requiring tactical negotiation. In the brief moment a furlong and a half from home when Camelot saw the parting in that sea of hooves ahead of him, and navigated to clear sailing, Encke quickened.

I've watched the race a handful of times, and Encke clearly quickens. That turn of gear was unmatched by the Triple Crown aspirant, and proved decisive. Camelot, a classy grinder, may have outstayed them in the Derby, but in this tactical contest he was done up by a better ride.

In the furore surrounding the slipped triple crown, little has been said of the exquisite ride Barzalona applied atop Encke. Always in the right place - close enough if good enough, as the adage goes - Barza was already berating his beast with arms and reins afrenzy, while O'Brien went from bridle to whip with nothing in between.

That, to me, is what made the younger jockey (by only two years, note) the villain of the piece. Sure, his horse didn't accelerate as he expected him to. But, come on, when have you seen a horse accelerate in strides to win a Leger? Not for 42 years, I'll venture.

The deficit was three or so lengths when Camelot came off the bridle, with a cudgelling Barzalona rowing away on Encke to accentuate the margin. At the furlong pole, it was two lengths. By the line, it was three-quarters of a length, with a full three back to the third horse.

In my mind, there is little doubt that O'Brien expected to pick up and pass all-comers when he made his move 330 yards from the finish. But he'd left himself little room to manoeuvre, both in his boxed in rail position, and in the remaining race distance when button was pressed.

The thing is, there is no advantage to be gleaned from winning on the line. There's no handicapper to appease, no concern over a rise in rating. In that context, it is impossible for me to feel anything other than rider error cost Camelot and his business-savvy owners here. True, O'Brien Jr. didn't get the breaks when he needed them. But, in such a high profile affair - stud value and 'legendary' (how I hate the misuse of that word, hence the ironic punctuation) status at stake - you don't rely on luck.

Rather, you make sure you have clear daylight. You make sure your horse has time to go through his gears. You come back after the race satisfied, in victory or defeat, that the horse had every chance of claiming his corner of racing history.

The level of debate which has ensued says all that needs saying about whether Camelot was given his chance. I fear, despite the robust defence from the home team, that there will be many a frustrated evening over the coming winter at Ballydoyle and beyond.

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Barely time for a heated conversation about the merits of the St Leger's horses and riders, before we were whisked away to the Parisian suburbs for Arc trials day. The big race itself is in just twenty days time, and most of the French challengers - and some of the Brits and Japanese - were staking an early claim.

The Prix Foy was the first of the trials, and Japan's great hope, Orfevre, was bidding to prove he could do what he does in Kyoto, Tokyo, Hanshin, and Nakayama, on a different continent.

The winner of eight of his last ten starts, Orfevre includes five Group or Grade 1's in that tally. Moreover, in a range plus or minus one furlong of the Arc's twelve furlong trip, he is unbeaten in five races: three G1's and two G2's.

He won the Foy well, beating a very good horse in Meandre. The nature of the win, quickening off a typically slow Gallic race gallop, was impressive. Ally that to his big field top class wins in Japan, and you have a genuine contender for the Arc itself. He is now a general 9/2 shot for the big one, and I think that's at least fair enough.

The next of the trials is historically the most pertinent, the Prix Niel. Again, the tempo was slow, although this time it was more funereal than merely pedestrian. The victor, Saonois, was the horse with the best acceleration, and he showed courage to spear himself through a tight gap when it emerged. He had Secretariat Stakes winner, Bayrir, in behind and that looks like solid enough form. Whether it's Arc-winning form is another question entirely.

As the winner of the Prix du Jockey Club as well, Saonois will be a highly fancied runner come Arc day, and his 10/1 odds may truncate 'twixt now and then. That said, he represents unfashionable connections, and it will be a great story if he can prevail. His turn of foot gives hope; his lack of a top drawer speed figure leaves questions unanswered.

The third and final 'trial' for the Arc - a very harsh description of a race which is a fantastic Group 1 race in its own right - was the Prix Vermeille. Restricted to fillies and mares, it drew a large and classy field this term, and produced an unambiguous winner.

Shareta was that winner, quickening smartly and repelling raiders with panache as well as punch. As with most runners in most of the trials, their trainers have left something to work on between now and Arc day. This lass was second last year in the Arc, behind the likely re-opposer Danedream, and she has an obvious chance of following up three weeks hence.

With the deeper and classier line up in the Vermeille, it may come as no surprise that the race time was much quicker. Indeed, the Vermeille was run 5.2 seconds quicker than the Foy; and a whopping 6.25 seconds quicker than the Niel.

In lengths, that would equate to around sixteen lengths and twenty lengths respectively, if I've done my lengths per second per mile calculations correctly (I probably haven't). In any case, it is always important to remember that a fast time means a horse can run fast; a slow time does not mean a horse can only run slowly. Time will tell, literally, in early October.

Given the paucity of decent three year old colts this year, and absence of three year old fillies, it looks likely that an older horse will bag the Arc this time. If that doesn't seem like a big deal, consider this: only one of the last nine winners, and only three of the last eighteen, were older than three. Which of the older horses might prevail remains the burning question.


Onwards, and from the top of pops weekend racing to the more workaday stuff. But, with workaday comes accessibility. So it is that's own horse, Khajaaly, runs this afternoon at Wolverhampton, for the first time in exactly six months.

Since his last sighting on the track, a last of seven in a seller, he's had an operation on a leg growth which was clearly troubling him that day.

Today's contest is run under optimal conditions - seven furlongs, Class 5, Wolves - and he has a good draw and a jockey who knows both horse and course exceptionally well.

Khajaaly will hopefully travel well into the race, and then we'll see. In truth, after his op, I'm just hoping he enjoys being back on the track. He's a three time winner over track and trip, though, so there is always scope for a soupçon of optimism. 🙂

Class 6 is probably more his bag, but fingers and toes are firmly crossed.

On the matter of our latest syndicate venture, we have reached a near critical mass in terms of syndicate members now, and I am now moving forward with things. That means we'll be looking for a likely type to place in training with Anthony Honeyball, and to race under National Hunt rules.

I have two spaces left, so please do email me asap if you might be interested in joining us. We're looking to mobilise this pronto to take advantage of the impending NH season. is the email address.


And finally today, I almost forgot to mention this. You may well have heard it from elsewhere already. Anyway, if you haven't, a guy called Paul Ruffy is giving away a couple of betting systems.

One of them looks particularly interesting, and Paul is a chap with a very good reputation. I've met him a few times, and he's a very straight up sort of bloke, who has run his WinningRacingTips service for ages: longevity in this market itself being a sign of trustworthiness.

So, it's the usual drill: you swap your email address for the systems, and you have full control over whether you remain subscribed or not. (As with my emails to you, all of Paul's have a link at the bottom where you can opt out if you don't think he's adding value). And, yes, Paul does have something to sell. I've not seen the product, so I can't comment on it, but I can tell you that it will be well researched, knowing Mr Ruffy.

Obviously, there's no obligation to sign up with him or to buy anything, but you might enjoy these two systems. You can get them here.


So that was how I saw the weekend. What were your thoughts on the St Leger? Who do you like for the Arc? Or the 3.30 Wolverhampton? 😉

Leave a comment and let us know!


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21 replies
  1. Patrick
    Patrick says:

    Hi Matt
    Like you I have watched the race several times. When I watched on my phone (annoying some fellow spectators at theCityGround), I thought JOB had blown it. But I think Barzalona deserves a lot of credit for a great ride. I think JOB is inevitably going to be criticised but I thought that Barzalona won it as much as JOB lost it and fair play to him. I thought JOB adopted a similar approach to his run in the Derby and AOB’s comment that he didn’t quicken (while been criticised as defensive) is pretty fair compared to his Derby finish? He’s cruising when Barzalona breaks but doesn’t respond? Very much an amateur critic here but I guess that’s why you ask for comment!

  2. leslie peers-ross
    leslie peers-ross says:

    Hi Matt,Best of luck to Khajaaly today will have a small ew never knows after a set back

  3. PaulR
    PaulR says:

    Hi Matt,
    Thanks for the mention of my new service and free systems.
    You are spot on about Barzalona. Superb ride, I actually thought he waited, knowing he was keeping Camelot boxed in.
    ~And I’m not going to miss the opportunity to blow my own trumpet by saying that I advised Encke e/w at 33/1!
    Good luck with ur ‘orse today!

  4. ianf0ster
    ianf0ster says:

    Hi Matt,
    I have never liked the way JOB rides a hold-up, To me he always seems to make his move with nothing to spare. This time Camelot didn’t respond quickly enough, he might or might not have been good enough if given a better ride. So certainly the best jockey won, although there is some doubt as to whether the best horse on the day won.
    This isn’t my wallet talking because I won more on Encke than I lost on Camelot, I just hate to see an opportunity for a historical triumph wasted.


  5. britwriterinphilly
    britwriterinphilly says:

    Saturday’s St Leger must be testing father-son loyalty in Ballydoyle. We’re all entitled to make mistakes – it’s just that the consequences of some mistakes are much more costly than others.


  6. maneman
    maneman says:

    You’re spot on re: the St. Leger O’Brien lost the race with a poor ride on Camelot. Not to take anything away from Encke but there’s always an enterprising ride and a decent opponent in these top end races. Aidan was diplomatic in his interview regarding there lack of running a pacemaker or two from Ballydoyle.
    This clearly highlights what a special horse Nijinsky was especially in view of the fact he ran far more races and was champion 2 year old as well. No chances taken with his jockey in the accomplished Lester Piggott.
    Anyhow that’s racing and we still have a tremendous great horse of all time in the unbeaten FRANKEL in what has been a wonderful flat season.


  7. It's Chris
    It's Chris says:

    By their own admission in the post race interview, Ballydoyle got it wrong by not employing one, or even two, pacemakers. For a testing distance like that my amateur view would be that that should have been elementary. As for in race tactics, I’m sure they’ll reflect that the sort of last-gasp-and-try-to-win-by-a-nasal-hair approach was made more and more difficult with every stride Camelot took penned in on the rail one from the rear. Maybe one, maybe the other, but not both in the same race.

  8. Chris Worrall
    Chris Worrall says:

    Re: Khajaaly, I’ve decided it’d be rude not to have a small E/W punt at 33/1, but I do fancy Amoure Medici to win the race and I took 5/1 BOG earlier on that one.

  9. Francis
    Francis says:

    I think the result was fair,Encke quickened (the sign of a good horse)and Camelot was well held.
    Joseph does tend to overdue waiting tactics at times,but in this instance I dont think it mattered.
    Camelot had not run since having a gruelling race in The Irish Derby beating Born to Sea who has only shown moderate form. Town moor is a long straight and I think he was running on courage alone in the last furlong or so. This years crop of 3YO are a moderate lot and Camelot in my opinion is nowherre anything more than average Derby winner.

    Good luck Khaajaly,

  10. andyb
    andyb says:

    I am surprised that nobody has commented upon the fact that Camelot had not run since mid-June and correct me if I am wrong, but did not Nijinsky run a number of times between The Derby and The Leger? I wonder if the absence took the edge off his speed?

    • Gary
      Gary says:

      Good point Andy, I do not think Job rode a bad race as Camelot had a good half furlong to pass Encke if he was good enough. Full marks to Barzalona for for a great ride though.

  11. Brian
    Brian says:

    Joseph is an ordinary jockey in an extrordinary job that requires suplime talent and skills that are beyond him. If he was anyone other than Aidan,s son his deficiencies would have been well exposed before now and we would not be having this ridiculous debate about his rather inept ride.Listening to Aidan after the race one sensed a sense of panic in him trying to deflect attention away from Joseph ( mentioning one pacemaker then two etc.) and one felt some sympathy for him realizing his son was not going to be the next Piggott as suggested by some.The gods tend to spread the gifts around and Coolmore need to look outside their closeted confines for a highly competent jockey..Top class racing is ferociously competitive sport and any jockey not up to spec is quickly found out.BPD

  12. Paul Williamson
    Paul Williamson says:

    Hi Matt, Another excellent piece, i think that most people wanted to see history made on Saturday with Camelot but was not to be and also like you i thought M Barzelona gave Encke a good ride, good luck today with Khajaaly. PaulW

  13. pete new
    pete new says:

    Hi Matt, I can’t see that not having one or two pacemakers contributed to Camelot’s
    defeat on Saturday. Surely if a horse is good enough to win the Derby then he should
    have enough speed to win a slow run Leger. As a lot of your members have said we
    have got to put it down to a misjudged ride on Camelot and a very good one on Encke.
    Hope Mrs B. is well and good luck with the other member of your family at Wolverhampton
    later. Pete N

  14. david johnson
    david johnson says:

    hi matt i agree the winner was given a good ride camelot was not good enough on the day

  15. john
    john says:

    The simple fact is that on the day Camelot was not good enough and I think that he had the same chance as Enke who quicked and Camelot couldn’t – simple

  16. huez
    huez says:

    matt any chance of doing a video preview of the champion hurdle like you did a few years ago? it was a most excelent post!!!

    • Matt Bisogno
      Matt Bisogno says:

      Hi Huez

      I’ll have plenty of National Hunt / Cheltenham Festival content nearer the time, and will try to add some video in as well.

      Thanks both for the reminder and for being a geegeez visitor for long enough to remember what was happening a couple of years ago! It’s much appreciated.


      p.s. did you know that 76% of geegeez visits are repeat visits? That’s higher than almost any other site in the UK racing space. 😀

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