Mike Cattermole reflects on a night of high drama at the Breeders' Cup and argues Enable must stay in training next season.
SOUMILLON DID NOTHING WRONG, OFFICIALLY, BUT THERE’S THE BIG PROBLEM…
Watching the Breeders’ Cup meeting was mostly a pleasure, but watching the Classic certainly was not.
Although Accelerate confirmed he is the best dirt horse around now in the States, my eyes - and I suspect most other people’s – were drawn to Thunder Snow on the inside who was given an absolute thrashing by Christophe Soumillon to finish third.
The Belgian superstar hit Thunder Snow 18 times in the home straight, often with three or four strikes in quick succession, giving the colt no time to respond. To be honest, it turned the stomach.
To hear that trainer Saeed Bin Suroor had no issue with the ride was depressing and, perhaps, inevitable. If he had criticised Soumillon then that would have been a story.
Soumillon would have been heading for a very long holiday indeed had that happened over here but he knows that in the States, things are very different. Because there is no threat of a suspension, this is going to happen again and again - until it is changed.
Many European-based riders, although some are not as guilty as others, take the “when in Rome” approach, knowing that they will get away with it. You may recall Jamie Spencer being very hard on Cape Blanco when he regularly ventured across the Atlantic a few seasons ago.
Twenty years ago, even Frankie Dettori was so frantic on Swain, that his mount hung right across the track and threw away the BC Classic. Frankie learned the hard way, admitted his mistake and moved on. You would never see him do that now.
Now, maybe these modern whips don’t hurt like the old ones do but that is hardly the point. Soumillon’s actions just looked terrible and images like that are bound to turn people away from the sport.
Remember American Pharoah in the Kentucky Derby a few years ago? Victor Espinoza basically beat him up. Sure, the horse won, recovered and went on to become a Triple Crown winner - and an all-time great - but that day at Churchill Downs was an awful spectacle.
The American riders are also often guilty of hitting their mounts on the saddle cloths, i.e. right on top of the ribs, and you can’t tell me that that won’t hurt! Hitting them on the rump is the fairest and should be policed more vigorously. A lot of jockeys seemed to have forgotten that, even over here.
The rules concerning the use of the whip vary across the United States.
It was only two years ago that California Horse Racing Board changed their laws. A new regulation was introduced to allow jockeys to hit their mounts four times in the final half-furlong, instead of three. Yes, I know!
In a time when animal welfare has never been more closely scrutinised, surely it can’t be beyond the wit of man to get the leading racing nations to get together and adopt a universal approach to the whip.
Racing needs to wave a swift goodbye to the sort of images we saw at Churchill Downs.
ENABLE MUST STAY IN TRAINING
For me, Enable has won a second Arc and become the first of her kind to win at the Breeders’ Cup meeting in spite of not being at her best.
We haven’t seen the Enable that blew the opposition apart last season – perhaps for reasons that are well documented - but what we have seen is another, very brave, side to her.
Soon, we will hear whether the great filly will stay in training as a five-year-old and bid to become the first to win three Arcs.
Treve couldn’t manage it but she gave it a good try (fourth) and I think it is interesting that, like Enable, she also managed to win her second Arc as a four-year-old after a far from straightforward run to the race. Remember, she was very sore after running at Ascot on quick ground and most wrote her off.
How amazing that we should have two greats like Treve and Enable along within just a few years of each other.
Getting a male three-time Arc winner is going to be nigh on impossible, given the opportunities out there in the breeding sheds. With a filly, it is different.
Perhaps Enable has used up all of her bad luck this year and the hope has to be that she will be kept around and get a clear run in a bid to make history.
Frankie will be hoping so.
A few months ago, there was a loud rumour circulating that this was going to be the Sardinian’s last season. I could never quite understand it from his point of view; why would he ever think of giving up when he still had so many great horses to ride?
And next year, it might be even better. Enable or not, Frankie knows he will have Stradivarius in the Cup races and the incredibly exciting Too Darn Hot in all of the Classics. Then there’s Expert Eye in all the top mile races, not forgetting the very smart filly Lah Ti Dar and exciting Calyx.
That’s some team.
CHARLIE APPLEBY - THE SAVIOUR OF GODOLPHIN
Sheikh Mohammed cannot have imagined in his wildest dreams that the fortunes of Godolphin would have been so high just five and a half years after Mahmood Al Zarooni disgraced himself and the hitherto good Godolphin name.
Some predicted that that incident might have spelled the end of the “boys in blue”, although that was severely underestimating the Sheikh’s legendary determination when he sets his sights on achieving something.
In Appleby, the Sheikh has found the perfect man to turn things around. Not only is Appleby clearly a very talented horseman, he is also blessed with a quiet and reserved personality and one that conceals - and deals - with the pressure that he must have been under.
He is polite, respectful and appears to have little ego. And people take to him, which is another huge plus. That clearly helps in managing a large team of people at the stables who clearly carry out their work in harmony as a close-knit team.
Indeed, if the Sheikh had wanted to start from scratch and make the perfect man to craft a future for Godolphin, he would have created Charlie Appleby.
This has been a wonderful year for Appleby who, in the space of five months, has won Godolphin its first Derby and first Melbourne Cup. If there was an honorary “sheikhhood” in Dubai, Appleby would surely have earned one!
In the last couple of months alone, he has sent out winners of Group or Grade One’s in Ireland, Canada, Australia (twice), France and the USA.
SAMCRO LOST HIS AURA AT DOWN ROYAL
Samcro didn’t run too badly in the WKD Hurdle at Down Royal on Saturday. After all, he went down to a smart hurdler in Bedrock, who was fit and receiving 5lb from Gordon Elliott’s star.
This wasn’t the form of a potential Champion Hurdle winner but there is every chance that he will improve for it and all is not lost on that score.
However, although travelling beautifully in his race – which is a hallmark of his – Samcro looked decidedly one paced when Bedrock went past him, although he kept on well enough.
Being that it was the first time he had been beaten when finishing a race, there was a sense of disappointment and anti-climax about it, as there always is when a horse with a massive reputation and largely unblemished record gets turned over.
The aura about Samcro has been diminished and perhaps too the fear factor as far as his potential opponents are concerned.
On the plus side, he remains lightly raced and clearly with a bright future ahead of him. I suspect it will be fully realised when he goes over fences as his physique suggests.
Still, it will be fascinating to see how he gets on in the build-up to next March, given that he is with one of he most talented trainers of his generation. And you have to applaud connections for taking on the challenge.
Do I see Samcro as a Champion Hurdle winner? No. He could run well if he gets there but he needs to up the ante to become as slick a jumper of hurdles as the reigning Champion, Buveur D’Air.