2011 Arc Weekend Review

Danedream spreadeagles the Arc field

Danedream spreadeagles the Arc field

First of all, an apology. Although I spent a lot of time researching and writing my Arc preview post, I fully appreciate that the tipping therein was what the French call ‘merde’. In English, it’s brown and smelly and rhymes with grit…

So I’m sorry. Obviously, I try to find the value and of course I back my own judgment as well… which means that Sunday was extremely expensive from a punting perspective. That, as they say, is the game. Or, as they say over here, ‘c’est la guerre’ (that’s the battle).

The abject reversals of both Worthadd and Reliable Man (who was of course anything but) sealed my financial demise on what was an otherwise extremely enjoyable autumnal Parisian weekend with racing mate, Jerry. Jerry did much better than me, I should add.

In review, it started very well, as while we were getting sozzled on Saturday on Chardonnay (a decent bottle for the price of two ‘metric’ pints of beer) I was invincible. Four winners from four Group races, AND the late Pick 4 on Belmont’s Super Saturday card.

Alas, the Gowran Park jackpot eluded me as a swathe of late non-runners saw me have four horses running onto the non-winning favourite in the opener (the 3rd fav won, which I’d have had if waiting until the last minute to place my bet. Well, you can’t be everywhere and you can’t do everything, but it slipped from me there.)

Back to the action, and specifically Sunday, and the main event(s). Of course, all rues led to the Arc itself, but there was a stellar undercard consisting of SEVEN Group 1’s (and that’s excluding the Arab Group 1!).

My card may well have been marked when the evergreen nine-year-old Kasbah Bliss slung mud in the eye of my contention that he was too old and slow to win, as he sped from last to first, barely breaking stride to hurl his zimmer frame at me in mirth.

The first big roar from the mostly British (with a notable number of Japanese) crowd, and my contrarian approach to the game was looking as inappropriate as a big day’s drinking prior to a major punting event. Doh.

The following race was one of those regrettable moments where you’re looking at the card just before the off, and you think, ‘that horse is a big price. I’ll have a cheeky tickle’. And then you think, ‘it’s a bit crowded and I can’t really be bothered to queue up in the mutuel lines to put the bet on’.

So it was that Tangerine Trees clippety-clopped lickety-split from gate to wire, to see off the express train finish of Sole Power and the bold effort of Secret Asset. The TT is a very fast five furlong sprinter and this was far less of a surprise result than the 20/1 return implied. ‘Bugger’, I thought. Not for the first or last time in the day.

Onwards and downwards, for that was to be the theme of the afternoon, my punting riding an inexorable slide towards bankruptcy. Next up was the Prix Marcel Boussac and a lesson in sticking with what you know.

Jerry and I had a little placepot running on, and we’d banked on Zantenda (a sort of Banco Zantenda, if you like), as opposed to the far more sensible – and obvious – banker of Goldikova later on.

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To mitigate for this hungoversight, I suggested that we perm the other four horses in combination forecasts, therefore insuring our banker position. Excellent idea, and executed with aplomb for the 17/1 couple gagnant (as such a wager is known over this way). Alas, I’d asked for something different in my ignorance, and – when presenting my ticket – was given the classic Gallic shrug (shoulders up, neck craned forward, bottom lip out, corners of mouth firmly in the down position).

I don’t know what the French for ‘bollocks’ is, but that’s where I was at now. Clearly, at this point, the only sensible thing to do is acknowledge defeat and retire hurt to the bar.

But I was far from sensible. The Grand Criterium followed, and I tried to get Dabirsim beaten. On my side was the fact that it also appeared that Frankie Dettori, his jockey seeking a preposterous 500th Group race win, also appeared intent on losing the colt’s unbeaten record in his fifth start.

Luckily for Frankie and Dabirsim, but not obviously for me, was the perfect split that opened up in front of him along the rail – a place where such perfect splits rarely manifest themselves – and the horse was supremely impressive in lengthening from a seemingly impossible position.

The winner has received some shortish quotes for next year’s 2000 Guineas, and it’s not hard to see why. The acceleration he showed when the gap came was something else – real Group 1 class – and he did a lot to dispel concerns from the likes of me about staying a mile. (This, incidentally, was seven furlongs and not a mile as I’d said in my preview piece).

If purchased by Godolphin as the suggestion doing the rounds is, he’ll likely line up at Newmarket, and ought to be tough to beat granted physical development from two to three. Certainly, this was a smarter performance than the winning margin suggested.

The second horse, Sofast, was also quickening nicely and, with that one likely to head for the French 2000 Guineas, he’s a grand chance there too.

The Prix de la Foret was next, and the first of my two decent bets of the day, £80 each way on Worthadd. My angle in was that Goldikova, the 1/2 favourite, was opposable at seven furlongs and in what was clearly a prep run for the Breeders Cup Mile (as it has been the last three years, and where she was also beaten in 2009).

My other strong opinion was the Dream Ahead would not stay the seventh furlong, thus making Worthadd a cracking each way bet. Hmm, where to start with decomposing the decomposition of my thinking?

Basically, Dream Ahead was mightily impressive to my eye: firstly, when quickening to come upsides Goldikova, who was attempting to outstay her younger usurper; and secondly, when battling resolutely to withstand Goldi’s rally.

The pair were six lengths clear of the third horse, who was not Worthadd, but 42/1 impostor, Surfrider, with Charles O’Brien’s Bewitched also beating Worthadd, who trailed home fifth.

Even allowing for the fact that Goldi’s pacemaker, Flash Dance, probably did upset W’s rhythm, this was still a good old-fashioned stinker.

The result does leave a nagging suspicion that the beautiful Goldikova, winner of 14 Group 1 races, may be on the wane. She’s finished 2nd in three of her last four starts now, and whilst those defeats were all in Group 1 company, she had a perfect right to beat both Immortal Verse last time and Dream Ahead here.

Although it’s borderline sacrilege, I’ll be looking to oppose her if I can find one with which to do it, in the Breeders Cup Mile.

And then came the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe 2011. My second strong opinion of the day, and another £250 down the swannie. My angle in this time was that Sarafina was over-rated as was So You Think at the trip, and that both had car park draws which did little for their prospects. So far, so good.

Alas, my alternative option was Reliable Man, the facile Prix Niel winner, and probable improver after just five prior starts. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Some will blame the ground. Some will say he wasn’t good enough. Some, maybe all, of those people might be right. But I retain the belief that it wasn’t the ground that beat him, and that he was good enough to make the frame if not to win.

No matter, I take little (though a ‘petit peu’) consolation from knowing I/we got the value. 14 and 12/1 about a horse returned 8.8/1 will win you money in the long run. But not this day.

Indeed, in what was a strange result, dominated by fillies, the bookies must have been laughing almost as much as the old boy Kasbah Bliss, with Danedream a 27/1 shot on course, and the other placed beasts relatively unconsidered at 71/1 (!) and 15/1 respectively.

I did manage a five euro win and place bet on Danedream, simply because she was drawn in one of the boxes 1, 2 and 3, from where some decent priced horses have hit the board in recent years. (Yes, my betting had descended to virtual pin-sticking by this point).

Snow Fairy ran a fine race in third, as did So You Think in fourth, and St Nicholas Abbey in fifth.

But this was all about Danedream. She was simply imperious in quickening clear to record a new Arc record time, which had stood since Peintre Celebre’s 1997 romp. Her five length winning margin also constituted one of the biggest on record. ‘Chapeau‘ is all one can say when a horse comes from relatively nowhere and buries a high class field.

She was impressive and in leading home two other ‘fat bottomed girls’, the theme tune for my little video montage chose itself!

Here’s a pan-European commentary view on Sunday’s Longchamp races.

Best Regards,

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