The Weekend Reflection – Five things that caught the eye
October 3, 2011 § 4 Comments
1. A strange Arc
All eyes were on Paris this weekend as Longchamp served up its annual feast of top-class action. The feature race, the Arc with nearly £2million for the winner, was won in spectacular fashion by the unheralded German filly, Danedream.
Firstly congratulations to the horse and connections. This wasn’t just a win, it was a routing of some of the best horses in Europe in a phenomenal time that broke the track record.
It was the daughter of Lomitas’s third Group 1 victory on the bounce, all by winning margins of at least 5 lengths. Although it was still a 20/1 shock that the layers cheered, she had been nibbled in the market and £45 had been matched on Betfair at 999/1 earlier in the week. The decision to supplement her for the race at the cost of £100,000 was a bold indication of confidence behind her chances, and the fact Japanese owner/breeder Teruya Yoshida bought a half share in her before the race suggests he liked her and had one eye on the rich Far Eastern prizes later this year, on the fast ground she clearly relishes.
It is perhaps also a reminder to punters to not write off German and Italian Group form. We all need to remember it’s not just Britain, Ireland and France that can produce great horses and competitive races.
As for the race itself, visually as a spectacle it was poor. The furious pace and the effect of the draw meant horses like Sarafina, Workforce and Galikova were never seen in their best light. Workforce met trouble in-running early on and never looked comfortable. It’s clear he has lost much of his 3-year old sparkle and it would be no surprise to see him retired later this month. Sarafina was a big lay for anyone who followed advice posted on here earlier in the week and opposed her. The draw, her age and the fact it’s still over 20 years since a horse beaten in the Arc returned and won it another year were too big a negatives to ignore.
Treasure Beach ran a curious race; whether or not the jockey was riding to trainer’s instructions or not isn’t clear but sacrificing a Derby runner-up and Irish Derby winner made little sense. Shareta whose form was a lot better than her SP suggested, ran a cracker, clearly relishing the conditions and staying on bravely for second.
So You Think was perhaps anchored by the draw and Seamie Heffernan made the decision to drop him out the back, a position So You Think has never been in before. That choice to race off the pace would have been justified if the leaders had given way towards the end. But most of them felt no ill-effects and battled on gamely. By the time So You Think got going it was far too late but he still emerges with credit in 4th place.
Snow Fairy ran another cracker to complete a fillies 1-2-3 and reverse Irish form with So You Think. With the ground on the quick side she always had a great each-way chance and her never dangerous third was the only dent in the bookies satchels.
As for Danedream she was given a dream ride by Andrasch Starke who positioned her up with the pace and merely asked her to go and win the race two furlongs from home. The response was devastating as the second biggest winning margin (5 lengths) in Arc history showed. Danedream became just the second German-trained winner of the race after Star Appeal in 1975 and for a horse picked up for just €9,000 she is worth her weight in gold.
From a trends perspective she became the 15th 3-year old to win the race in 18 years, underlining the dominance of the Classic generation in recent times. Winning from stall 2 it means only two of the last nine winners have defied a draw higher than eight.
She joins an elite list of fillies to win the race in recent decades, following in the steps of the legendary dam Urban Sea and the majestic Zarkava.
2. Magic Frankie Dettori
Frankie Dettori loves the limelight and never lets the opportunity to showcase his horsemanship on the biggest stage to go unnoticed. His Group 1 double at Longchamp yesterday aboard the unbeaten pair of classy colt Dabirsim and Roger Varian’s Nahrain were the astonishing 500th and 501st Group victories of a remarkable career.
Most jockey’s would be delighted to finish a career with 500 victories of any sort but to have that many at the highest levels of world racing is an incredible feat. The fact neither of those successes on Sunday came aboard his retainer Godolphin’s horses, demonstrates he is still the man trainer’s go to cometh the big day and the big moment.
Kudos too to William Buick who also clinched a notable big-race double aboard Elusive Kate who repelled all challengers from the front to land the Marcel Boussac for John Gosden. Within an hour of that win he was back in the winner’s enclosure having teamed up with David Simcock and the classy Dream Ahead to just pip home-favourite Goldikova on her last start in France in the Foret.
A deserved mention to Tom Eaves as well, who rode a cracker on the front-running speedball Tangerines Trees to record his first Group 1 success and give trainer Bryan Smart his second on what was a fantastic day for British-based jockeys.
3. Pastoral Player finally gets a big handicap
Away from France, Pastoral Player finally landed the big handicap that has eluded him all summer. The Hughie Morrison-trained 4-year produced a smart performance to run out an easy winner of the Challenge Cup at Ascot. In doing so he reversed form with Smarty Socks from earlier in the month, who was looking to notch a notable Ascot handicap double, having stormed to victory in the valuable Fly London Southend Handicap in early September.
For too much of his career this son of Pastoral Pursuits has threatened so much without delivering but he showed when he is on a going day he is very good, potentially even Group class. If Hughie can combine consistency with his obvious talent then he could make a cracking 5-year old.
4. Has Richard Hannon wrapped up the trainer’s title?
You wait 19 years and then two come along at once. Presumably that must be what Richard Hannon and his team must be quietly thinking as the master trainer took a huge lead of over £1,000,000 in the trainer’s championship having saddled the 1-2 in the £500,000 Tattersalls 2-year old Trophy at Newmarket on Saturday.
With the likes of Bronterre in the Dewhurst, Dick Turpin in the QE2 and Strong Suit in the Challenge, not to mention his usual array of handicappers and maidens, he looks in pole position to retain his title and the third of his long career.
However, he was cautious not to celebrate too early expressing fears over the strength of Sir Henry Cecil’s hand on Champions Day, when the likes of Frankel, Midday, Vita Nova and Twice Over all have leading hopes. Aidan O’Brien too ‘will bring out some of his heavyweights’ so Hannon won’t rest on his laurels just yet.
It does though show the tremendous strength in depth in his yard, with horses racing right across the class system systematically picking up prize-money. Whether it’s a Group 1 or a seller, Hannon knows what he is doing.
5. American joy for Cape Blanco and Uncle Mo
Cape Blanco was one of the best 3-year olds last year before slightly losing his way over a variety of trips when racing on this year. However, the switch to the States has paid huge dividends, both in terms of the valuable pots he keeps winning and in keeping the horse’s confidence high.
Poor performances in France (thrice) suggested he was a poor traveller but he has set that record straight by completing a hat-trick of Grade One wins in the US over the summer, taking his career earnings to over £2.5 million.
He has twice beaten US turf champion Gio Ponti, following on from his beating of that rival in Meydan, and although on Saturday he held on by just a nose to defeat Dean’s Kitten in the Classic International Stakes, the way he fought for that win under Jamie Spencer showed tremendous spirit. He remains my favourite horse.
In a similar story to Cape Blanco, Uncle Mo seemed to have the world at his feat as an unbeaten 2-year old before it all went wrong. He was since diagnosed with a serious and not just potentially career-ending but also life-threatening liver disorder. The fact he has even made it back to the racecourse is amazing but a pleasing second on his reappearance suggested he could still be the horse he had promised to be as a juvenile.
On Saturday he proved he was back with an easy success in a Grade 2 at Belmont Park and the future once again looks rosy for Uncle Mo and the American racing season, which has been decimated by injuries to their top-stars and a general lack of quality in the higher echelons of racing.
Cape Blanco (right) holds on by the narrowest of margins to scoop another big prize in America (Tom Keyser)