Our columnist has his say on the Melbourne and Breeders' Cups plus THAT last fence incident at Ascot on Saturday.
FULL CREDIT TO CRAIG WILLIAMS
So, in spite of a 10-strong European challenge, the Melbourne Cup stayed at home.
For the Australians, there was double reason to celebrate as the winner, Vow And Declare, was one of just two horses in the 24-runner line-up that was home-bred (Youngstar, the mare, was the other).
Drawn 21, Vow And Declare was given an outstanding ride by Craig Williams who had him away quickly and leading the field within a quarter of a mile as he then saved ground by sticking like glue to the inside.
Given that Cross Counter had come from stall 19 last year, it just goes to show that a high draw is not a hindrance in the Cup.
Williams, who would have been on Dunaden in 2011 but for a last-minute suspension, had every reason to feel proud of his performance as he finally nailed it on his 15th attempt.
Frankie Dettori must have thought the Cup was finally going to be his when he led on Master Of Reality turning into the straight but then it turned into a bit of a nightmare as his mount hung across and hampered Il Paradiso close home.
The Cup was gone, so too was second place, courtesy of the stewards, and salt was rubbed into the wound when he was suspended.
Not that an enforced break that is going to be an issue for him at this time of the year. A relaxing holiday surely beckons when he can reflect on an incredible year, which has yielded 19 Group One wins.
Prince Of Arran rightly deserved the plaudits for another fine placed effort and Cross Counter, the defending champion, gave it a right go in the home straight and was a running-on creditable eighth.
I had a small wager on Raymond Tusk who travelled beautifully into the race on the heels of the leading group but found very little when Jamie Spencer popped the question and was quickly beaten. It was almost as if he didn’t stay but he lasted much longer than that in the Gold Cup in June.
I don’t mind backing a loser (within reason) but there must have been something amiss. Having said that, Mustajeer, also did nothing for the Ebor form but again, that has to be too bad to be true.
JOSEPH SHONE BUT BREEDERS CUP FAILED TO IGNITE
Due to the lack of British challengers, I found the two-day extravaganza at Santa Anita last weekend rather passed me by.
Watching all-American finishes with the local jockeys flailing their whips down the stifle and saddle cloths just doesn’t do it for me.
The most significant thing that happened there to these eyes, was Joseph O’Brien managing to set yet another Breeders Cup record by becoming the youngest-winning trainer at just 26, thanks to Iridessa.
He already held the record as the youngest winning rider of course when landing the Turf in 2011 on St Nicholas Abbey at the age of 18.
With a Melbourne Cup already on the CV – and another near miss on Tuesday – who knows what heights Joseph is going to scale? His father Aidan has set the bar at an amazingly high level but who would be against his eldest son from at least being talked about in the same breath? Perhaps he is already!
Then there is younger brother Donnacha who won the Irish champion jockeys’ title at the weekend for the second time after a great battle with Colin Keane.
Standing at around six foot, his days are numbered in the saddle but word is that he too is going to take up training when he hangs up his boots and is already busy building his own yard.
What an extraordinary family the O’Briens are. Makes one feel such an under-achiever!
BIPOLAIRE AND BRISTOL DE MAI HAVE MUCH IN COMMON
Watching the top-class French chaser Bipolaire win the Prix la Haye Jousselin, the French equivalent of the King George VI Chase, for the third year in a row at Auteuil on Sunday on Sky Sports Racing was a treat.
The eight-year-old grey seems to save his best form for the autumn and the parallels with another grey of the same age over here, Bristol De Mai, who is aiming to land the Betfair Chase at Haydock for the third year running on Saturday fortnight, are obvious.
Bristol De Mai is virtually unstoppable around Haydock in November and yet has finished seventh and third in two attempts at the Gold Cup (2017 and 2019). Bipolaire has tried his luck in the French equivalent, the Grand Steeplechase de Paris, run in May, in the past three years with a fifth, a first fence fall and a second to show for it.
Incidentally, Bipolaire earned around £210,000 on Sunday compared to Clan Des Obeaux’s £142,000 in last December’s King George. That is one reason why some of these leading French chasers have no need to cross the Channel.
STEWARDS ONLY HALF RIGHT AT ASCOT
Everybody has had a say about this extraordinary incident at Ascot on Saturday with some even claiming that Diego Du Charmil should have been disqualified. That argument, quite simply, is a non-starter.
What if this accidental incident had happened at the second last, or third last, or out in the country? What then? All sorts of things happen in a race because horses are unpredictable creatures and don’t tend to race in lanes.
Capeland was certainly very unlucky on Saturday, through no fault of his own, but sometimes horses do get carried out or get blindsided approaching a fence, which can cause a fall. How many horses have suffered terrible luck in races such as, in particular, the Grand National, for example?
You can’t then disqualify those horses that caused the accidental interference because it “improved their placing”.
What I found extraordinary about the stewards report on the Ascot incident was no mention of any suspension for Lorcan Williams, who rode Diego Du Charmil.
Why? Because Stewards are normally red hot on jockeys who don’t do enough to stop a horse hanging and this was surely an extreme example.
John Francome was genuinely shocked that neither Williams nor Bryony Frost were carrying their whips in the correct (left) hand around Ascot (a right-handed track) and claims it was “basic stuff which should have come naturally to them.”
All in all, it was fascinating incident, which won’t be forgotten in a hurry.