My heart has been broken on a racecourse, more than once in fact, and after a while I just couldn’t take it any longer, so I took a break from the turf. I’ve only kept an eye on proceedings because of the wonder horse Frankel who I saw hack up at the Dewhurst nearly two years ago now. Frankel moves the heart and soul like very few other horses do, but I confess there have been a few . I won’t name them now. Those who know me might remember some of them. Probably they won’t. It doesn’t matter – no need to make the heart hurt more than it needs to on a sunny October morning.
All that’s a rather long way of saying, today, I logged into one of my long idle gambling acounts. One has been run down to a balance of zero thanks to ‘inactive adminstrative fees’. Because it costs you money to be my bank Mr Ladbroke? Another remains intact with a sum in the magnificence of eleven pence. Still, Paddy Power has at least left the paltry amount in my name, rather than helping himself to it in disgust at my giving up the gambling life.
It turns out I am not ready to place a bet. I think I will close the accounts. I have others elsewhere, but I can’t remember who with, or indeed the log-ins. I have a vague idea that there is some money in one of them, somewhere. I was thinking I might have a bet on Meandre today, but the ground has gone in Longchamp and it will not be coming back in time for this afternoon’s race. Even worse, I find I do not care who wins the Arc. What is wrong with me? It only seems like yesterday I ran the Southend 10K on Arc Day morning and then watched when Sea the Stars confirmed his place in the glittering firmament later that afternoon. It seems like yesterday, but in truth it is three whole years ago. The further truth is that I don’t run any more and I don’t go racing.
Where has the time gone?
Where are all the horses that used to live in my head?
Someone tweeted today that this is the most joyously named raced in the whole of the year’s racing fixture list, if not the entire global sporting calendar. Well they probably didn’t tweet exactly that because there would be too many characters to make it tweet length.
Better then, for today, to the use the French term jouissance – the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is a race full of jouissance.
For those involved with the winner the jouissance will presumably know no bounds.
I don’t know if my friend Jamie has made it over to Longchamp in his car today but, if he has, I hopes he finds the winner in the flesh. I’ve been too busy making origami frog astronauts to do the horses this weekend.
*******Arc Day update*******
Trainer John Gosden & jockey William Buick were arrested as they got off their private plane in France this morning as they had flown over a secret base and were suspected of being spies… Their runner is the St Leger winner Masked Marvel. Is it a sign? To whit, two unmasked Chinese men seen at Longchamp putting £2000 on said horse. This is how rumours start.
One-quarter of the household departs to watch this clash today. Can you win? I asked. I think not was the reply. Didier Drogba is (and I paraphrase here) too Didier and too Drogba for the Arsenal to deal with. Another view from another Gooner yesterday was that Drogba is the supreme athlete, across all sporting endeavour.
A shame then that Didier cannot line up this afternoon at Longchamp for the Arc as he would clearly be nailed on for victory. Instead I will have to wade through the equines that are starting.
I was asked yesterday: can Workforce win. I think not. My reasons are manifold. Sir Michael has never trained the Arc winner, this year’s Derby although fast, has not yielded a vintage crop in the defeated, Workforce was reportedly “a shell” after his win on Epsom Downs which puts me in mind of Denman after his Gold Cup win. It takes time for a horse to come back from running out of its skin like that. Furthermore there is the ground and the trip to consider and those, to my mind, do not a match in heaven make. The road to Arc triumph is littered with Derby heroes, I wouldn’t mind if Workforce were to somehow replicate his Derby effort, but my mind’s eye can’t see it.
What of the French contingent, which includes the likely favourite Bekhabad? My contention would be that this little lot have not really had a searching examination of their collateral French form. Cape Blanco finished woefully in arrears of Lope de Vega and Bekhabad in the Prix du Jockey club, but I think the Irish horse was coming into the race off a hard time in the Dante, and I don’t count that form as a test for the French. The figures certainly say that Bekhabad would be the best of the French bunch and he seems to get 12f, but I don’t feel convinced.
Then the only angles left to me are the reliable Arc yardstick Youmzain, the unreliable Arc yardstick Cavalryman and the Ballydoyle battalion. For the purposes of wordcount I have to ignore the Japanese, German and Czech horses.
Youmzain would be the best story in the race if he were to win, but this year has not been kind to him and we can only conclude that he has no more improvement left in him. On the other hand, the Arc is usually run to suit his style of coming late and he clearly likes the course so for the sake of being part of a good yarn to tell in future Octobers I’ll throw a few quid his way more in hope than expectation. The truth is he’s not my idea of the winner.
Cavalryman has lost me a few quid this year. I don’t know what to make of his chance at all. There were signs that he was coming back to himself in the last outing and he should be ok with the ground, but perhaps only a blind fool would back him this afternoon. Am I a blind fool? Well sometimes.
Then to the Irish. Midas Touch is coming back off only a short break in the Leger, Fame & Glory might go on the ground and has previous Arc form, but despite his 1111 form figures, he has not faced the stiffest of tests this year. So we are left with the 3yo Cape Blanco, with Christophe Soumillon an excellent Longchamp pilot, but perhaps not the best of the draw. He has a blip on his record when last in France, but he has had the opportunity to rectify that since (unlike Workforce). He is unexposed and although I have read there are concerns for him on the soft ground I do not share them. I am a little bit worried about the trip. Nevertheless, I have already backed him and I may back him again with the other two Ballydoyle horses in my new favourite bet: the combination forecast.
And I’d’ve put good money on never typing that sentence.
So having got lost in my own analysis I am down to:
Youmzain for old times sake, Cavalryman – ditto.
Cape Blanco already backed – can I afford to put him with a FAG and a Midas Touch in a combo with coke and les frites?
Duncan – shit draw, but form behind Harbinger and a 12f victory @ Longchamp on soft going under his belt. Could he be some value @ 33s?
This could get pretty messy.
P.S. Dick and Paco aim to beat super Goldi in the Prix de la Foret earlier on the card. I would love it if it could be Dick’s Day. I would love it too if it could be Paco’s. I can’t remember them racing against each other. I have to say my heart lies with this contest. The Arc, and the football are just the supporting acts.
Actually it’s the Arc, not the hokey cokey (and what’s that all about anyway?). Runners are coming out today at the 5 day stage and tomorrow runners will be coming in as the supplementary stage opens.
Out goes Yeats (the battalions of Ballydoyle were having a bubble barf with that one), stalls-shy Spanish Moon (who was my ante-post ew bet) and three others. In, for the fee of 100,000 euros, will likely come Stacelita, Cavalryman and maybe Sariska (but I am not sure about her as there has not yet been the rain they are after). We have light rain forecast for the days preceding Sunday’s race but at the moment it is not believed to be enough to hinder the wonder horse’s participation.
The Arc and I have an uneasy autumnal sort of relationship. My flat racing season tends to follow the same pattern every year. Wild abandon when the Guineas comes round at the thought of all the exciting prospects, a glutted reverie in the mid-summer (after the Eclipse) when the calendar is full to bursting and week long festivals seem to be happening every fortnight, and then a sad sort of realisation about now that it is coming to an end. Now is the time reputations are cemented, or shattered for good at Longchamp and then at the Breeders’ Cup. I find that the enjoyable exercise of trying to read a race in advance, now becomes clouded by sentiment and my hopes for individual horses. Now I know Sea the Stars doesn’t give a toss if he wins on Sunday (although they do say a horse’s heart can be broken) but I really, really do.
The last time I gave this much of a shit was when I was convinced Deep Impact would win the Arc a few years back. For those of you that didn’t see that showdown, Deep was 3rd and subsequently disqualified for having had a blast of Vicks a few days before the big one. I felt ill before, during and after the unsatisfactory race and although I always enjoy the Arc I can’t quite bring myself to engage with it fully. This year I have no choice.
It is tricky to preview a race without the line-up and the going. Kieren Fallon is not to be deterred though in the “Weekender”, asserting that it is no done deal for StS given his packed dancecard and that Youmzain (his mount) may, finally and in blinkers, get in the Group 1 winning groove. Well he might.
I have read others who are sweet on Conduit’s chances, yet others who insist he is a one-paced gallop merchant who will not have the requisite toe from the turn-in.
I find myself entirely unable to analyse this race.
I want Sea the Stars to win, trot into the history books and share his genes with us for a long, long time.
That said, I will organise my thoughts, exorcise the sentiment and evaluate the field’s chances on Sunday.