No, I didn’t make it to the Arc after all. I was unceremoniously “bumped” in favour of a well-known trainer from the last seat on a little plane, writes Tony Stafford. I’m sure he had a nice day, but so did I and I’m saying this without a scintilla of irony.
What was ironic was that Newsells Park Stud, which had derived such reflected glory from the exploits of Nathaniel’s daughter Enable over the past three years, are part-owners of Waldgeist, the five-year-old entire who ended her unbroken run of success at the last gasp of what we presume to be her final race.
Newsells Park shared with the late Lady Rothschild in Nathaniel’s racing career, most notable for his King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes win as a three-year-old, when in 2011 he beat the previous year’s Derby winner, Workforce, and noted globetrotter, St Nicholas Abbey.
As a four-year-old he was beaten a nose on the nod by Danedream in the same Ascot race. Danedream, a German filly, won the previous year’s Arc by five lengths at 20-1 and was as big as 9-1 when winning her King George.
But almost the most memorable aspect of Nathaniel’s career was that he had participated in the first and last acts of the flawless Frankel his immortal fellow son of Galileo. It was only by a narrow margin that an immature Frankel prevailed on their shared debuts in a maiden on the Newmarket July Course in August 2010. Twenty-six months later they both bowed out after Ascot’s Champion Stakes, this time with more than four lengths separating the old adversaries with the brilliant gelding Cirrus Des Aigles splitting the pair.
Nathaniel retired to his part-owners’ stud at a fee of £20,000 which was held, apart from a one-year drop to £18k, before going up to £25,000 for the 2019 covering season. In truth, without Enable’s exploits, 13 wins from 14 starts before Sunday’s unexpected defeat, Nathaniel would have been regarded as the sire of decent staying horses, but none in Enable’s class – not that many horses over the past decade have been swimming in her pool.
Waldgeist, the German word for wood sprite or ghost, and like Nathaniel a son of Galileo, races under the Gestut Ammerland – a noted German stud – and Newsells Park (owned by the German Jacobs family) banner. Having three times failed to match Enable in the past, most spectacularly in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf where he came a long way short as Enable and yesterday’s fifth Magical had another of their tussles far ahead, he chose her swansong to deny her.
He gave fair warning in the King George this summer, staying on well to finish only a couple of lengths adrift as Juddmonte and John Gosden’s great mare got the better of Crystal Ocean in an epic battle up the straight. The news that Crystal Ocean will become a jumping stallion with Coolmore shows how seriously the world’s premier stud is taking the production of jumping stock at the same time as it reflects the relative lack of commerciality of middle-distance horses when their racing is over.
So Waldgeist’s future stud career, seemingly easily promoted for that brilliant burst in the ParisLongchamp mud, might still be problematical. In the race he took advantage of Enable’s vulnerability to a late thrust after she and Dettori had dealt efficiently with Magical and French Derby winner Sottsass, the latter in the White Birch Farm colours of Peter Brant.
Maybe he’d be a welcome addition to the Newsells team. In the recent past, the arena of choice for Derby winners and their ilk has been Japan, and German breeding doesn’t seem to be predicated against stamina either. But a few years ago Newsells had to call time on their Eclipse winner Mount Nelson after demand for his services dwindled to a trickle. Now rebranded and more significantly re-invigorated by a move to an Irish jumping farm he gets maybe ten times as many visits from mares than was the case in his final year in Hertfordshire – and the results to justify it.
The influence of Galileo in the major middle-distance races never wanes. Coolmore’s champion appears in the first two generations of the first five home yesterday. Apart from the winner he is also sire of both Aidan O’Brien trainees, fourth-placed Japan, who ran a solid race that promises much more if he gets a full four-year-old campaign and the tough Magical, fifth on her 20th career start, five runs more than Enable who has been going a year longer.
Sottsass has Galileo as his maternal grandsire while Enable of course is Galileo’s grand-daughter on the paternal side.
Longchamp, sorry ParisLongchamp – I won’t get used to it until I go there [you’ll never get used it, Ed.] – provided lovely Arc weather for the second day to reward the many British visitors who braved the trip in the final month before Brexit; and the British punters got about as much generosity in their treatment as Boris and before him Theresa May received from the EU negotiators.
Apart from Enable, backed down to 1-2 on the Pari-Mutuel, Battaash (Abbaye) and Mehdaayih (Prix de l’Opera) were also short-priced British flops on a day of betting carnage. There were two British and one notable Irish wins for those who looked beyond the perceived “good-things”. Jessica Harrington’s two-year-old fillies in particular have been enjoying a golden autumn and yesterday Albigna, in the Prix Marcel Boussac, followed the example of Millisle in the previous weekend’s Cheveley Park Stakes to become a strong-finishing winner of a Group 1 race.
William Haggas allegedly doesn’t enjoy flying, so One Master’s second successive win in the Prix de la Foret – another five-year-old mare! – would have steeled him for the short hop back in his little plane. I keep telling people to look back at One Master’s Doncaster debut two years and a bit ago when she was all of two lengths ahead of the great Betty Grable – four wins and five seconds in ten runs this year and up as high as 60 in the BHA handicap. That makes her just 52lb behind One Master, but maybe a little more when yesterday is taken into account by the handicappers.
The most remarkable performance of all for me though was the Prix de l’Abbaye demolition by the Kevin Ryan-trained and Terry Holdcroft (Bearstone Stud) -owned Glass Slippers. She went clear of a big field of sprinters before halfway and from that point was never less than the winning margin of three lengths ahead of So Perfect and the rest. That was a third successive win in France for the daughter of Dream Ahead who was rated only 96 when she started the sequence at Deauville in August. Another success followed at Longchamp but still there was so little hint of imminent Group 1 triumph that she was allowed to start at almost 13-1.
The tough So Perfect was a 27-1 shot as she continued the trend of Ballydoyle/Coolmore placed finishes, with Fleeting (19-1) also runner-up in the l’Opera and the well-backed Armory a creditable third to an impressive but economical Victor Ludorum in the Jean-Luc Lagardere for Andre Fabre, pathfinding for the brilliant and venerable trainer’s triumph in the Arc an hour or so later.
Like the plane, I was also denied in another of last week’s pronouncements, namely that Waterproof should get in his race at Kempton last Wednesday. He didn’t, by one. It was equally frustrating to miss out by two at Wolverhampton on Saturday night but thanks to the authority’s decision to divide his race at Chelmsford tomorrow night, I can go there after day one of book one of Tattersalls October Yearling Sales. It will be nice to catch up again with some of those who did get to France.
I don’t suppose many of them will join me at Chelmsford later but with the fourth, fifth and sixth horses from the race at Kempton where Waterproof finished second all having won next time out, they won’t be there to witness the victory celebration. I never move a muscle when Ray Tooth has a winner but maybe after such a wait for one I might stretch to a small cheer for Josie Gordon and trainer Shaun Keightley.
Mention of Josephine reminds me that when Catapult won over the same track last week he was benefiting from one of the rides of the season. While Dave Nevison on Racing TV bemoaned the fact that the beaten favourite Broughton Excels probably was disadvantaged by racing in the clear on the rail, the winner got barely a mention. Yet he had once been three lengths behind Dave’s fancy going to the turn at which point he had to be switched instantly when his ground was taken. Josie had to navigate him behind and then outside four other horses before launching a challenge down the middle of the track.
The skill and alacrity she showed when changing her stick from left hand to right and then smoothly back to the left when the horse hung slightly right was masterful. Then the rhythmic way she kept him going in her left hand to catch the favourite on the line was perfection. George Baker conceded she would have been an unlucky loser had Catapult not got up, but so fixated they all were on the favourite that one of the rides of the season was dismissed as nothing out of the ordinary. Shame on you, Mr Nevison!