Check out Mike's thoughts on a dramatic Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and why he was reaching for a hair net and a motorcycling helmet in Paris.
ENABLE JUST TOO STRONG – THIS TIME
Quite simply, the Arc is a race that never fails to deliver.
Ever since watching my first Arc and the shock of seeing Troy beaten into third back in 1979, to Dancing Brave’s extraordinary turn of foot, to Helissio and Peintre Celebre, who both demolished their fields, to Sakhee’s blitz, to Treve x 2 and now to the duel between two superbly talented fillies in Enable and Sea Of Class.
The Arc is wholly captivating and very, very special.
So, as the dust settles, we can conclude that Enable got away with it – just.
John Gosden is to be congratulated at winning his third Arc in four years, Khalid Abdulla too for his record-equalling sixth (with Marcel Boussac) and of course Frankie Dettori who has now won half a dozen of the 30 Arcs he has ridden in. That’s a 20% hit rate in Europe’s most competitive and arguably most prestigious race.
The only thing that didn’t sit completely comfortably in the post-race euphoria - and relief - of the winning team was the trainer’s revelation that Enable had had a temperature and had missed some work after her belated Kempton comeback.
Now, it would be crazy to think that the public should be entitled to every single detail of what a horse goes through at home but I wonder, in this instance, if this information should have been made known? This, after all, was the continent’s best horse preparing for its best race.
Yet I can see both sides of the argument. If that had been made public, some would have bemoaned not having a bet for that reason.
Ultimately, whatever your view on that, Gosden demonstrated once again what a gifted racehorse trainer he is. Plus, hearing his thoughts about any aspect of a race, before and after, is never wasted time. Oh to be able to put things across so eloquently and measurably – he just doesn’t do anything but a classy interview.
Undeniably, there was a lot of dead wood in the race this year. Of the 19 that went to post, a dozen of them couldn’t possibly win. That said, the cream duly rose to the top and there was no hard luck story as far as Sea Of Class was concerned.
Yes, her draw wasn’t kind but she didn’t have a rough passage through – quite the contrary - and James Doyle gave her every chance of winning the race. She wasted no ground on the inner, found the gaps but just ran out of time. She enhanced her already high reputation with an incredible stretch run that was reminiscent of Dancing Brave himself.
I couldn’t believe it when some criticised Doyle on social media within seconds of them passing the post. This was no mess of a ride. It was brilliantly crafted to suit her running style and, by golly, she nearly did it.
Notes on the other runners: Capri in fifth. A much better run which might set him up ideally for some other glamorous autumn/late year targets such as the Breeders’ Cup Turf (although Enable looks like going there, too).
Salouen in sixth. He would have been even closer but for being denied a run inside the final furlong. He ran on again when in the clear. He’s a funny one but very talented.
Nelson in eighth. Nelson was a decent two-year-old who beat Kew Gardens and was held narrowly by Roaring Lion in the Royal Lodge. The son of Frankel would be a star in most stables – like Salouen, perhaps – but has been sacrificed this year for pace-making duties by Ballydoyle.
Fair play to Michael Hussey, his rider. He set a strong gallop and yet Nelson kept at it and was still beaten only four and a half lengths. It was a career high and, as pacemakers go, he is particularly smart.
And of course Cloth Of Stars, placed for the second year running and the best sign, perhaps, that Enable was below her best as he got to a length of the superfilly this time compared to two and a half lengths a year ago.
Sea Of Class is staying in training and will come back for another go in 2019. We have yet to hear about Enable but we will keep our fingers crossed. However, this was the year that Enable was vulnerable and Sea Of Class still couldn’t quite pull it off. Was this her chance gone?
Let’s hope we get the chance to enjoy a rematch.
ROYAL MARINE NOT TO BE UNDERESTMATED
Royal Marine was clearly not given the credit he deserved at the time when beating Turgenev at Doncaster in a slightly faster time than Dewhurst-bound Sangarius and carrying 5lb more to boot.
Since then, Turgenev has been out twice and looked very smart indeed when romping home at Newcastle and then comfortably going in again under a penalty at Newmarket last Saturday.
Royal Marine didn’t surge clear in Sunday’s Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere but he was always holding Broome and doing just enough.
He is a big, imposing colt and it is hard to know how good he could be. He holds an entry in the Group One Vertem Futurity back at Doncaster at the end of the month and so too does Turgenev. This rematch would also be fascinating.
FRENCH HORSES NOT AS GOOD AS THE FOOTBALLERS!
There were six Group One races for thouroughbreds at Longchamp on Sunday. The British cleaned up with five and the locals took one – the Marcel Boussac - thanks to Lily’s Candle, an unconsidered 28-1 chance.
Freddie Head, especially, suffered a miserable day – he saddled Anodor, the 5-6 favourite for the Jean-Luc Lagardere, who duly lost his unbeaten record in third. Stablemate Polydream was also a hot favourite for the Prix de Foret but suffered a terrible run.
The home team even missed out on the Group One Arabian-bred race – that went to one Fazza Al Khalediah, who is trained in Poland!
The new stand may be gold but these are not golden times for French flat racing. I was reminded of the contrast with the French national soccer team, who marched to World Cup glory in style the summer, as I passed the Stade De France on the way back to the airport.
I was clinging onto the back of a motorcycle taxi at the time. Equidia, who produced the world feed that I was working on during the afternoon, once again declined to put me up for another night and always lay on this magnificent machine to get me back in time to catch the flight home.
It is a highlight gliding in and out of the traffic at speed and is pretty cool, to be honest. It’s almost Bond-like as you step out of the racecourse straight onto your waiting heap of two-wheeled horsepower.
But I know that Bond wouldn’t put up with health and safety and have to wear a hair net before putting his helmet on.
That is the questionable name of the world’s richest race on turf, which takes place for the second time at Randwick, Sydney, in the early hours of Saturday morning. It will be broadcast live by At The Races.
For a six-furlong sprint, this has to be the daftest name imaginable. Nothing about Everest would suggest a test of speed. Climbing the thing is one of man’s greatest tests of endurance and courage.
If this were a long distance chase then I would get it.
“The Charge”, “The Bolt”? Anything would be an improvement.
Anyway, if you win a race worth around £7.5m, I bet you wouldn’t give a monkeys about what it’s called.
Good luck Ryan Moore and US Navy Flag – go conquer Everest!