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O’Brien sounds Arc ground warning for Love

Aidan O’Brien has raised doubts about the participation of Love in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, amid the prospect of significantly testing conditions in Paris on Sunday.

The Galileo filly has carried all before her this season, claiming the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket before adding the Oaks at Epsom and Yorkshire Oaks at York.

She has been aimed at the Arc since her victory on the Knavesmire in August – and with it an eagerly-anticipated showdown with the John Gosden-trained Enable, who is looking to make history as the first horse to win the Arc three times.

But with the going reported to be very soft and an unsettled forecast before the weekend, O’Brien told the Daily Mirror: “When you start getting into extremes – especially when you start talking about heavy ground in France – we have to be realistic.

“We have to make a decision at 9.30am on Friday. Nothing is on or off until we believe things are right.”

Love showed all her class in the Oaks
Love showed all her class in the Oaks (Bill Selwyn/PA)

Frankie Dettori, meanwhile, insists the pressure is off as he prepares to bid for racing history again aboard Enable – 12 months on from what he describes as the worst disappointment of his career.

The brilliant mare will face a maximum of 15 rivals, after O’Brien’s Derby hero Serpentine was the only further entry at Wednesday’s supplementary stage.

Enable failed to complete an unprecedented Arc hat-trick last year, having to settle for second when agonisingly reeled in on rain-softened ground by Waldgeist deep inside the final furlong.

But as the Italian jockey prepares to try again, against a field set to contain Gosden’s own three-time Ascot Gold Cup hero Stradivarius, he explains last year’s deflating experience is helping to keep him calm.

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“We have already achieved something historic by winning the King George for a third time,” he said, reflecting on the six-year-old’s successful 2020 campaign to date.

“Frankly, the pressure involved is less than last year, and it’s not because there will be fewer people in Paris (during Covid-19 crowd restrictions).

“It’s because we have already experienced disappointment. The three hours which followed last year’s defeat were the worst in my entire professional career, and I think that Enable was similarly downcast.”

As for the task ahead this time, Dettori – speaking before concerns about Love’s participation emerged – is mindful again of the challenge of anticipated soft ground – and respectful of the opposition.

“I’m praying that we will get drawn somewhere between one and eight,” he said.

“Rain is forecast, and the ground will most likely be heavy (but) I hope that we won’t experience extremes of going, as happened last year.

“There are two horses that like to go to the front – Serpentine and Sovereign.

“So taking up a good position will be ‘de rigueur’.

“The ground is a very important factor, and Enable has already shown that she can handle it.

“It’s a big plus – a bit like the (7lb) filly’s allowance that Love will be receiving.

“She will be coming into the Arc de Triomphe a bit like Enable did as a three-year-old, but having trodden a different path.”

Dettori predicts ground conditions will play a major part in everyone’s tactics, and may not in particular be to Love’s advantage.

“I hold her in high esteem, like everyone else,” he added.

“I have spoken with my colleagues and racing analysts – they say that a heavy track could count against Love, because her low-to-the-ground, fast action is better suited to good ground.

“Genuine heavy ground will turn the Arc into a stamina test – that will play to Stradivarius’ strengths – and, on the contrary, the distance may prove a bit long for Persian King, although anything trained by Andre Fabre warrants respect.

Stradivarius will relish a stamina test at ParisLongchamp
Stradivarius will relish a stamina test at ParisLongchamp (Dan Abraham/PA)

“There are other horses which shouldn’t be underestimated (too), such as Sottsass. He hasn’t had a hard campaign and boasts prior experience in the Arc de Triomphe (in third last year).”

O’Brien added Serpentine to his team at a cost of 72,000 euros, after being pleased with his first run since his runaway triumph at Epsom.

Serpentine blew away the cobwebs on his first public outing for 71 days when fourth to stablemate Mogul in the Grand Prix de Paris over the Arc course and distance two and a half weeks ago.

Mogul, Japan and Sovereign complete the Ballydoyle trainer’s raiding party.

Fabre is the leading Arc trainer with eight victories and he looks to a ninth with Persian King, who will be stepping up to a mile and a half for the first time.

He won the Prix du Moulin from Pinatubo over a mile on his latest start, and it has been announced Persian King will stand at the Haras D’Etreham Stud next year.

Other leading fancies include two more home hopes, In Swoop and Raabihah.

Arc reverse of 12 months ago keeping Dettori grounded

Frankie Dettori insists the pressure is off as he prepares to bid for racing history again aboard Enable in the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe – 12 months on from what he describes as the worst disappointment of his career.

John Gosden’s brilliant mare will face a maximum of 15 opponents at ParisLongchamp, after Aidan O’Brien’s Investec Derby hero Serpentine was the only further entry at Wednesday’s supplementary stage.

Enable failed to complete an unprecedented Arc hat-trick last year, having to settle for second when agonisingly reeled in on rain-softened ground by Waldgeist deep inside the final furlong.

But as the Italian jockey prepares to try again on Sunday, against a field set to contain O’Brien’s dual Classic-winning filly Love and Gosden’s own three-time Ascot Gold Cup hero Stradivarius, he explains last year’s deflating experience is helping to keep him calm.

“We have already achieved something historic by winning the King George for a third time,” he said, reflecting on the six-year-old’s successful 2020 campaign to date.

“Frankly, the pressure involved is less than last year, and it’s not because there will be fewer people in Paris (during Covid-19 crowd restrictions).

“It’s because we have already experienced disappointment. The three hours which followed last year’s defeat were the worst in my entire professional career, and I think that Enable was similarly downcast.”

As for the task ahead this time, Dettori is mindful again of the challenge of anticipated soft ground – and respectful of the opposition.

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“I’m praying that we will get drawn somewhere between one and eight,” he said.

“Rain is forecast, and the ground will most likely be heavy (but) I hope that we won’t experience extremes of going, as happened last year.

“There are two horses that like to go to the front – Serpentine and Sovereign.

“So taking up a good position will be ‘de rigueur’.

“The ground is a very important factor, and Enable has already shown that she can handle it.

“It’s a big plus – a bit like the (7lb) filly’s allowance that Love will be receiving.

Dual Classic winner Love is set to be among Enable's opponents
Dual Classic winner Love is set to be among Enable’s opponents (David Davies/PA)

“She will be coming into the Arc de Triomphe a bit like Enable did as a three-year-old, but having trodden a different path.”

Dettori predicts ground conditions will play a major part in everyone’s tactics, and may not in particular be to Love’s advantage.

“I hold her in high esteem, like everyone else,” he added.

“I have spoken with my colleagues and racing analysts – they say that a heavy track could count against Love, because her low-to-the-ground, fast action is better suited to good ground.

“Genuine heavy ground will turn the Arc into a stamina test – that will play to Stradivarius’ strengths – and, on the contrary, the distance may prove a bit long for Persian King, although anything trained by Andre Fabre warrants respect.

Stradivarius will relish a stamina test at ParisLongchamp
Stradivarius will relish a stamina test at ParisLongchamp (Dan Abraham/PA)

“There are other horses which shouldn’t be underestimated (too), such as Sottsass. He hasn’t had a hard campaign and boasts prior experience in the Arc de Triomphe (in third last year).”

O’Brien added Serpentine to his team at a cost of 72,000 euros, after being pleased with his first run since his runaway triumph at Epsom.

Serpentine blew away the cobwebs on his first public outing for 71 days when fourth to stablemate Mogul in the Grand Prix de Paris over the Arc course and distance two and a half weeks ago.

Mogul, Japan, Sovereign and Love complete the Ballydoyle trainer’s raiding party.

Fabre is the leading Arc trainer with eight victories and he looks to a ninth with Persian King, who will be stepping up to a mile and a half for the first time.

He won the Prix du Moulin from Pinatubo over a mile on his latest start, and it has been announced Persian King will stand at the Haras D’Etreham Stud next year.

Other leading fancies include two more home hopes, In Swoop and Raabihah.

A further 0.9 millimetres of rain fell at the track in the last 24 hours, making a total of 14.4mm so far this week, with the going reported to be very soft and an unsettled forecast before the weekend.

Derby hero Serpentine added to Aidan O’Brien’s Arc team

Serpentine is the only supplementary entry for Sunday’s Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe as 16 remain in Europe’s premier middle-distance race at ParisLongchamp.

Aidan O’Brien added the Investec Derby victor to his team at a cost of 72,000 euros after being pleased with his first run since his runaway triumph at Epsom.

Serpentine blew away the cobwebs on his first public outing for 71 days when fourth to stablemate Mogul in the Grand Prix de Paris over the Arc course and distance two and a half weeks ago.

Mogul, Japan, Sovereign and dual Classic-winner Love complete the Ballydoyle trainer’s raiding party.

Andre Fabre is the leading Arc trainer with eight victories and he looks to a ninth with Persian King, who will be stepping up to a mile and a half for the first time.

He won the Prix du Moulin from Pinatubo over a mile on his latest start and it has been announced Persian King will stand at the Haras D’Etreham Stud next year.

Other leading fancies heading to Paris include John Gosden’s pair of dual Arc heroine Enable and champion stayer Stradivarius plus local hopes Sottsass, In Swoop and Raabihah.

A further 0.9 millimetres of rain fell at the track in the last 24 hours, making a total of 14.4mm so far this week, with the going reported to be very soft and an unsettled forecast ahead of the weekend.

O’Brien contemplating Arc bid for Serpentine

Derby hero Serpentine could yet be added to Aidan O’Brien’s team for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at ParisLongchamp.

The Ballydoyle handler already boasts the big-race favourite in dual Classic winner Love, but he still may supplement the shock Epsom victor for the 12-furlong showpiece on Sunday week.

Serpentine has only run once since his Derby success, finishing fourth behind stablemate Mogul in the Grand Prix de Paris over the Arc course and distance earlier this month.

Mogul is also in contention for Arc honours, but the Coolmore team could stump up 72,000 euros on Wednesday to add Serpentine to a possible five-strong team in Paris.

O’Brien said: “There is a good chance that Serpentine will be supplemented. He seems to have come out of his race well.

“We also have Mogul, Japan, Love and Sovereign.”

Mogul comes good to claim Group One glory in Grand Prix de Paris

Investec Derby hero Serpentine had to settle for fourth as his stablemate Mogul claimed top honours in the Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris at ParisLongchamp.

Serpentine was a surprise winner of the premier Classic at Epsom under an enterprising front-running ride from Emmet McNamara.

Ridden more patiently on this occasion by Christophe Soumillon, the Galileo colt appeared in a good position rounding the home turn, but ultimately failed to pick up sufficiently, although there was promise in his return.

Trainer Aidan O’Brien has never made any secret of the regard in which he holds Mogul – and he was the chosen mount of Ryan Moore in the Derby, where he finished sixth, despite disappointing at Royal Ascot on his previous start.

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Another son of Galileo, he opened his account for the campaign in the Gordon Stakes at Goodwood, before finishing third behind Pyledriver in last month’s Great Voltigeur at York.

Held up for a late run by Pierre-Charles Boudot, Mogul was nearer last than first at the top of the straight, but made stylish headway against the far rail before extending clear in impressive style.

Speaking at the Curragh, O’Brien said: “We’re delighted with him (Mogul). We always felt that he was only coming (to hand) and I kept saying it.

“He was starting to show so much speed I kind of thought maybe we were going the wrong way and we should be going back to a mile and a quarter. I said to Pierre-Charles today ‘ride him for speed, take your time on him and drop him on the line’.

“He’s obviously a fast horse as he’s able to quicken. I thought we were going too far today over a mile and a half.

“He’s entered in Australia, (or) he can go to for the Champion Stakes at Ascot. He could go to America and Hong Kong, so there’s a lot of options for him.”

Serpentine finished fourth in the Grand Prix de Paris
Serpentine finished fourth in the Grand Prix de Paris (Bill Selwyn/PA)

Of Serpentine, he added: “It was his first run back (after a break) and Christophe was very happy with him.

“He had a good break, which we wanted to give him. I was thinking of starting him today and going back for the Arc, but we’ll see how he is.

“I was very happy with how happy Christophe was with him.”

In Swoop and Gold Trip finished second and third, with the British pair of Highland Chief and English King behind Serpentine in fifth and sixth respectively.

Serpentine ready to prove merit of Derby victory

Impressive Investec Derby winner Serpentine finally gets the chance to prove his Classic success was no fluke in the Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris.

Aidan O’Brien’s Galileo colt turned up at Epsom an unconsidered outsider, having broken his maiden tag only seven days previously.

However, given a bold front-running ride by Emmet McNamara, he powered on to win by more five lengths from Khalifa Sat – and has not been seen in competitive action since.

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“We always thought he was a very smart middle-distance horse, and even though he only had one run at two – and the run looked very ordinary – we were very happy with his work at home,” said O’Brien.

“He was a horse that was very relentless in his work and would go an even, strong gallop and would not surrender – and that’s the way he’s always been.

“We had to give him a good break (after the Derby), and he’s done very well – physically he’s really rounded off since then. It will be a run to get him started back, and we’ll see where we go after that.

“Obviously a race like the Arc or something like that would be possible – but either way, we’re hoping we might have him for next year.”

Serpentine turns for home with a clear lead at Epsom
Serpentine turns for home with a clear lead at Epsom (George Selwyn/PA)

While the validity of the Derby form was questioned in the aftermath, O’Brien is adamant Serpentine was the winner on merit.

He added: “He’s a solid horse, and I wouldn’t be fooled by what anyone thinks about Epsom – whatever race he runs in, if he makes the running you just need to go and follow him, because he just doesn’t come back. He’s relentless, and that’s the way he is.

“I heard everyone saying about Epsom and him getting a clear lead and all that kind of stuff, and he did – but I don’t think there was anyone pulling or dragging too much to stay back off him, that’s the way he is.

“He’s solid, you don’t have to hide anything about him. He’s very happy to go a strong gallop – and if he’s not able to get to the front that will be all the better for him, because that means the gallop will be good and strong and he’ll probably even be better doing that rather than having to make his own running all the time.”

Serpentine is joined at ParisLongchamp on Sunday by a pair of stable companions in Nobel Prize and Mogul, while British hopes are carried by Ed Walker’s Derby fifth English King – the mount of Frankie Dettori – and Highland Chief, who was supplemented by Paul and Oliver Cole.

Monday Musings: Serpentine Tributary to Sea of Galileo

In late April when the first clamour for a resumption of racing was brewing up with, at the forefront, particular criticism of the BHA in the person of Nick Rust’s perceived failure to hurry the process along, there were still more than 5,500 UK weekly deaths from Covid-19, writes Tony Stafford.

By the time the announcement came that June 1 would be the witching hour, the figure was still above 2,500. Time and history will show that the starting date coincided with numbers in the 1600’s and by yesterday, over the last week, the fifth since racing resumed, the number was down to 680, barely ten per cent of the peak in early April. New daily infections, despite massively greater testing, were around only one-sixth of the peak figures.

The BHA, in conjunction with France, who started two weeks earlier, and Ireland, a week after us, has managed to salvage a great part of the Pattern. So in the short time since the resumption, we have seen the crowning of a true champion filly in the emphatic 1,000 Guineas and superlative Oaks heroine Love; the development from an occasional soft-Group bully into a fully grown-up superstar in Ghaiyyath, conqueror of Enable and Japan in the Coral-Eclipse; the confirmation of Stradivarius’ place in the pantheon of great stayers and so much more. A start any later than June 1 would have made all that impossible while any earlier would have been highly contentious.
I have a feeling that Love will be the Horse of the Year and I hear Ryan Moore believes she is better than Minding, her predecessor to a 2016 1,000 Guineas/Oaks double on the way to seven Group 1 wins in a career tally reading 9/3/1 from 13 starts. The common link of course is Galileo, also as if it were ever going to be in question, once again sire of the Investec Derby winner on Saturday, albeit not the most likely one, either by riding arrangement or betting prominence.

Five Galileo colts turned out in the 16-runner Derby line-up on Saturday, including the spectacular five-and-a-half length all-the-way winner Serpentine, and the other four were all in the seven-horse cluster from second to eighth, supplemented by two Andrew Balding runners, 50-1 second Khalifa Sat and the 2,000 Guineas winner Kameko, who was fourth. He, like all the other fancied runners, was never nearer at any time than the finish. English King, the mount of Frankie Dettori, also ended in that group, fifth after a tardy start from stall one, more in the manner of an unraced two-year-old than a race-hardened Classic contender.
You can bet that there will be much more to come from the other O’Brien/Coolmore team members in that respectful grouping as the season progresses.

Amhran Na Bhriann, a 66-1 shot, was, like the runner-up always nearest and clear of the remainder if never close enough to challenge the winner. Their more-fancied trio of Mogul, Russian Emperor and Vatican City, who filled sixth to eighth places will have plenty of opportunities as the season progresses.

Emmet McNamara’s ice-cool ride, a week after his near-miss on Tiger Moth in the Irish Derby shows that the riding talent on the gallops at Ballydoyle extends well into the support team.

This was a fifth Derby triumph for Galileo, himself one of the best winners of that race. Serpentine follows New Approach, Ruler Of the World, Australia and Anthony Van Dyck as the champion stallion’s quintet. The last four were trained by O’Brien, who with eight wins is now the leading trainer in all the 240-year history of the great race. Michael Tabor and Mrs Sue Magnier both appear in the partnerships of nine Derby winners, the most ever, a figure equalling the long-standing tally of Lester Piggott’s unique riding record.
If anyone had suggested to the East End-born former hairdresser and bookmaker that one day he would make history in this respect, he would have laughed. You’re not laughing now, Michael!

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Actually, probably you are.

In his run before the Derby, Serpentine was still a maiden, something he corrected in very similar fashion to Saturday’s virtuoso show just six days before his great success. That statistic fuels the suggestion that ten- and 12-furlong maiden form in Ireland early in this truncated season is probably equivalent to UK Group 3 level at least. Such as Tiger Moth (Irish Derby second) and Ennistymon (Oaks third on Saturday), are among 19 winners for the sire back home since the resumption on June 8. In that time Group 1 wins for Magical, who seems sure soon to resume rivalry with Enable after their impressive respective returns to action, and Peaceful in the Irish 1,000, have been the domestic highlights.

The latter filly’s rider, Seamie Heffernan, her greatest admirer, might well have been in not quite the best frame of mind when partnering Peaceful to a close third in the Prix De Diane in Chantilly yesterday. In the first colours of Michael Tabor he was always struggling for room as Coronation Stakes winner Alpine Star set the pace from the Donnacha O’Brien-trained Fancy Blue, sporting the all-blue cap second colours of Mr Tabor.

Seamie had clearly forgotten the newly-installed French whip requirement of hitting a horse no more than five times. In the Prix Du Jockey-Club (French Derby) which preceded the Diane, he was found to have hit pace-setter Order Of Australia 11 times on his way to seventh place only four and a half lengths behind the winner Mishrif, trained by John Gosden for Prince AA Faisal.

In Ireland or the UK you could imagine a maximum few days for a similar effort but the French not only frown on numbers, they took the importance of the race (and presumably the greater likelihood of public sensibilities being offended) into account and came up with a number for the Heffernan misdemeanour, 22.

Given that Heffernan was already resigned to spending the first 14 days after fulfilling his trip to the Derby Days of the UK and France in quarantine back home, he will now be free to concentrate his efforts fully on the Ballydoyle gallops as he will be off the track until... August 9.

Blimey! Lockdown mark 2!

It’s not taking long for Donnacha, 21, to follow his equally precocious elder brother Joseph into adding Classic success as a trainer to Classic wins and championships as a jockey. His first turf winner as a trainer came only last week by which time Fancy Blue had already given him a placed runner when second to Peaceful in the Irish 1,000. Now, under former French champion Pierre Charles- Boudot, the same filly raced just ahead rather than a few lengths behind her rival and did well to hold Arctic Star and Peaceful in a tight finish.

In the UK since the resumption there have been fewer Galileo victories, 11 in all since June 1, but four of these, two for Love, one for Septentine, and also Circus Maximus in Ascot’s Queen Anne Stakes have been at Group 1 level, and two more at Group 3 for Russian Emperor and Nayef Road. Four of the other five have been in handicaps, three of them for a modestly-rated horse who also started out under the Coolmore banner.
Until this year the seven-year-old Le Musee was regarded as a decent chaser with a 147 rating. His last run before racing’s resumption was at the Cheltenham Festival where he finished 13th of 23 in the Kim Muir having won twice in the previous summer.

Nigel Hawke is his trainer and the West Countryman has for many years been highly-respected as a jumps handler with successive tallies over the past seven seasons of 19, 19, 11, 28, 17, 16 and 17. Contrastingly, before this year from a total of 76 runners on the Flat over 23 years he didn’t send out a single winner.

Then In January, between runs at 100-1 at Newbury and latterly in that Kim Muir, he decided to try Le Musee on the Flat, and he was rewarded with his and the horse’s joint first Flat-race success at Southwell in January.

When he originally showed up for sale in France as a yearling, Le Musee was bought by Coolmore for Euro 300,000 and was sent to be trained by Andre Fabre. Unraced at two, he finished a 20-length sixth in the Tabor colours on his sole three-year-old start in a March Compiegne maiden. His next outing was at the Arqana summer sales where Hawke picked him up for Euro 3,000.
He took his time, gelding him the following October and before making the track Le Musee had a wind operation in July 2017. His first start for Hawke was as a five-year-old over hurdles and he proved quite useful, winning twice. By the time he shipped up at Cheltenham this spring he was having his 24th run for the stable within 26 months, a compliment to the trainer’s skills at keeping fit and well a gelding that had proved hard to train for the redoubtable M. Fabre.

Already a winner on the Flat, post-lockdown Hawke decided to exploit his gelding’s great stamina and also a highly-tempting handicap mark in the 60’s. This was more than 80lb lower than the jumps figure and therefore potentially a stone or two too low. In the past five weeks Le Musee has gone to the track three times and won them all, first at Newcastle and then twice at Chepstow. Judged on the economical way he races, just getting up late, more success should follow.

It seems only poetic justice for Hawke who must have spent the last seven years regretting his actions over another bargain sales recruit who stayed in his care only long enough to make a winning debut in a juvenile hurdle. That horse was a son of another Derby winner, Authorised, out of a mare by Mrs Magnier’s and Michael Tabor’s Entrepreneur, winner of the 2,000 Guineas and beaten odds-on favourite for the 1997 Derby.

Unraced for Sheikh Mohammed, Tiger Roll cost the princely sum of 10,000gns from the Darley consignment at Doncaster sales in August of his three-year--old season. On debut at Market Rasen in early November he won easily at 12-1 and if they got a few bob there, another £80k came into the coffers of his owners when Mags O’Toole paid £80,000 for him at Brightwells sale at Cheltenham racecourse the following month.

Within three-months Gordon Elliott had produced the gelding to win the Triumph Hurdle on his way to more than £1.3 million in prizes, two Grand Nationals, four Festival wins and greater national fame than Love, Serpentine or even Enable will earn in their careers. Nigel Hawke deserved to get one back after that. It’s nice that a Coolmore reject should have persuaded him that he can indeed train Flat horses.

For most ordinary owners, picking up crumbs from the rich man’s table is often the only realistic route to racing success. There are three days of breeze ups and Horses in Training on offer at Tattersall’s in Newmarket from Wednesday and in this strange year of all years there will undoubtedly be some cast-offs with more than a little potential for the shrewdies to unearth. Good luck!

-TS