Things We Learned » Arc intrigue

Arc intrigue

We learned lots about tomorrow’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe this week. We learned that Leading Light and Treve and Meandre were worth a 100 grand punt, and that a few others, including Camelot and Kingsbarns and finally The Fugue, would not run.

We learned that Thierry Jarnet would ride Treve in the absence of the desperately unlucky Frankie Dettori, we learned that Gerald Mosse would ride Leading Light, and we learned how to pronounce Yasutoshi Ikee. We also learned that the two Aidan O’Brien horses, Leading Light and Ruler Of The World, would emerge from stalls five and six respectively, and we learned that that was good.

Orfevre has done more than twice as well with the draw this year as he did last year (eight versus 18. Even so, if you thought that he was too short at 7/2 after the trials two weeks ago, then you probably think that he is far too short now at no better than 5/2. And that’s before the Japanese line up obediently at the Japanese-speaking Pari Mutuel mado and bet like samurai.

It isn’t that Orfevre cannot win. Of course he can, and there is a part of you that would love to see it, a first for Japan, after last year’s daylight giveaway. However, purely from a betting perspective, this game is all about finding horses that are available to back at greater odds than you think they should be, and it is difficult to argue that Orfevre is one of those.

Points against (refresher course): he has his quirks (ref. last year’s Arc, last year’s Hanshin Daishoten), he is a five-year-old (only one since Tony Bin), and he proved nothing more than his wellbeing by winning the Prix Foy, despite the fact that the visual impression of it made him fashionable again. This year’s Arc is probably a fair bit deeper than last year’s, and he was a 5/1 shot for last year’s. If he was a 7/1 shot for tomorrow’s race before he won the Prix Foy three weeks ago (and he was, freely), then he surely didn’t do enough there to merit the slashing of his odds to 5/2.

Leader needed

There has been lots of talk about the fact there could be very little pace in tomorrow’s race. Perhaps that talk began before people were fully aware that Leading Light was going to be supplemented, but it hasn’t subsided since, despite the fact that he has.

Leading Light didn’t make all in winning the Queen’s Vase or the St Leger, but those races were over two miles and an extended one-and-three-quarter miles respectively, and he raced prominently in both. When the Montjeu colt won over 10 furlongs at Navan on his debut this season, he made all the running. When he won the Gallinule Stakes at The Curragh in late May, he made all the running.

The point is that he can lead and, back over a mile and a half in a race in which there doesn’t appear to be much obvious early pace, his chance of winning the race could be maximised by allowing him roll along from early. Such a strategy would be a positive for the race in general. Also, an indirect benefit for Team Ballydoyle is the fact that it would not be a negative for Ruler Of The World.

Blasé about Ballydoyle

Speaking of Ballydoyle, it is easy to take Aidan O’Brien’s success for granted, yet even by the champion trainer’s own lofty standards, he is having a cracking season. The Derby and the St Leger and the Irish Guineas and the Queen Anne and the Juddmonte International are the ones that generate the headlines, and the juveniles are the ones that spark the sexy 2014 Classic talk, but there is a depth to the Ballydoyle season to date that has largely gone unheralded.

O’Brien’s 117 winners on the flat in Ireland so far this year (plus Carriganog at Clonmel on Thursday over hurdles) before Dundalk last night, equals his best-ever 117 in 1997, and we are only just into October. His strike rate of 27% is better than he has had any year since 2004, and the only trainer (with more than eight runners on the flat so far this term) who betters it this season is Willie Mullins with 28% (as the demarcation lines between flat and jumps get blurry).

Of course, Aidan’s success has been a not-inconsequential factor in Joseph’s success this term. And vice-versa. They are interdependent. When Joseph booted Eye Of The Storm home in the Loughbrown Stakes at The Curragh on Sunday, he brought up his 112th winner of the season, and left himself just two shy of Michael Kinane’s 114 (correction – three shy of Michael Kinane’s 115), a record that some said would not be broken this side of the Second Coming.

To put that tally into context, when Joseph won the jockeys’ championship for the first time last year, he won it with 87 winners. When Johnny Murtagh won it in 2011, he won it with 83 winners. When Pat Smullen won it in 2005, he won it with 67 winners. Actually, no jockey had ridden more than 100 winners in an Irish flat season since the fore-mentioned Kinane rode 103 in 2003.

Joseph could set a total this year that will never be beaten. (Really this time.)

Deegan delivering

Paul Deegan may not be as prolific as Aidan O’Brien, but he is also having a season to remember, and Shining Emerald continued the trend when he won the Anglesey Lodge Blenheim Stakes at The Curragh on Sunday, showing an impressive turn of foot to come clear of the well-fancied Guerre. Indeed, Deegan was unlucky not to bag a high-profile double on the day, with English Deer just nosed out of it by Nero Emperor in the Joe McGrath Handicap, the pair of them clear of their rivals.

Midnight Soprano was Deegan’s flag-bearer last season, winning five times, including twice at listed race level, and rounding off the season by finishing close up in the Group 3 Prix de Flore at Saint-Cloud. Jim Monaghan’s mare continued the momentum this term, winning the Noblesse Stakes at Cork on her debut and going close in another Group 3 contest back at the Mallow track in August, running well in the Lancashire Oaks in the interim on ground that was faster than ideal.

This year, however, the Celtic Swing mare has not been flying the Deegan flag on her own. As well as Shining Emerald, Deegan has also sent out Avenue Gabriel to win the listed Flame Of Tara Stakes at The Curragh a couple of weeks ago, and Lady O’Reilly’s filly wasn’t at all disgraced when she finished a close-up fifth in the Group 1 Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket last Friday. Also, Sruthan won the Tetrarch Stakes in May and, after a couple of slightly disappointing runs, shaped much more encouragingly when fourth behind Brendan Brackan in the Group 3 Solonaway Stakes three weeks ago.

Twenty winners last season was a career-best for Deegan and, with 18 already in the bag this term, he is on track to go higher again.

Curragh clues

As well as Shining Emerald – who could still be under-rated, especially if he goes to Newbury for the Horris Hill instead of going to Leopardstown for the Killavullan Stakes – there was plenty to take out of Beresford Stakes day at The Curragh last Sunday with an eye on the last few weeks of this season and the first few months of next.

My Titania was obviously very good, she and runner-up Chicago Girl coming clear of their rivals in the CL Weld Park Stakes. Chicago Girl has undoubtedly improved, the pair of them left some good fillies in their wake, and it is probable that My Titania was only just doing enough, like her sire Sea The Stars habitually did. Interestingly, the last time John Oxx won this race, he won it with Arch Swing, who won the Leopardstown 1000 Guineas Trial on her debut the following season, and who finished second behind Finsceal Beo in the 1000 Guineas. Oxx also won it with Ridgewood Pearl in 1994, and My Titania could prove to be very good indeed.

Line Drummer also put up a nice performance in dead-heating for second place behind Campanology in the Irish Times Handicap. The Galileo colt travelled as well as the winner to the two-furlong pole, but it took him just a little while to pick up when they quickened. Pulled to the near side, he finished best of all, possibly on the slowest part of the track – the centre seemed to be the place to be on the day – and he might well have won in another few strides. He was well in front at the pull-up.

This was just his seventh run, and it was most encouraging after two disappointing runs in big handicaps. He should improve for a step up in trip, and a 3lb hike is not harsh.

Two others. Tylery Wonder did well to last as long as he did, having made most of the running, to finish third in the Joe McGrath Handicap. The winner and second, Nero Emperor and English Deer, were in the last five at half way, and the fourth, Invincible Ridge, was no better than mid-division. Also, those three raced out in the centre, while Tylery Wonder raced mainly down the near side which, unusually, may not have been an advantage on the day. Willie McCreery’s horse is only three and, while he is not especially lightly-raced, he is progressive now. He seems to like this six furlongs at The Curragh; his two best runs, his two most recent runs, have been over this course and distance on good ground.

Finally, it was another Willie McCreery horse, Power And Passion, who caught the eye in the opening fillies’ maiden. Keen through the early stages, the Indian Haven filly was checked in her run five furlongs out, and she was checked twice after that when she was looking to improve. No better than third last a half a mile out, she finished off her race nicely. She shaped as though she is a fair bit better than the bare form of this run, and she should improve for this, just her second ever race.

© The Irish Field, 5th October 2013