A drama filled weekend that had everything from jubilation to deflation, shock last minute withdrawals and much more. A couple attempts at immortality and duels galore! In this, I’ll review all the action from across the weekend from France, America and an impossible win in Japan. But first we shall start with the sole Group 1 in Britain.
Kingdom Of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes (Group 1)
The Sun Chariot was a high-class renewal with 5 of the 12 runners being Group 1 winners and a further 3 being placed at the highest level. Matron Stakes winner Champers Elysees, now in the ownership of Teruya Yoshida, went off the 11/4 favourite. Like most of the meetings that took place over the weekend, the going was Heavy. The race was a closely run with the John Gosden trained Nazeef prevailing by 1 ½ lengths from the Henri-Alex Pantall trained Half Light in second and Richard Hannon’s Cloak of Spirits a neck behind in third. The favourite didn’t have a clear run and had to weave behind a wall of horses from the 2-furlong pole. The Irish 1000 Guineas winner Peaceful was said to have been unsuited by the ground but it seems she just didn’t fire as she has placed 2nd at Newmarket on Heavy ground before, granted against lesser company. Nazeef’s win means that she is now 6 from 6 over a mile so we could presume that she may run in the QE2 on Champions Day, for which she is a general 8/1 shot for.
The ground at ParisLongchamp was classed as Heavy. This was a severe disadvantage for many British raiders, as the soft ground in France is very different to that of the soft British turf. This is because ParisLongchamp is located beside the River Seine, which has an alluvial river bottom so the ground ends up deep and holding, as previously stated by John Gosden.
Qatar Prix Chaudenay (Group 2)
The first race of the Arc weekend went to the H H Aga Khan owned Valia, who stormed to victory down the outside of the field under a very confident ride by Christophe Soumillon for Alain de Royer-Dupre. Godolphin’s Nemean Lion was 2 lengths behind in second and Yann Barberot’s Step by Step a short neck behind in third. The race gave us the first look as just how bottomless the ground at ParisLongchamp was. Ralph Beckett’s Max Vega kept on at one pace to take fourth and Mykiss and Mythical weakened and dropped out.
Qatar Prix Dollar (Group 2)
This years renewal of the 1m 2f Group 2 went the way of last year’s winner Skalleti, even though with a couple of furlongs to go, you wouldn’t have thought it! Faced with a field of 7 rivals, including the old warrior Subway Dancer, Irish raider Patrick Sarsfield and the French charge! Most of the race was headed by the Czechoslovakian horse Raging Storm who came back to the field 2F out and hampered Skalleti. Whilst this was going on Frankie Dettori and Patrick Sarsfield had taken up the running but once Skalleti had found the gap it was game over. The Champion Stakes at Ascot might be on the agenda for him.
Qatar Prix de Royallieu (Group 1)
One of the feel good stories from the weekend! Wonderful Tonight was a very popular winner for Tony Piccone, David Menuisier and all his team at Coombelands. Although she hanged left towards the end of the race, Wonderful Tonight still managed to keep the Joseph O’Brien trained Pista at bay. They both pulled 5 lengths clear of the third placed horse Ebaiyra. This race showed the effect that the Heavy ground had at Longchamp as 15 ½ lengths covered those still racing and 68 between the Wonderful Tonight and the twelfth placed horse Spirit of Appin.
Haras de Bouquetot- Critérium de la Vente d’Octobre
This race provided one of the most eye-catching winners of the whole meeting, for me, with Jadoomi absolutely hosing up by 7 lengths under Mickael Barzalona. He traveled very well throughout the race and he quickened up and went away from the field with ease. What I was most impressed with, was how he wasn’t for stopping! To do that in Heavy ground at Longchamp, was very striking. I spoke with connections, who told me that he had come out of the race in good condition and that there are currently no immediate plans for his next run, as the race at ParisLongchamp was the aim after his confidence-boosting win at Wolverhampton. They will wait a few days before they start to consider his options! I will be very interested to see where they go with him next, he seems to relish the heavy ground.
Qatar Prix Daniel Wildenstein (Group 2)
The Revenant was one of the star performances from last year, winning this race last year then going on to place in a top class QE2. He hadn’t been seen since that race and after almost a year off, he made his largely anticipated return and he didn’t disappoint! Give a patient ride by Pierre-Charles Boudot, he contested the lead with a furlong to go and went clear to win by 2 lengths. He will go back for another bid at the QE2 and with the ground being just as bad at Ascot, he may stand a very good chance! He is a general 8/1 for the race.
Qatar Prix du Cadran (Group 1)
Another one of the feel good stories! Princess Zoe was rated 70 when her winning streak started and since then she has gone from strength to strength! She faced tough opposition which included Freddy Head’s top French stayer Call The Wind. The race was a very slowly run race, as you would expect with the bottomless ground. The race was led by Frederic Rossi’s Alkuin, ridden by Eddy Hardouin. As they came around the bend, it became clear that Alkuin wasn’t coming back to the field! Joey Sheridan and Princess Zoe set their sights on the runway leader. Call The Wind just didn’t have the pace to go with Princess Zoe and was all out, which reinforced that it was very testing ground! What ensured was almost reminiscent of Red Rum v Crisp in the 1973 National, the slow motion finish up the straight leaving you wondering whether she’ll get there?! Had Hardouin stolen it? Many watched with bated breath as Princess Zoe relentlessly perused her opponent, none more so than her trainer Tony Mullins and her connections! A truly remarkable training feat, a ride of a champion by Joey Sheridan and an unbelievable race!
Dinner Party Stakes (Turf- Grade 2)
On paper, this race may not seem that interesting. However, I was very taken with the winner, Factor This. Ever since joining Brad Cox’s barn he has looked imperious and wasn’t so far behind Digital Age in the Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic at Churchill Downs. He was always in control of the race and stormed to a 3 length victory and was rewarded with a Timeform Speed Figure of 131, which is incredibly fast! He may not go to the Breeders’ Cup but he is definitely worth at least an each way shout if he does!
Geore E Mitchell Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (Dirt-Grade 2)
One of the unofficial filly Triple Crown races, the Black-Eyed Susan seemed to be a walkover for Bonny South. Last seen 3½ lengths behind subsequent Kentucky Oaks second Swiss Skydiver (more on her in a minute!) in the Alabama Stakes, it was Bonny South’s to lose. Coming around the bend Bonny South was 4 wide and had a mountain to climb to catch the leader in Miss Marissa, trained by James Ryerson and ridden by Daniel Centeno, who had kept her lead stoutly and started to pull away. Bonny South gave a very gallant chase and was flying but was held by Miss Marissa by a neck! Miss Marissa earned a Beyer speed figure of 92, which suggests that it was quite a slowly run race.
Preakness Stakes (Dirt-Grade 1)
The final race of a completely jumbled up Triple Crown was poised to be a cracker! A field of 11 went to post including: Kentucky Derby winner Authentic, Alabama Stakes winner and Kentucky Oaks second, Swiss Skydiver, Blue Grass winner Art Collector, Bob Baffert’s Thousand Words and Ny Traffic, who had finished a nose behind Authentic in the Haskell Invitational. In the end, it just came down to two horses who put everything on the line which culminated in an epic stretch duel down the straight, that drew comparisons to Easy Goer and Sunday Silence 31 years before! The filly, Swiss Skydiver, just prevailed from the Derby winner Authentic to become the first filly since the legendary Rachael Alexandria in 2009. They both finished 10 lengths in front of the third placed horse Jesus’ Team. It was a truly thrilling race and a fitting end to the 2020 Triple Crown!
First Lady Stakes presented by UK HealthCare (Turf- Grade 1)
Only a small number of horses in this race but still a high class renewal. It boasted last years Turf Mile winner Uni, the ever consistent Beau Recall and the seemingly rejuvenated Newspaperofrecord. The race quickly developed into a 3 horse race with Uni running down Newspaperofrecord in the dying stages, who was then nabbed for second by the fast finishing Beau Recall. It was good to see Uni back to her best after a below par run in the Fourstardave. The main aim for the three of them will probably be the Turf Mile.
Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes (Turf- Grade 1)
The race had all the usual suspects including dual Grade 1 scorer, Raging Bull, former English trained Without Parole and the favourite, and Breeders’ Turf Mile fancy, Analyze It. However, there was a slight upset as the winner came in the form of, the 3 time Group 1 winner in Argentina, Ivar. He came charging down the centre of the track to book his ticket for the Breeder’s Cup Turf Mile. Raging Bull was a length behind in second and wouldn’t have caught Ivar. He was given a 126 Timeform Speed Figure which, in this class of opposition, is very interesting indeed. He is a general 16/1 shot for the race.
Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Stakes (Turf- Grade 1)
The favourite for this race was the Chad Brown trained Rockemperor, who I’m sure will get his Grade 1 at some point! The race also included the ever consistent Saddler’s Joy, who many will remember for placing 3rd behind Enable and Magical in the Turf Classic two years ago, and the equally as good Channel Maker, who looked to be back to his old best in his last Grade 1 winning run. The race was dominated by Channel Maker who went from gate to wire to secure a routing of the field. Saddler’s Joy lost second in the closing strides to the German trained Laccario. Rockemperor finished in 5th after not having the speed to go with the others.
Kelso Handicap (Dirt- Grade 2)
Named after one of the greats of American horse racing, the Kelso Handicap had quite a small field with only 4 going to post. Of those four, it was safe to say it would be a two horse race between last year’s Travers Stakes winner Code of Honor and the Chad Brown trained Complexity, who was last seen just missing out on winning the Forego when collared by Win Win Win. As they came round the bend it was clear the two horse race was about to begin, as Endorsed started to weaken and Stan the Man was never closing. The big two pulled clear by 9 ½ lengths but it was Complexity who won by 2 lengths from Code of Honour, who was always held. However, Code of Honour was giving Complexity 5lbs so It would be a close matchup if they were both to meet on level weights.
Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes (Turf- Grade 1)
A low key affair which centred around the favourite Gufo, who went off at 6/4 and won very readily from Todd Pletcher’s No Word, a length away in second. Gufo was very unlucky not to win at Saratoga the time before, when coming from the heavens to be a neck behind the winner in second. His best attribute is the late burst of speed that he has that enables him to fly past all his opponents in the straight. With this win, he now qualifies for the Breeders’ Cup Turf (16/1) but connections also said that he may bypass this for the Hollywood Derby later on in the year. He certainly looks to be the next rising star of American Turf racing!
A new strip of grass was laid to try and make the ground less heavy and it worked, to an extent. It was still nowhere near enough to have a real impact. The ground was marginally drier than the day before but it was still heavy and tacky.
Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardère
From 150/1 shot winner at Royal Ascot to 3/5 favourite for one of the biggest juvenile races around, Nando Parrado is one of the most unlikely success stories of this year and full credit has to go to trainer Clive Cox. Many thought that it would be a close race between the five runners so nobody expected the absolute demolition job done by Sealiway who cantered clear on the bottomless ground to win by 8 lengths from Clive Cox’s horse. He traveled very well through the race under Mickael Barzalona. He’s now ranked 116 by Timeform and it will be interesting to see whether it was a case of him handling the ground, or if he is a genuine horse! He has a berth into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf but it remains to be confirmed whether he will go!
Qatar Prix Marcel Boussac
Another of the incredible stories from over the weekend as Tiger Tanaka capitalised on a very messy race to win the Marcel Boussac under Jessica Marcialis, who made history by being the first female jockey to win a Group 1 in France. The story was also bolstered by the rise of Tiger Tanaka, who at the beginning of the the year was running in claiming races, so praise must be given for the trainer Charley Rossi. As I said, it was a very messy race and there are many hard luck stories, Harajuku, King’s Harlequin, but none so much as the favourite Fev Rover, who was impeded when starting to make her run and then was shunted from both sides. She gallantly ran on to finish 4th and would’ve definitely would’ve been up there if she had a clear run. I spoke with connections who confirmed to me that she was thankfully none the worse for the run and that a decision would be made in a couple of weeks on if she will run again this year. If she does then some possible targets include the Critérium International over one mile at Saint-Cloud, or the Breeders’ Cup.
Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe
What could have been! All eyes were on the incomparable Enable as she bid to make history with an unprecedented third Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Sadly, a combination of very testing going and being bumped at the wrong time meant that our hearts were broke again! By no means did this take anything away from Sottsass’s well deserved win. Jean-Claude Rouget had planned the route out ever since Sottsass was 3rd in the race last year. He was always going well and just repelled the challenge of the 3 year old, In Swoop, to win by a neck, giving J-C Rouget and jockey Cristian Demuro their first Arc wins! Andre Fabre’s Persian King just held on to 3rd place from Gold Trip. Although there was the notable absentees of the Aidan O’Brien cavalry, it was still a top class renewal of the jewel of French racing, with 8 of the 11 runners having struck at the top level before. Sottsass has now been retired to stud, along with Persian King. There is currently no decision on whether Enable will run one last time. If some of the 3 year olds stay in training, it will be very interesting to see their paths for next year.
Prix de l’Opéra
The l’Opera saw the clash between the Prix Vermeille winner Tarnawa, the classy Alpine Star, the unbeaten Prix Saint-Alary winner Tawkeel and James Fanshawe’s Prix Jean Romanet winner Audarya. I was highly surprised to see Audarya at such a big price in the betting, considering she had won on the French soft ground before. The race was every bit the clash everyone expected. Tawkeel took up the running and with 100 meters to go they were all in a line! With about 50 yards to go, the battle became a ‘head-bobber’ between Tarnawa and Alpine Star, with Tarnawa just prevailing. One runner that did catch my eye was the Polish runner Inter Royal Lady, who was 78/1 and finished 8th, a short neck behind Grand Glory in 7th. She was virtually unbeaten in Poland, with her sole defeat coming when she was a close second to her stablemate in the Polish Derby. She had never ran on the ground before and was only 6 lengths behind the very best in the business!
Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp
Anyone will tell you that when it comes to the Abbaye, the draw is key. Wooded, ridden by Pierre-Charles Boudot, had the very inside draw and just narrowly prevailed by a neck from the favourite Glass Slippers, who was closing with every stride. She had draw 10, which was nearly the outside draw, but in a small Abbaye, there was less of an effect. She also gained 4lbs off Wooded, having the filly allowance, so that definitely helped. Take nothing away from her though, she ran a very good race. Liberty Beach (Draw 4) just lost second to Glass Sippers and Lady in France ran a cracking race for Karl Burke in 4th at 30/1.
Qatar Prix de la Forêt
Well… a mare did make history by winning 3 of the same Group 1, just not the one we all thought!! To make it even more impressive, One Master did them back-to-back as well. This seems to have slipped under the radar a bit, however, it’s some performance from Boudot and William Haggas to achieve this feat. Narrowly prevailing in a battle, as always, with the 3 year old Earthlight and the popular Safe Voyage a short head behind them. Tropbeau (remember her?) finished a 1 ½ lengths behind in 4th. It was the perfect way to cap off a very eventful Arc weekend with the incredibly gutsy mare battling to cement her place in history.
Bourbon Stakes (Turf- Grade 2)
For his debut race, Mutasaabeq earned an 84 Beyer speed rating for his win. Now for a two year old, that is razor sharp. This was on the final day of the Saratoga meeting, where there is normally a good two year old that always comes out of a maiden. For example, last year’s was Tiz the Law. He then went straight to contest a Grade 1 over 7F at Saratoga and was dropped by Chad Brown’s Reinvestment Risk and the current favourite for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Jackie’s Warrior. He made his first start on turf and over a mile and a half for this race. He dwelt from the start and was five horses wide going around the corner and 5 lengths off the lead coming into the home stretch. He quickened up very nicely and passed the other 10 horses in the field like they were stood still to win by 2 lengths. He punched his ticket for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and is a 6/1 shot for the race.
Sprinters Stakes (Turf- Grade 1)
The Sprinters Stakes is the second of the two big Grade 1 sprint races, with the other being the Takamatsunomiya Kinen in March. The field included the winner of the Takamatsunomiya Kinen, Mozu Superflare, who was handed the race via the disqualification of Kurino Gaudi, who was also in the Sprinters. Multiple Graded winner Danon Smash, Diatonic who was 3rd that day and Gran Alegria, who was 2nd. Gran Alegria was the 6/5 favourite having been placed in multiple Grade 1 races, winning the Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) last year and last time out, she defeated the brilliant Almond Eye in the Yasuda Kinen, over a mile. Gran Alegria blew the start and was about 5 lengths off the pace and coming into the straight with around 1 ½ furlongs left, she was about 10-15 lengths off the lead, if not more. She then flew down the centre of the track, in a style that Chautauqua would be proud of, and won by 2 lengths from Danon Smash. She will next contest for the Mile Championship at Kyoto on the 22nd of November. It may have been overlooked by all the other racing on this weekend but she was highly impressive.
By Kieran McHugh