Arc review

Friday, October 26, 2018


While most people seemed to accept James Doyle gave Sea Of Class the best possible ride in difficult circumstances when the pair finished second to Enable in Sunday's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, some thought he was at fault. I think they are wrong. To my eyes James was great in defeat, just as Frankie Dettori was fabulous in victory.

In another stride or two Sea Of Class would have overhauled Enable and won the Arc. Ultimately she just had too much ground to make up. However, while that wasn't ideal, her jockey was simply making the best of a bad situation.

James had a rotten draw. Many of the guys to his inside, including Frankie, had good draws. Those guys aren't stupid. In a situation like that jockeys know their first job in the early stages is to make the most of their good draws and make sure the unlucky horses with the bad draws are really made to suffer. They do that by going hard and fast through the first furlong. They move a stride and a half quicker than they would normally have done, which means the jockeys on the outer have to go twice as fast if they want to get over and in front of them.

After a furlong and a half the pace then stops. If you're on the outside at that point you can easily find that your horse starts pulling and dragging. James made sure that wouldn't happen by almost immediately taking a pull on Sea Of Class and dropping her in close to the fence at the back of the field.

Had he been on a four-year-old who needed every yard of a mile and a half and liked to race handy he would have played his cards a different way. That wasn't the case, though. He was riding a filly blessed with a fine turn of foot who enjoys coming from off the pace. Moreover, as I wrote last week, the fact Sea Of Class is a filly will have been a factor in James's thought process. You can allow colts to get involved in some bumping and banging. That would not have been a good idea on a lightly-raced filly.

I wonder if those people who feel James got it wrong would rather he had sat three or four horses wide in mid-division, thereby travelling considerably further - probably as much as 50 yards - than the horses running on the rail? The Arc track is constantly turning. Being stuck out deep is a terrible thing.

James also took the brave route up the home straight, going the shortest possible way, as opposed to plotting a wide course around horses. With the hand that was dealt to him, he gave Sea Of Class a super ride. A losing ride doesn't have to be a bad ride, just as a winning ride doesn't have to be a good ride. Here was a losing ride that, in my opinion, deserves praise not criticism.

Even allowing for the advantage Frankie had at the start, his filly was still out on her feet through the last 100 yards. That gave the impression Sea Of Class was finishing far more strongly than was actually the case.

You only have to look at Cloth Of Stars and some of the other horses Enable passed when taking the lead a furlong and a half from home. They were actually closing in on Enable in that final half-furlong. She quite clearly blew up, as John Gosden and Frankie made clear after the race. Had Enable been absolutely cherry ripe that wouldn't have happened and she would almost certainly have won by a wide margin, as she did 12 months ago.

I'm an Enable fan and I was all over her in the column last week. I was therefore delighted she won but there is no doubt she was getting tired towards the finish. Her class and natural superiority got her home in front, helped by a brilliant ride from Frankie.

I say it was brilliant because of what Frankie did - or rather didn't do - after levelling up. For the first 50 yards of the home straight he kept Enable behind Capri, whereas you would normally have expected him to kick on off the bend and immediately pull her out into daylight. Watching the race I shouted out: "What's going on here?" It soon became apparent what was going on. By waiting a little while longer before asking Enable to win her race, Frankie was able to fill her up and preserve the energy he needed in those final strides.

Horses definitely get better as they get older, so it's fantastic news to hear she might stay in training next year. The fact she could win this year's Arc when not at her best underlines what a special filly Enable really is.

We only have one runner on Saturday but that runner goes in a £500,000 race.

Two of the last ten Dubai Cesarewitch winners have been returned at 66-1 and two at 50-1. It's often a race that doesn't go to one of the market leaders and, for all that Stanley is a super horse and much loved at Weathercock House, we haven't yet detected that he understands the betting market.

He is bred to stay the Cesarewitch trip but has never yet gone this distance, so it's possible he could improve for the extra couple of furlongs. He never runs a bad race and has a lovely draw in stall ten. We love him to bits and hope he runs a big race at a big price for his owner-breeder Philippa Cooper.

The other highlight on the Newmarket card is the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes, in which I strongly fancy Too Darn Hot to maintain his unbeaten record.

One of the things I most like about him is I don't think he has been doing a stroke. He only ever seems to be in third gear. At the three-furlong pole of his races I have briefly wondered how well he was going. The next minute he is stretching clear.

This looks to be an impressively economical colt who does only what he has to do until Frankie starts getting after him, at which point he begins to exert himself.

His relaxed attitude to racing will be particularly helpful to him now he is in action at Newmarket. Some horses can over-race on the Rowley Mile course - and that can be even more of a problem when the weather is windy, as it might be this weekend. When the wind blows you find the starting stalls rattle and crisps bags fly through the air. Horses tend not to like it. During a storm you'll often see horses standing in the middle of a field away from trouble, as opposed to seeking shelter.

You also find at the end of the season horses who are over the top race too keenly with the choke out. That can often be a factor in these big backend contests at Newmarket.

Newmarket is a hard track for jockeys who want to ride waiting races. I always preferred to be prominent. When horses have daylight they can see the ridges. Tactically, Frankie will be able to position Too Darn Hot prominently if he wants. That freedom to know your horse can be ridden in any way is a massive advantage in a Group 1.

Summing up, I'm a big fan of Too Darn Hot. His ability, allied with his demeanour and attitude, should make him very difficult to beat.

We went shopping to horseracing's version of Harrods this week and came back with a horse.

For 115,000gns I bought a Dark Angel full-brother to Mecca's Angel at Book 1 of the Tattersalls October Sale. You might be surprised a horse like that could go for only 115,000gns. The reason he was in my price range is he has a dipped back.

Without the dipped back I reckon he might have sold for as much as 800,000gns. There are some buyers who simply won't countenance paying money for an animal with a physical trait like that.

The most important thing to say about a dipped back is it doesn't affect performance in any way whatsoever. It's a bit like driving a Rolls Royce with a dent in the door. It might make the car look slightly less luxurious but it won't have one bit of impact on the way the car drives.

Jack Taylor, who has done so well for us in sprints this season, is a good example of a horse with a dipped back. It hasn't bothered him and it won't bother our new acquisition.

Realistically, I could never buy a horse with his pedigree in normal circumstances. Here is a son of the mighty Dark Angel whose full-sister is a dual Group 1 winner through her two victories in the Nunthorpe Stakes. On top of that, he has another full-brother, Markaz, who was a two-time Group 3 winner and also placed in numerous other Group races.

As expected, buying anything this week was tough. I arrived on Wednesday morning an hour before the sale started and left after the last horse was sold without coming close to making a purchase. I got involved in the bidding on probably ten yearlings but with no success. There were examples of horses I and others thought would make 100,000gns but actually went for three times as much. You can be way off when making projections. Even very knowledgeable agents can find it extremely hard at this sale.

Next week's Book 2 of the October Sale is a much more realistic option for most buyers and I'll be in town again, trying to bring home some nice two-year-olds for next season.

We often talk about the importance of stable staff. This week I want to praise those who look after horses at the sales. At Tattersalls this week they were as excellent as ever.

These men and women have extremely long days, with people constantly asking for the horses be pulled out for inspection.

As a potential buyer you either have your head in the catalogue or you're noting the good and bad points in the colt or filly you're looking at. It can be easy to get consumed by it all and forget to say hello or thank you to the staff.

These people do a wonderful job. They are passionate about their horses, even the big, playful colts who are constantly messing around or trying to bite them. They also have enormous responsibility because, as we've seen, they are looking after babies who can be worth millions of pounds. That means there is constant pressure on them.

They can be a little overlooked but they shouldn't be. I know everyone who was buying and selling at Tattersalls is very grateful to them.

Arc review

Arc review

Friday, October 26, 2018


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