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.
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 geegeez.co.uk'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. firstname.lastname@example.org 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!