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Monday Musings: £23k per second

What, if anything, are your memories of Royal Ascot 2006? A slightly incongruous question seeing that it’s almost ten and a half years ago, but a few elements of the fixture are indelibly stamped on the admittedly-failing memory, writes Tony Stafford.

The first concerns Royal Hunt Cup day, the Wednesday, when the race winners included Soviet Song (in the recently instituted Windsor Forest Stakes), Ouija Board (Prince of Wales), and Red Evie, thrillingly with a late trademark run under Jamie Spencer in the Sandringham Handicap.

That was her fifth of seven successive victories for owner Terry Neill and the Michael Bell stable and a winning bet for your correspondent. Two days later, arriving early, I sat for some time with the late George Ward, getting around eventually to breeding. I suggested he should try to book any suitable mares as soon as possible for the following year to Derby winner Galileo as I was sure Coolmore would be putting up his covering fee.

George said that the in my mind bargain figure was still way beyond his reach for the type of mares he owned. After I finished my drink and left, I moved along the second floor of the main stand to Coolmore’s box. I knocked at the door and asked the attendant whether I could have a quick word with John Magnier.

I was told he was speaking to his daughter so could I wait a moment, and then was ushered in, through a packed throng of people just finishing lunch. I can picture exactly where we exchanged the few words, which after introductions were to the effect: “Hello John, I’m not sure you realise what you’ve got with Galileo. He has eight runners, all three-year-olds, on this card today, from his first crop. That must be almost a mathematical impossibility.” He probably did, but I felt I had to mention it.

None of the eight managed to win that day, although Red Rocks and Sixties Icon, second and third in the King Edward VII Stakes for Brian Meehan and Jeremy Noseda, and The Last Drop, 17th of 19 in the King George V Handicap, were to fill the first three places in the St Leger three months later, Sixties Icon turning the form around at York – Doncaster was closed that year.

Red Rocks, third at York, went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Turf that autumn. In all there were five sons of Galileo in that St Leger along with two more by his sire Sadler’s Wells, two by Montjeu and one each by Desert Prince and Lomitas. Of the eight, only one was in the care of O’Brien, but that soon changed, as did the stud fee, quadrupled from the €37,500 in 2006 to €150,000 the following year. The 2006 St Leger 1-2-3 obviously helped, but the dramatic acceleration was made inevitable by the subsequent unbeaten juvenile season of second-crop colt Teofilo who did not make his debut until the following month.

Returning to Red Evie, after a couple more wins the following year, she was offered at the December Sale, but was led out unsold at a million guineas. Coolmore later acquired her privately and whatever figure Terry Neill eventually secured, it was clearly a fair profit on the 58,000gns he paid for her as a yearling to Timmy Hyde’s Camas Park Stud. Since then Red Evie has been routinely covered by Galileo and her third produce turned out to be Found, long regarded by Ryan Moore as a potential champion.

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Yesterday at Chantilly, Found confirmed that status with an emphatic triumph as she led home an extraordinary 1-2-3 for O’Brien and Galileo four-year-olds with fellow multiple Group 1 winners Highland Reel and Order of St George filling the places. Major owners often take plenty of criticism for their policy of prematurely packing star three-year-olds off to stud, but this trio and other predecessors like St Nicholas Abbey show this operation is much more selective.

When, as with The Gurkha this year, injury interrupts a stellar career, stud is the only option, but the riches available in the major international races mean more and more top animals will be staying in training at four and above. Multiple entries in big races is nothing new for O’Brien or the sire, but for once Galileo had fewer challengers for Europe’s showpiece than Dubawi, his great but now well-held rival, who was responsible for four.

I’ve been unsuccessful in my admittedly sparing attempts to find track records for Chantilly, but Found’s time of just inside 2min 24 sec seems fast as it’s a shade under 12 seconds per furlong. The Juliet Rose won the previous day’s Group 2 for Nicolas Clement in seven seconds more!
Earlier in the summer I pointed out here that Aidan O’Brien’s British exploits in the week between the King George (Highland Reel) and Goodwood’s Nassau Stakes (Minding) brought more prizemoney than any English trainer had earned for his patrons in the entire year.

Yesterday, the O’Brien Trifecta brought a total of £3.36m, again more than any English trainer has so far earned in the UK, none having yet broken the £3m barrier. For the Coolmore partners, this was representing a prizemoney return of more than £23,000 per second for the 2min23.61sec (more than five seconds faster than the Racing Post standard time).

O’Brien now has 18 Group or Grade 1 wins worldwide, with nine in the UK, three in France, five in Ireland and Deauville’s Belmont Derby win in the US. More seem certain to follow, starting possibly with Churchill in the Dewhurst next weekend; several obvious chances on Champions Day and the guarantee of a major challenge at the Breeders’ Cup in Santa Anita next month.

At the moment it’s at least £15million and counting and yet the trainer consistently attaches most of the credit to everyone at Ballydoyle and Coolmore, not least: “The owners, who send me such lovely horses to train.”

Only four of the seven other trainers who supplied Galileo colts (and one filly) that 2006 Royal Ascot day are still active, but I’m sure Messrs Meehan, Noseda, Channon and Weld must be wishing that Coolmore did not have quite such a stranglehold on the best of them.

I missed Newmarket on Saturday where Alice Springs (Galileo) made yet another step up the O’Brien in-house ratings with a fluent success in the Sun Chariot Stakes, instead favouring Ascot, where the highlight was Shalaa’s successful comeback after being off since winning last year’s Middle Park Stakes.

He’ll be back for the big sprint on Champions Day where John Gosden is equipped to clinch second place in the trainers’ title. We’ll be back there too for the Balmoral Handicap with Ray Tooth’s homebred, Dutch Law, despite his slightly disappointing close-up 11th in Saturday’s Totesport-sponsored handicap after looking a real contender two out.

Yesterday, Hughie Morrison reckoned: “Charlie <Bennett> got a little excited, but he’ll have to be more patient over a mile. Dutch Law looked great this morning and I’d love to run him. When do you get the chance to run for a share of £250,000?” In the case of Aidan and the team, Hughie, pretty much every day of the week. By the way, if Morrison’s Sweet Selection gets in the Cesarewitch on Saturday, I reckon she’s a handicap certainty.

New Bay Looks Value in Open Arc

The Arc is finally upon us and an epic weekend of championship racing awaits, writes Nigel Howard. This year’s event, and next year's too, will be held for the first time at the picturesque Hippodrome de Chantilly whilst Longchamp undergoes its 30-million-euro facelift.

Sixteen go to post for the 95th running of the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe on Sunday, the greatest flat race of the season for middle-distance performers from around the globe.

POSTPONED has dominated the ante-post market for the race from the moment he stormed to victory in the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic back in March. He has since continued his winning ways with a very impressive victory in the Coronation Cup at Epsom on Derby Day, beating FOUND by five lengths, and then ran out a comfortable winner of the Juddmonte International at York in August.

That was possibly an even better performance given that he was coming back from a long layoff and he was running over an inadequate trip. Sakhee and Sea The Stars are the only horses to have completed the Juddmonte/Arc double so it could be argued that this is not the ideal route to Arc glory but the son of Dubawi has hardly put a hoof wrong all season and is the worthy favourite

With so much ammunition at his disposal, Aidan O’Brien has finally whittled down this year’s assault on Europe’s finest race to just three and they are headed by Breeders Cup Turf winner FOUND. She was obviously not at her best when thrashed by POSTPONED at Epsom in June and encountered softer ground than ideal when second to My Dream Boat in the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Ascot.

After a break she ran a fine race in the Yorkshire Oaks before producing her best form this term when finishing second behind French Derby winner Almanzor in the hottest race of the year so far, the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.

That surely represents the best form on offer here, from arguably the best recent trial race, and the daughter of Galileo comes into the Arc at the top of her game. Her 2015 Keeneland victory over last year's Arc winner, Golden Horn, proves she can win over the classic trip and with stable jockey Ryan Moore in the irons she has to be in with a great chance.

The Coolmore trio is completed by Gold Cup winner ORDER OF ST GEORGE and King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes hero HIGHLAND REEL.

Westerner was the last Gold Cup winner to attempt the double when he put in an inspired effort behind Hurricane Run back in 2005 to finish second. That was a major surprise however and the feeling is that ORDER OF ST GEORGE will do well to emulate his illustrious counterpart, although he is sure to be a popular choice with punters since Frankie Dettori has been booked to ride.

Equally, HIGHLAND REEL won his Ascot showpiece in fine fashion but the form of that race has not worked out and his recent run down the field in the Irish Champion Stakes does nothing to suggest he's capable of repelling all, even though he will probably have a front-running first mover tactical advantage in this big field.

Staying with the Irish contingent, HARZAND tasted defeat for only the second time in his career when he also disappointed behind Almanzor in the Irish Champion Stakes. However, the son of Sea The Stars had legitimate excuses as he was found to be sore after the race. So, while that outing can be logically ignored, the likelihood of fast ground is a major question mark about his ability to produce a peak showing.

Harzand's handler, Dermot Weld, reports him to be training well and the super tough dual-Derby winner should go close if he is over his ailment and if rains sweeps through north of Paris. The return to the classic trip is expected to be in his favour.

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Andre Fabre has trained seven winners of this great race, the last of them being the Khalid Abdullah-owned Rail Link who famously beat Japanese wonder horse, Deep Impact, in 2006. His representative this year is NEW BAY, who finished an excellent third in last year's Arc behind Golden Horn and stable companion Flintshire.

After a disappointing seasonal reappearance behind A Shin Hikari in the Prix d’Ispahan, the Dubawi colt returned to action after a long layoff to win a Group 3 event at Deauville in August. He was then a promising fourth in that potential kingmaker race, the Irish Champion Stakes.

Prince Abdullah's racing manager, Teddy Grimthorpe, stated "We were very pleased with New Bay and it was really his first proper race of the year. He has come out of it really well, he looks great and has been training really well”.

Fabre’s stable was under a bit of a cloud over the summer but his horses are now showing renewed zest and that run in Ireland was by far NEW BAY’s best effort this season. He is a lively contender.

For many, Arc Trials day did little to clarify the big race picture. The main attraction of the meeting was the reappearance of Japanese Derby winner MAKAHIKI in the Group 3 Prix Niel. In the event, he failed to impress with a narrow victory over Midterm, who was returning from a back injury, and Doha Dream, a recent listed race winner.

His pilot, top French jockey Christophe-Patrice Lemaire, was upbeat after the race, insisting that son of Deep Impact needed the run and that he never does more than he has to in a race. However, it is perhaps a sign that neither of the horses he beat is considered good enough by connections to make the big race line-up and although MAKAHIKI is respected, his current odds of 6-1 look on the low side, even allowing for the likely depression in PMU odds by swathes of adoring Japanese fans at Chantilly.

SILVERWAVE deserves his place in the race after a solid performance in the Prix Foy. His trainer, Pascal Bary, has yet to lift this coveted prize but came very close when Sulamani just failed to catch Marienbard in 2002. The trainer has been quite bullish about his charge and clearly rates his chances, stating, “SILVERWAVE is your typical Arc horse; he stays the distance, he travels well and he has class”. Christophe Soumillon has been booked to do the steering and he could spring a surprise.

The last filly to complete the Prix Vermeille/Arc double in their classic year was superstar Treve three years ago. This year, that challenge has been given to LEFT HAND after her assured win in the Vermeille, where she beat Godolphin’s mare, Endless Time.

The daughter of Dubawi was no match for La Cressonnière when beaten into second in the Prix de Diane back in June. However, her handler, Carlos Laffon-Parias, is convinced that she has improved considerably since then and with the very favourable weight allowance she receives over older horses, she has a sporting chance.

Danedream won this race for Germany back in 2011 and their representative, SAVOIR VIVRE, gets a mention after he ran with real credit in France last time to take the Grand Prix de Deauville, beating SILJAN’S SAGA. That was only his fifth career start after finishing second on his previous run in the German Derby. Owner Baron von Ullman has had some classy animals in his time with the likes of Shirocco, Manduro and top sire, Monsun. He would prefer softer ground but the fact that connections are running catches the eye.

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It is great that POSTPONED has finally made it to the big day after missing out last year and having carried the burden of being ante-post favourite for this race all season. FOUND is clearly back to her very best as her performance in Ireland proved and her current price of 7-1 looks generous.

However, I believe NEW BAY (12-1) represents the best value in the race and he has an outstanding each way chance. His masterful trainer looks to have timed things to perfection and the return to twelve furlongs looks certain to suit last year’s French Derby winner and Arc third.

With POSTPONED such a short priced favourite, there is plenty more each-way value to be had. Top of that list could be LEFT HAND (16-1), SILVERWAVE (20-1) or SAVOIR VIVRE at a whopping 33’s.

Bonne Chance!

Nigel Howard

 

A Great Time to be a Racing Fan…

October is a great month. Quite apart from it being my birth month (ahem), it is more materially the twelfth in which we are served three courses of global gourmet galloping.

We start in Paris this weekend for Treve's date with destiny: can she become the first horse ever to win the Arc three times? Bookmakers think so, most of them making her more probable than possible, and none of them regarding her as worse than a coin toss (even money) to make history.

Arc weekend - which includes the small matter of six other Group 1's on the Sunday, even excluding the Arabian World Cup (well, it is sponsored by those deep Qatari pockets, and they do love their Arabian racing, for what will be obvious reasons) - is a kingmaker as well as a potential queenmaker meeting.

Gleneagles cemented his position as winter favourite for the 2000 Guineas with a win in last year's Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, albeit that he was disqualified for the sort of minor offence that would not have resulted in an amended outcome here or in Ireland. Ballydoyle's much missed miler ran out a ready winner of the first Classic, and followed up in the Irish version, but sadly has been unsighted since.

At this stage, I've not seen the entries for the juvenile races, but we can be fairly sure that Aidan O'Brien's name will be amongst them.

The races for older horses - Abbaye (2yo's do occasionally run in this), Cadran, Opera, Foret, and the Arc - will be replete with away team raiders. The traditional Sunday curtain raiser, the Abbaye, is a contender for global Group 1 with the worst finishing line camera angle. More pertinently, it has been something of a Gallic gift to the visitors, with just three domestic winners this century.

Mecca's Angel is a deserved favourite, but she wouldn't want the turf too quick, and has eased out a tad in the betting with the forecast hinting at good ground or possibly even a smidge quicker. A quick five is bang on for Muthmir, and Willie Haggas's charge is one from one on his French sorties. The 11/1 with racebets (10/1 general) appeals, as does the 25/1 bet365, BetVictor about Goldream. Like Muthmir, a quick five is optimal and he's already claimed G1 glory under those conditions, winning the King's Stand at Royal Ascot this term.

If that is les rosbifs' best race historically, the palmarès of the other Sunday Group 1's is peppered and pocked with sniper strikes from Team GB and Ireland. However, the Prix de l'Opera - a ten furlong race for the girls - has been a happy hunting ground for l'equipe de France in recent years. Thus, Jim Bolger's versatile Pleascach, winner of the Irish 1000 Guineas over a mile and the Yorkshire Oaks over a mile and a half, may be best of the Jenny Foreigners, but the UK books surely have it wrong offering as high as 10/1 (10bet) about Avenir Certain.

This filly won the Prix de Diane last year, a year after Treve, in similarly authoritative fashion, and ten furlongs on top of the ground looks ideal. She'll be cherry ripe for this, and it's quite hard to see her out of the frame.

The Foret has been better for Blighty (and Ireland) with three of the last four eluding local clutches, though the two super-smart fillies, Goldikova and Moonlight Cloud, were the pick of the last quintet of winners - both trained in France. If there's to be a third French filly since 2010 to win this, it will almost certainly be Esoterique. Already a G1 winner this season, against the boys in the Prix Jacques le Marois, she's backed that up with second to Solow in the Queen Anne and the same placing behind Muhaarar in the Prix Maurice de Gheest.

Those two silvers behind multiple Group 1 winners this season mark her out as the best in the field, and the close second in the Maurice de Gheest over six and a half furlongs dispels most concerns about the trip being on the short side. If she runs - and she's not certain to, with a supplementary entry for the softer Sun Chariot at Newmarket on the same day, also G1, having been made - she'll be very hard to beat.

If she doesn't, it's up for grabs, Limato being a legitimate-looking but far from value proposition as market leader around 2/1.

The Prix du Cadran, run over two and a half miles, is a proper old favourites' race, James Fanshawe's High Jinx joining Kasbah Bliss and Sergeant Cecil on the recent role d'honneur last year. Plenty of overseas interest again, as Alex My Boy, formerly trained by Mark Johnston and now tutored in the Teutons, heads the embryonic market. He's done well but this represents a stiffer test, and a half mile longer one too.

If Manatee runs, he'll be stepping up a full mile on anything he's raced over previously so, while dismissing a runner from M. Fabre's ecurie is une grande folie, a top price of 5/1 gets the ready swerve.

Bathyrhon looks a likely runner, and his talented trainer, Pia Brandt, watched her lad beaten only two lengths in the Ascot Gold Cup over this range. On his home circuit, and with proven trip form, this late maturing type is attractively priced at 8/1 with the ground in his favour too. Obviously, you can completely ignore his prep run in the Foy (mile and a half, soft) where he would surely have been doing no more than blowing out the cobwebs after two months off.

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I'd expect the two French nominees above - Avenir Certain and Bathyrhon - to be no bigger than half their current British odds on the Parisian 'nanny', and though I won't be getting overly excited from a wagering outlay perspective, they're two I'm keen to side with. The Abbaye is wide open as ever, and a poor race for me personally, so it'll be a couple of beans - no more - win and place on those I've mentioned.

But what of the Arc? Well, we'll save that for later in the week, shall we?

[Post Script: it's now later in the week, so here's the 2015 ARC PREVIEW]

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If Arc weekend is a sumptuous hors d'oeuvre, one must refrain from metaphorically gorging oneself on the main course of Champions Day, for there remains a syrupy yet surprisingly satisfying dessert to be ladled up at the end of the month. It goes by the name of the Breeders' Cup, and this year it will be served at Keeneland for the very first time.

As with Paris and Ascot, I will be lucky enough to be there - all other things being equal - and I'll have plenty more on both those later events nearer the time.

And, as if that wasn't enough, we also anticipate the tempting prospect of an amuse bouche, courtesy of  The Geegeez Geegee, at some point in the proceedings. Our lad has been training well, and he's entered in two races towards the end of the week. As things stand, it looks like the fine weather will scupper us on both starts, but we (me and the other syndicate owners) hope he'll prove to be better than his current rating of 110.

He was certainly unlucky in both of his last two starts. His penultimate run saw him arrive at the last flight going much the best, only to run out through the wing of that notoriously orphaned hurdle - bereft of rail either side and sitting like an island in the centre of the track - at Worcester. No matter, for we'd entered him just a few days later at Southwell. Again, he looked seriously unlucky, flying home for a clear second having been shuffled back to last of twelve in a packing field on the home turn. We have our fingers crossed for his eagerly-awaited return.

Lower down the ability spectrum, Nonagon is another for whom the dry weather is no use whatsoever. His only two poor turf handicap runs came on good to firm - even then he was beaten only around five lengths - and he is a late developer who looks well handicapped. He's not going to shoot through the ratings but can definitely win, and hopefully some time soon.

Our (the geegeez syndicates', that is) most recent acquisition, East Wing, has been pleasing his trainer in his early motions. He's being brought steadily through the learning process, and could be ready to race around the turn of the year. He's a strapping lad - big for a four-year-old - and we're excited to see what he can do in due course.

Fingers crossed they all stay healthy.

I'm half tempted to acquire another horse at the October horses in training sales with a view to syndicating. Not sure if there's enough interest to do that, in truth, but I'll certainly take a look at the catalogue... 😉

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Finally today, if you're a free subscriber to Geegeez, I hope you're already taking a good look at our Race of the Day. Highlighted in yellow when you're logged in (free users only), it's one race a day where we showcase all of our premium Gold racecard tools - Instant Expert, Pace Analysis, form indicators, speed ratings, head-to-head records, form and breeding comments.

And, as of now, we're offering you more races of the day. Approximately one race per meeting - though not necessarily spread evenly across the day's meetings - will show up in yellow on the racecards page, in both the compact and full views. (The races are not highlighted on the home page grid at this stage, but we'll have them there too soon).

MORE Races of the Day. You're welcome :-)

MORE Races of the Day. You're welcome 🙂

Nothing else to say except I hope you enjoy the extra content, and I hope it demonstrates to you a) that we welcome all levels of racing fan at geegeez.co.uk, and b) that the Gold content is really rather good. 😀

If you've yet to register on the website, you can do so here.

I'll be back on Thursday with a few thoughts on the Arc. Spoiler alert: my heart is with Treve, my wallet is not.

Matt

Chantilly to stage 2016 Arc as ‘new’ Longchamp gets “thumbs up”

Longchamp's grandstand comes down after Arc 2015

Grandstand comes down after Arc 2015

As the curtain falls on Deauville’s August meeting, France Galop, the governing body of French racing, announced this week that the development of the ‘new’ Longchamp had been given the go-ahead, writes Nigel Howard.

At a cost of 131 million euros, demolition of the existing stands will start soon after this year’s Arc meeting. The project has been in the pipeline for four years and the decision is undoubtedly a welcome shot in the arm for French racing.

Located on a 55-hectare site in the Bois de Boulogne, the racecourse was built in 1857 and has undergone several phases of development and expansion over the years. The result is a variety of buildings from very different architectural periods, some of which remain closed all year round.

The ‘new’ Longchamp, designed by Dominique Perrault, architect of the famous Bibliotheque Francois Mitterrand, is expected to take two years to complete. Bertrand Bélinguier, president of France Galop explains, "Today, there are two enormous grandstands that are only ever filled for the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. The idea is to build one large modular platform that will provide much more flexibility for the future”.

There is little doubt that French racing needs a modern venue from which to showcase its premier event. Ascot took the plunge 11 years ago to great effect and it’s quite clearly time for Longchamp to follow suit. The new plans include the option of a flood-lit all-weather track which would rival the major trotting venue on the other side of Paris at Vincennes where evening meetings have been staged with success for many years.

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However, all these heady plans come at a cost. As part of the ‘deal,’ one of Paris’s other racing venues has to shut. A working committee is in place to decide which racecourse will eventually close with the spotlight firmly on either Maison-Laffitte, a town twinned with Newmarket and a major racehorse training centre or Saint-Cloud, situated just up the road from Longchamp and home to the Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud won famously this year by the mighty Trêve.

Losing either course would be a huge blow with each venue steeped in racing history and both of huge importance to their respective towns. As a result, there is likely to be strong opposition to either closure. Previous rumours sparked major protests by racing employees and professionals alike at Maison-Laffitte last year with the result that whole meetings were lost.  Further unrest is expected when the committee eventually announces where the axe will fall.

With Longchamp closed for the 2016 season, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is to be moved to Chantilly, a racecourse that itself was under review a few years ago but which was revitalised with a huge investment from the Aga Khan whose French training establishment is just a stone’s throw away at Gouvieux. It now boasts a new grandstand and all-weather track and is home to the Prix du Jockey Club and Prix de Diane. Although the Prix de Diane attracts some 30,000 spectators, it will be interesting to see how the venue will be adapted to accommodate crowds of 60,000 plus for Europe’s premier race.

One track that is under no threat of closure is Deauville, where the thriving August-long racing festival draws to a close on Sunday with the feature race being the aptly named Grand Prix de Deauville, an event run over 2500 metres (1m5f). It is loosely considered an Arc trial and one which has produced some serious contenders in the past, most recently when the Andre Fabre trained Cherry Mix prevailed in 2004, who then ran second to Bago in the Arc of that year.

Seven go to post for this year’s renewal including last year’s winner COCKTAIL QUEEN. A daughter of Motivator and trained by Myriam Bollack-Badel, the mare carries the same the colours as shock Juddmonte International winner, Arabian Queen. She ran with some credit when second in the Group 2 Prix de Pomone at this track recently. With her favoured soft ground assured, she is fancied to run a big race. Three year old’s have a good record in the race and indeed of great interest is the participation of St Leger and Arc entry, SUMBAL. Owned by Qatar Racing Limited and trained by François Henri Graffard, this son of Danehill Dancer was last seen running fifth in the Prix de Jockey Club back in June. He has already shown he can handle the conditions when taking a Group 3 event at Saint-Cloud earlier in the year. Retained jockey Andrea Atzeni rides and a strong showing from him tomorrow could bring him into reckoning for the Arc.

With the festival ending tomorrow, it is surely time to reflect on what was once again a hugely successful meeting. Five group one events have passed and much to the annoyance of the French, four went to English trained horses. Only the mare Esoterique, trained by Andre Fabre, flew the French flag when striding to victory in the main event, the Prix Jacque Le Marois. She has thrived this summer and must be a strong fancy for the Prix de Moulin de Longchamp run on Arc Trials weekend.

Other highlights would include an assured victory for Prix de Jockey Club winner New Bay, who, above all else, proved that he can handle soft ground when winning the group 2 Prix Guillaume d'Ornano. His Arc participation would now seem assured whereas others, such as Golden Horn, may well be forced to side-step the race in the event of soft ground. One for the notebook would be the Wildenstein Stable-owned three year old, Ming Dynasty. A son of King’s Best, he kept his unbeaten record intact when running on strongly to defeat the highly regarded Migwar, trained by Freddie Head in the Listed Grand Prix de Clairefontaine recently. When interviewed after the race, Mikel Delzangle, his trainer, could hardly contain his delight at the performance and declared the Group 2 Prix Niel run at Longchamp as his next target before a possible crack at the Arc.

Fabre hopeful of success in Grand Prix de Paris on Bastille Day.

The Brilliant Rail Link

The Brilliant Rail Link

Today is Bastille Day in France, an event that coincides with the running of the Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp. This Group 1 race is for three-year-old colts and fillies and is run over a mile and four furlongs.

Established in 1863 it was arguably the most prestigious race in France prior to the birth of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in 1920. It remains an event with a rich history and has been won by many outstanding horses over the years.

It will come as no surprise to learn that Andre Fabre is by far the most successful trainer with 13 victories. His dominance was at its peak in the 1990’s with seven wins in the decade that gave us the likes of Subotica and Peintre Celebre. Both went on to win the Arc though Subotica took it as a four-year-old having missed the race a year earlier due to illness.

Peintre Celebre was sensational in 1997. He took the French Derby and the Grand Prix de Paris, before storming to a five length victory in the Arc. He smashed the track record that day and was named European Horse of the Year. Sadly injury forced his retirement when set to return to the track as a four-year-old.

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Fabre also has a terrific recent record in the race, having lifted the prize on five occasions since 2006. Rail Link was successful that year and proved to be another sensational colt. He took the Prix Niel before victory in a thrilling Arc. His success in France’s greatest contest was all the more stunning when taking into account the standard of opposition. Pride, Deep Impact, Shirocco and Hurricane Run were all vanquished in that 85th renewal.

Fabre has saddled Flintshire and Gallante to take the last two renewals, and today sends Ampere in to battle. Likely to go off favourite, the son of Galileo was last seen getting the better of Aidan O’Brien’s Cape Clear Island at Longchamp in May. Still very experienced, he clearly carries plenty of stable confidence to be aimed at this.

Markets suggest that his main challenge will come from the UK, with Royal Ascot winner Balios and Irish Derby runner-up Storm The Stars travelling to Paris for the contest. The latter was also third in the Epsom Derby and one of the most interested onlookers today is sure to be John Gosden. He has two of the leading contenders for this autumn’s Arc in Golden Horn and Jack Hobbs, and will be weighing up the potential challengers.

The David Simcock trained Balios defeated Mr Singh at Ascot in June and that form was franked at Newmarket’s July meeting when Gosden’s colt won the Bahrain Trophy. Clearly this looks a far tougher task, though Simcock’s fella has every right to improve further having only had three career starts to date.

Aidan O’Brien has won the ‘Grand Prix’ with Scorpion and Imperial Monarch in recent years. He saddles the likely outsider in the field of six with his lightly raced colt Archangel Raphael. He arrives at Longchamp off the back of a win in a low grade three runner event at Fairyhouse. This is akin to beating Scunthorpe 2-1 and then taking on Barcelona in the Camp Nou. However, this is Ballydoyle we are speaking of, and the horse is certainly bred for the task. This son of Montjeu out of an Oasis Dream mare is very much the unknown package of the race.

The chance of another Rail Link or Peintre Celebre emerging from today’s showpiece is probably on the slim side. But it is an event with a rich history, and the winner will add their name to a stunning roll of honour. Andre Fabre will be hopeful that he again has the talent on hand to take the prestigious prize.

Where should Telescope run?

telescope3There’s little doubt that Telescope’s victory in the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York last week proved that his trainer, Sir Michael Stoute, is right in his judgement that Telescope is a very good horse. But is he top quality, by which I mean can he compete effectively at Group 1 level?

Remember, this is the horse that was the Derby favourite throughout last winter, before injury ruled him out of the Dante Stakes and a poor racecourse gallop at Lingfield demonstrated that he had not recovered sufficiently to take his place at Epsom.

No sooner had he won at York than he was installed as favourite for the St Leger, even though he was not entered for the final Classic of the season next month. True, he was offered “with a run”, and anyone who took up that option must be glad that they did this morning. Harry Herbert, racing manager for owners Highclere Thoroughbred Racing had said before last week’s run that, “All roads really lead to next year with this horse.”

He hadn’t changed his view yesterday, when he said, “I wouldn’t be at all convinced about him staying a mile and six at Doncaster, and my gut feeling is that the Leger is unlikely. It isn’t black and white and I don’t want to second guess what a genius like Sir Michael, but what I say to people is don’t back him for the St Leger unless it’s with a run, because Sir Michael may want to go a completely different route with next season in mind.”

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That might lead you to think that having got Telescope fit and winning at Group level, Stoute might cool things and save him for next year but not a bit of it. Herbert was asked about the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. He replied, “I wouldn’t rule that out at all. It’s a big difference - a mile and a half to a mile six. If you get it wrong in the Leger you can really bottom out your horse. That really is the worry.”

As for next season, he was bullish about the campaign Telescope would be aimed at. He said, “He’s an exciting prospect and hopefully he can go to wear in the races we dream about having runners in, like the King George. I’m also sure there will be opportunities to bring him back in trip as well. You can’t right him off at a mile and a quarter off the back of one bad run.”

That bad run was in the Haydock’s Rose of Lancaster Stakes a fortnight ago, where he was a beaten odds on favourite. If the Leger and Arc are both ruled out then there’s a strong possibility that Telescope could be back to ten furlongs, as he has entries in both the Red Mills Irish Champion Stakes and the QIPCO Champion Stakes, both run over that distance.

It seems to me that there’s still some uncertainty in Stoute’s mind as to what the right distance is for Telescope. That’s perhaps come about because he didn’t have the early season races that had been mapped out for him, and so connections are still learning about him.

Cane Geegeez help them out? Do you think Telescope should be aimed at the St Leger or the Arc? Or do you think he’s versatile enough to win at ten furlongs? Perhaps you don’t think he’s up to Group 1 standard at all. Do tell us.

Camelot yet to prove O’Brien claim that he’s the best

The renewal of a partnership in yesterday’s Arc that had rarely worked together for the past five years prompted speculation in some quarters that it could become a regular sight during next year’s flat season. Frankie Dettori rode Camelot for the Aiden O’Brien/Coolmore team, a move which could further undermine his position as a key employee of rivals Godolphin. Read more

Trainer Stats: 3rd Oct 2012

 

Tregoning On The Marc....

Andy Newton gave you last weekend's Cambridgeshire-winning trainer - Marcus Tregoning -  to look out for, so who's on his 'hot list' this week? Read more

All change in the Arc market

Orfevre - Japanese Triple Crown winner

The weekend saw three different horses heading the market for the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe early next month. Read more

One day at a time no cliche for Snow Fairy

The dreadful tendon injury that Snow Fairy suffered last autumn means that taking things one day at a time after she has raced is anything but a cliché. Her trainer Ed Dunlop is in that position now following a course record time victory at Leopardstown in the Red Mills Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on Saturday. Read more

Qipco deal confirms future for Champions Day

A substantial increase in sponsorship from Qipco, possibly as much as £10m, has ensured that British Champions Day at Ascot will be a fixture in the racing calendar for at least the next five years. If it continues to build on the success of the first such event in 2011 then it will become a permanent conclusion to the British flat racing season. Read more

Where can we watch the Arc this year?

The BBC yesterday confirmed an addition to its decision to withdraw from coverage of racing from next year. The organisation had held a contract with France-Galop, under which it has broadcast the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe for the last ten years. Read more

Triple Crown bid for Camelot?

Camelot’s part owner Derrick Smith floated the idea of a shot at the Triple Crown of 2000 Guineas, Derby and St Leger shortly after the colt won the first Classic of the season on the Rowley Mile on Saturday. Smith said the idea would be up for discussion with partners Michael Tabor and Sue Magnier if Camelot wins at Epsom. Read more

International round up

Danedream’s effort to follow up her victory in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe petered out as she could only finish in mid-division behind Buena Vista in the Japan Cup at Tokyo. Read more

Moore and Workforce finalise their fitness

Ryan Moore took a step forward earlier this week in his battle to regain full fitness ahead of the Arc in 10 days time when he partnered Workforce in a gallop. They were joined at Sandown racecourse by stablemates Confront and Dux Scholar for a nine furlong test. Read more