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.
I read he is a bit tired after yesterday’s exertions. Me too, lack of movement today has given me some nasty lactic acid in my thighs but I don’t care if I am walking like a woman with no knees. I have seen an incredible thing. Six incredible things. I don’t know what amazes me most – the race records or the manner of the victories, Kinane’s coolness under pressure or John Oxx’s great measuredness, the horse’s exceptional talent or the notion that he knows nothing of the fuss he has created.
I started the year thinking it would be rare indeed to see a Guineas/Derby double and now look where we are. My anxiety last week when it became evident he would run surprised me. I am beginning to think it is going to take a while to sink in. It is going to take a few Guineas, Derbys and Arcs where we unfavourably compare the new heroes of the day to Sea The Stars. I don’t expect we will see his like again.
I am torn. I don’t want him to leave the stage, but I don’t want his perfect record besmirched. I genuinely don’t want him to travel to California, but if he did I would almost buy a ticket to be there. I can see he has nothing left to prove but I wonder if he could win two Arcs! In the jumping game you have (if you are lucky) your stars around for a few years. In the flat business, blink and you miss them, such is the desirability of their genes. Next year I will be looking for a new star, but will I ever enjoy it as much as this year. I don’t know, but I hope so. Flat racing is so very transient. Each season I watch makes me aware of time passing and this campaign has done that in the most raw and elemental way.
In the meantime, I am determined to enjoy every moment left of his public life, so see some lovely pictures of him returning as Arc hero and looking as laid back as ever he did here:
I am shocked to see and hear that Sea The Stars’ marvellous exploits do not appear to warrant wall-to-wall coverage. This comes as a shock to me – you mean the entire universe is not quite as obsessed as me?
Indeed the radio only mentioned him @ 8.30 (notice the break from usual rigid routine – that’s how earth-shattering events have been) in a brief sentence, after a long Lee Dixon ramble about the amazing new ball that they are playing with in The Premiership. Apparently this may account for the goal-infested matches there have been lately. If Mr Dixon is to be believed the ball can go any which way you wish to kick it… Either that, he said, or no-one knows how to conduct a back four any more.
Anyway, I don’t want the pantomime that is The Premiership intruding on my Sea The Stars aftermath, even if the media aren’t producing the lengthy paeans of praise I am after. I expect a purchase of Racing Post will fix that later. Please, please let Alistair Down write something I like for once.
I have been reading a lot about Sea The Stars and his victory and the Breeders’ Cup. I am with Pat Eddery – he should do no more, there is nothing left to prove. Yet, some correspondents are after more. They suspect we have not yet found the bottom of the horse. Why, I ask, would we want to? Are we so greedy for more that we would pack him off to California, a long flight after a long, long season and then ask him to compete on polytrack, albeit in the most spectacular of settings. If we demand that, he will either win or lose, or worse. None of the possible outcomes could enhance his fame any more. Mick Kinane said yesterday his coat has gone, he is becoming woolly. This is a sure sign that it is time for us to let him go. John Oxx has always said he will let the horse tell him where the next place to go will be. I am sure he will be listening carefully over the next few weeks.
There were more Arc “signs” this morning. I ran the Southend 10K (I use the term ran loosely, although I can assure you I never broke into the gait known as a walk) and my number started with 6. Aside from the confirmation signs of what I already believed to be true, there were three strong signs Chelsea would prevail at Stamford Bridge, which I took to heart after the Black Cats stuck it to Man U yesterday.
I am not a very good runner but I stick to my guns and get home. I am not good at switching off during a race, I don’t train properly and I am no judge of pace. It is therefore necessary to talk myself round and out of various mindsets I get into over the course of an hour. On the homeward run my mind became a little querulous, so I came up with one of my mad mantras to avoid excessive focus on any incipient aches and pains. The mantra went
“Sea The Stars, (Supaseus), easy, easy, easy.”
Let me state quite clearly here and now, I am not actually mad. I do not pretend to be a horse galloping along the seafront! I just enjoyed the imagery and rhythm of the mantra and it stopped my mind from stopping my legs. Now I have the image of Sea The Stars actual run today at Longchamp burned in to my brain, hopefully for replay many times in my life.
We had to head back to London to collect the children after the run, anxious as I was to be somewhere and not on the road at 3.15. It was cut a bit fine in the end (thanks once again M25 junctions 28-27). To distract myself from getting too worked up about the race, I got exceedingly worked up about the scoreline in the Arsenal game (when it was 3-2) and said some rude things about their defence to the driver. Of course, I retract partially since they went on to score 3 more, but still there is always a price to be paid for expansive and beautiful football. I expect Viera will sort it all out on his return.
So racing past the Olympic village with my stomach lurching like I was on a roller coaster with nerves, we made it to a television in time. I couldn’t bear to watch a minute’s preamble and only went near enough the set to be considered a televisual participant once the runners were loaded. Prowling round in the hall, with my stomach on a rollercoaster whilst being tied in knots by an enthusiastic sailor I swore I would be contained…
I was contained when they broke and the pacemaker eventually shot off, I was still so when Sea The Stars started fighting for his head to go in pursuit. I was contained in my despair shortly afterwards whilst Sea The Stars had got buried deep for cover but agonisingly shuffled back to boot. Then he seemed to muscle his way into a debatable gap and my nose was nearly on the screen. Just before he shot out from the pack I was screaming.
As he emerged to hit the front, I grabbed the youngest (at 5 still a grabbable size) and commanded her to look at the “best we have ever seen”. Repeatedly and quite a lot loudly too. My family are used to this from time to time so no permanent psychological damage was done (I hope!). The seconds where Sea The Stars was clear in front and it was evident nothing was coming to him were some of the best seconds I have known in my life. Not because I had the house on him (I didn’t), but because he was bringing home an incomparable first in flat racing. He was delivering on a dream. It’s my belief, in that moment, he let us beggars ride with him.
I’ll get to the maths in a moment. I’ve been slightly hysterical, I think it’s the Arc effect. Nonetheless I pulled myself together and battled high winds across the badlands of East Anglia to get to the Rowley Mile – two races late.
I arrived for the third, the Group 1 Sun Chariot and got to see the runners go down.
I slapped a bet on Ghanaati to win and Spacious each way as me and her go back a while now. Ghanaati looked like she might come to win around the Dip, but was in the end vanquished (somewhat cruelly as far as my pocket spoke on the matter). Things then looked up. I thought Spacious was 4th, but she was actually racing in the Cheveley Park 2nd string colours, and as she was 3rd I did not lose on the race after all. This confusion was a result of my having not looked at a card at all and not being able to buy one either as I was so late. This unfortunate state of affairs continued throughout proceedings, despite my companion being an employee of the Racing Post and my trawling the bar for abandoned cards, ultimately lacking the balls to just swipe one from a silly drunk.
So it was paddock picks for me all the way in the Cambridgeshire. I hate big handicaps – did I say that? My companion and I had a conversation along the lines of:
Me “I like number 9, which horse is it?”
Him (who had been on time) “Supaseus. Actually my stalker, Hughie Morrison, is here (Supaseus’s trainer).”
“Is that a good sign?”
“I can’t remember”
“I thought the horse preferred some cut”
“Maybe, he may have been aimed at this and the ground is usually a bit softer”
“Hmmm. Remind me again which side had the advantage in the farcical race that I missed”
Him, still seething about the result “High”
So I backed 9, aged 6 and drawn 26 at an SP of 16/1, and it only went and won. Supaseus hit the front early, very early, more or less from the stalls. My mate pulled a face. I told him not to worry (not that he’d backed it) it can win over 10f – I don’t even know if this is true, but at the time I felt it to be incontrovertibly so. Woohoo. Well in front now, which was just as well as the lack of a racecard started to take its toll on me in the last few races.
So now the numbers bit. Tomorrow Sea the Stars is miles ahead on any ratings known to man, woman or child. I have been through every possible negative I can think of and none are remotely credible. Ballydoyle are running three, two in the tag team before (they hope) Fame and Glory sweeps through. I am not convinced these tactics are going to work in such a big field. If they do by some chance, I am going to cry. Conduit has been aimed at this race but even with 2 more furlongs than they had in the Eclipse to get there (in front of StS) I don’t think he will. I could carry on trawling through the field with vague musings…
Youmzain. I am a big fan of his trainer Mick Channon, although I wouldn’t send any 2yo his way, and with Kieren Fallon on board (who we saw today) I am mindful of foxes and henhouses; but even with the visor and Mr Fox, Sea the Stars is no hen.
Cavalryman. Fabre trained. Respect, nuff said. and so it would go on. I don’t actually care too much who fills places. I don’t care about the race as a punting proposition; I only care that Sea The Stars and fate meet in perfect harmony.
So I have looked at the numbers and they all add up. Mick Kinane wins the Arc every 10 years – 1989, 1999… Sea The Stars on his 6th race of the campaign races from stall 6. His dam, Urban Sea, who died this year aged 20, won the Arc herself 16 years ago. Victory is written in the stars and I hope the heavens are reading the script.
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.