PRIX DE L’ARC DE TRIOMPHE
Longchamp, Turf, 2400m
Sunday 6 October 2013
You might ask why a couple of maiden winners by a locally-based stallion can be coupled in the same article as a report on a race of the international stature of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. The one is an epic for the racing world at large and to the French in particular, the other a personal vindication of Summerhill’s faith in the only son of Sunday Silence on the African continent.
Since this evening’s audience is as likely to comprise as many international readers as it will our local brethren, let’s talk about the Arc first. We did suggest on Friday that with their long history of success in the big race, you couldn’t ignore the claims of the fillies: the only thing is, we picked the wrong one, as The Fugue was promptly scratched, leaving Treve as the only realistic alternative. We may also have been off the mark in suggesting it wasn’t a vintage line-up; only time will tell us just how good the field was, but certainly, in the manner of her obliteration of this field, and in particular, the way she disposed of the favourite Orfevre, suggests that Treve at least, is something extraordinary. It’s probably fair to say the brilliance which characterised Orfevre’s stretch-run last year, was not there this time, but take nothing away from the unbeaten daughter of Motivator, it would’ve taken a Frankel-like performance to lower her colours on the day. Missing in action were Al Kazeem (either too far or too long a season,) the “King George” hero, Novellist, and the English Derby ace, Ruler Of The World.
There were those that were astonished when the Qatari ruling family, the Al-Thanis, coughed up €9million to the Head family for Treve earlier in the year, but on yesterday’s evidence, they won’t feel short-changed. The Al Thanis have been looming as a gigantic new presence in the sales rings of the world for a while now, and on the back of this, you can expect some serious opposition going forward to the hegemonies of the Maktoums and the industry’s longest upholders of value, Coolmore. You have to ask yourself, given the money they’re splashing on thoroughbreds right now, whether this doesn’t signal a new order in the Middle East, too, given the well-publicised woes which Dubai has experienced in recent years. The Qataris have been in buoyant spending form, not only in the world of racehorses, but in all their ventures, scheduled as they are to host the 2022 Fifa World Cup.
There are a couple of things that got our hearts fluttering this weekend, not the least of which the clash between the Springboks and the All Blacks at Ellis Park. We’d be lying if we didn’t confess to a moment during the match, when the Springboks snatched the lead with their fourth (and bonus point) try, that we fantasised that this could “be” the Rugby Championship. While there seemed to be a certain inevitability to the eventual outcome, there was just a brief interlude when South Africans had regained their pride, and in our own small way here at Summerhill, we felt a similar optimism when Admire Main racked up his fifth winner in a matter of just over a fortnight.
Let’s face it, he came here with some sparkling credentials, not only for his uniqueness as the only son of one of the world’s breed-shaping stallions, but as the joint second-rated racehorse of his generation. It says something for relationships that the Yoshida family wanted to send as accomplished a racehorse as Admire Main to Summerhill, but for all that, astonishingly, there were not too many local breeders who understood the significance of it. It seems that Japan’s remoteness from the rest of the world has left them with a mountain to climb when it comes to spreading the Sunday Silence gospel, and by locating several sons and grandsons of the “emperor” in various other parts of the world, Shadai have done a sterling job in getting the word out.
Of course, Admire Main started with a handicap which all 2400m performers seem to struggle with, wherever they stand these days, unless it’s Coolmore or Darley in Europe or Japan itself, and even then there are “Doubting Thomases”.
Outside of Summerhill, there were just a few discerning “internationals” like Bridget Oppenheimer, Ronnie Napier, Alan Magid, Winston Chow, Alesh Naidoo, Keith Russon, Ian Todd, Albert Rapp and Michael Roberts who understood what the word “Sunday Silence” meant. As a result, there were only 49 foals in his first harvest. They were always going to want some ground and they were always going to get better with age and distance, and that’s exactly what we’ve seen. Yes, he did have a Group One-performing juvenile in his first crop (Admiral’s Eye, a winner again at Turffontein on Saturday) but even then, she registered her best performance when she eventually got to run over 1600m in the Thekwini Stakes (Gr.1). Like the Visionaires in America, they’re not just winning, they’re winning by good margins. Here is the fortnightly record.
|1st||ADMIRAL’S EYE||Charles Laird|
|1st||TOO MUCH FUN||Gavin van Zyl|
|1st||BAREFOOT LADY||Lucky Houdalakis|
|1st||GENTLE DESIRE||Stuart Pettigrew|
The standout of the weekend (perhaps the year) though, came from George Strawbridge’s Moonlight Cloud. Carrying the white and green colours the Summerhill sire of old, Imperial Dilemma, once did, she produced one of the most astonishing Group One performances I’ve seen in the centuries-honoured Prix de la Foret. Held up in the rear a dozen lengths off the pace in a comparative sprint (1400m,) her jockey never moved till the final furlong and a half against some of Europe’s best racehorses at the trip. The man either has ice in his veins or he was dead scared of his trainer’s retribution, but when she was asked as late as the 250 metre mark, it was lightning. She must’ve been two or three clear at the death, and by that I mean just that. The rest were “dead”. Watch the movie here.