The Irish Outsider – October 16th 2013
After attending the Arc De Triomphe for the first time recently, it’s clear that the French are good at a few things: food – the delights of getting crepes and baguettes at Longchamp was unusual in light of our own limited racetrack catering, and that’s not even to mention the half-decent coffee; taking their time – in Paris, it doesn’t do if you’re in a hurry for a bet or a bite; exclusionism – the French have a wilful ignorance about speaking English and care little for racing in other countries; training racehorses – the home side dominated proceedings over the two-day meeting, Maarek being the only foreign-trained runner to land a group race from ten such events.
On the track, Treve was magnificent, right up there with the best recent winners of the race. It wasn’t so much her wide-margin win that impressed but how she achieved it; sweating up beforehand, she used plenty of energy early on racing keen and wide and Thierry Jarnet made a premature move in the false straight that would have proved ruinous on a lesser filly yet she still powered away to win, posting a very quick closing sectional, albeit off a slow pace.
It was a good example of a poor winning ride and while it could be argued that he made his move at the optimum time, quickening up the slow gallop and catching the others unawares, in the main this sort of move rarely pays off. Treve is clearly the one to beat in all the top middle-distance races next year and credit to her owners who have taken the unusual step to race on with her at four – a notable shift in approach – but she wouldn’t be the first filly not to train on.
Moonlight Cloud was equally imperious in the Foret though again the ride was less than inspired; Jarnet set the mare too much to do and was saved by one that can now be used as the touchstone for ‘push-button’ quickening though that impression may have been enhanced by the switch in camera angle up the straight. The Breeders’ Cup proved her downfall last year and she hasn’t always held her form through to the end of the season but this was a special run and it will be intriguing to see where/if she runs again.
One thing to take away from the race was that the ride in Moulin, where she was in front far too soon over a trip that may stretch her, was another poor one and Olympic Glory looks flattered by getting so close to her.
Away from the blindingly obvious, a trio of horses are worth taking from the meeting. The well-backed Lesstalk In Paris put up a big run in the Boussac; she had to be used up early from a wide draw to get the lead and set a strong gallop, travelled best, kicked on entering the final furlong and was caught close home, the other five of the first six home all held up to one degree or other. The sectionals backed up that she set a very strong pace.
In the Arc, Intello looked the one to follow, ridden like a dubious stayer and conceding first run to the winner; next year’s ten furlong races looked there for him but she reportedly goes to stud. The Cadran hasn’t been a strong race lately and that looked the case again this year; even so, the second Tac De Boistron shaped best; way too keen early and made a big move before the false straight, came there travelling best but didn’t see it out, should do better back at two miles and seems to have improved for new yard.
Another notable factor from the meeting, and a developing pattern over recent years, was the poor record of Aidan O’Brien-trained horses; since Dylan Thomas won the 2007 Arc, only Misty For Me (2010 Boussac) has won for him at the meeting. Ballydoyle formerly had a good record in the 2yo races, notably the Lagadere, winning colts’ race five times between 2001 and 2006 but their focus seems to have shifted away from it lately; it’s not as if O’Brien didn’t have the horses for that race this year with the likes of Australia, War Command and Tapestry but he sent the C-team, not even the B-team, over in the shape of Wonderfully and Wilshire Boulevard.
If anything they looked like sighters to see where his best juveniles are in relation to the pick of the French and he can’t have been overly worried given that they finished quite close up. One interesting development along the same lines is that O’Brien said on Saturday that War Command, Australia and Geoffrey Chaucer are finished for the year, the Racing Post Trophy and the backend French Group 1 races seemingly not an option.
As to the Arc itself, he has always struggled in the race, getting good ones like High Chaparral and Duke Of Marmalade beaten though it would be unwise to read anymore into the defeat of his runners this year than the view that he simply didn’t have the horses in the shape of Ruler Of The World and Leading Light.
As to the race-day experience at Longchamp, I would describe it as different, rather than better, though I must admit to a ready preference for the British/Irish day out. Firstly, there’s the pre-race analysis as the France-Galop site is the next stop up from useless, completely user-unfriendly; we may complain about the flaws in the Racing Post website or Horse Racing Ireland’s race administration site but they are vastly superior when placed alongside the French equivalent.
The entrance fee is clearly a big plus to French racing – it cost just €14 to get into both days and there was plenty for access for that cheap fee, Longchamp seemingly nothing like as stratified as some of the English tracks. In comparison to the ticket prices for something like Champions Day this weekend (£55 for premier admission) it is value for money though I remain unconvinced that lowering entrance fees – a commonly put-forward solution to dwindling race-day attendances – is the answer as the weather is often the vital component.
On that subject, Longchamp certainly isn’t a place for a rainy day, so much of its facilities based outside, and the lack of emphasis on betting was a down-point. Realistically, one only has the PMU on offer and ignoring racing from other jurisdictions was a poor show given that there was French trotting on offer on the close-circuit TV.
Expecting Tipperary on screen is probably a bit much but the better races from the UK on Saturday when there was a good Ascot card is hardly too much to ask for and in any case it’s worth remembering that French punters are betting into Irish Tote pools at present so perhaps calls for some Irish action is justified.