Things We Learned » Bar moves higher still

Bar moves higher still

Enable grabbed the bar again at Churchill Downs on Saturday night, and moved it higher still.

The John Gosden-trained filly is no stranger to bar-moving and new-height-setting.  A month ago, she won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on just her second run of the season.  In so doing, she became just the second horse to won back-to-back Arcs since Alleged won the second of his two in 1978.  That’s 40 years ago.

But history stared back in her face again on Saturday night.  No horse had ever won the Arc and gone on to victory at the Breeders’ Cup the same year.  Found in 2016, Golden Horn in 2015, Dylan Thomas in 2007, Sakhee in 2001, Subotica in 1992, Saumarez in 1990, Trempolino in 1987.  Even Dancing Brave in 1986.  Eight Arc winners had tried, and all eight had failed. 

There was a suspicion that the Arc winners’ poor record was as much down to happenstance as it was down to a true (inverse) correlation between victory in the Arc and victory at the Breeders’ Cup.  Sakhee was only just beaten by Tiznow in the Classic in 2001.  Golden Horn was only just beaten by Found in the Turf in 2015, and Aidan O’Brien’s filly herself had run in the Arc. 

Even so, zero for eight is a daunting stat.

Enable had to be very good too because, in Magical, Khalid Abdullah’s filly had a worthy adversary.  Aidan O’Brien’s filly was unlucky to come up against a filly of Enable’s rare ability, because the pair of them pulled miles clear of their rivals.  Without Enable, Magical would have been a nine-length Turf winner.

They scrapped for the length of the (relatively short) Churchill Downs home straight.  Two top class horses and two top class jockeys, as John Gosden said afterwards.  Frankie Dettori and Ryan Moore.  In much the same way as the pair of them had scrapped for the length of the Keeneland home straight in the same race in 2005 on Golden Horn and Found.  Three years ago, it was Ryan Moore who emerged victorious.  On Saturday, it was Frankie Dettori.

Saturday was D-Day in lots of ways.  Dettori Day.  Earlier in the day, he had delivered Expert Eye with a perfectly-timed run to get him home by a cosy half a length in the Mile.  That was Breeders’ Cup win number 13.  And that wasn’t unlucky for anybody, because he was off the 13 mark and onto 14 just 80 minutes later.  He remains one of the best big-stage riders in the world.

And Enable is one of the best racehorses in the world.  It really would be surprising if she was not kept in training next year, with the objective of winning a third Arc de Triomphe.  No horse has ever won three Arcs and it would be very surprising if her owner/breeder Khalid Adbullah did not want to give her a chance of realising an historic feat that would truly put the cap on all that she has already achieved. 

Early start

If you are intent on getting up in the morning when most people who are awake are either feeding babies or on their way home, (and if you are doing neither of those) then there should be a good reason for it.  And there was on Tuesday morning. 

It was only a matter of time before a British-trained horse won the Melbourne Cup.  Red Cadeaux was beaten a nose by Dunaden in 2011, and Ed Dunlop’s horse finished second again in 2013 and in 2014.  The Luca Cumani-trained Bauer was beaten a nose too by Viewed in 2008, and Purple Moon, trained by the same Luca Cumani, was beaten a half a length by Efficient in 2007.

You didn’t expect a British 1-2-3 when it did happen, but then, there was an Irish-trained 1-2-3 last year (Rekindling, Johannes Vermeer and Max Dynamite) and there were seven British-trained runners in Tuesday’s renewal, with five of them in the top eight in the market. 

It is getting more and more difficult for the antipodeans to keep the prize at home.  They have now won just five of the last 10 renewals, which is in stark contrast to the 132 from 132 they won before 1993.

It is difficult to believe that it is 25 years since Vintage Crop.  It is difficult to get your head around the quarantine rule tweaks and the flight path changes that Dermot Weld had to instigate back then in order to get his horse to run in the race, and that is without going into the training methodology that he had to employ in order to achieve what they said could not be achieved, even with the ace that was Michael Kinane up his sleeve.  That key to the city of Melbourne was well earned.

The big downer of this year’s race of course was the fatal injury that the Aidan O’Brien-trained Cliffs Of Moher suffered in front of the stands.  It could have been much worse, it could have been a more serious incident were it not for Ryan Moore’s skill and awareness.  But it was still a big downer that last year’s Derby runner-up was lost, and it was scant consolation for the trainer that his other runner in the race, Rostropovich, ran such a big race for Wayne Lordan to finish fifth.

Cross Counter’s win on Tuesday was the culmination of a remarkable season for Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation and for trainer Charlie Appleby.  It is just five months since the trainer sent out Masar to win the Epsom Derby.  Since then, he has won the King’s Stand Stakes with Blue Point, the Nassau Stakes and the Prix de l’Opera with Wild Illusion and the Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes with Quorto.  As well as that, he sent La Pelosa to Canada in mid-September to land the Natalma Stakes, he sent Jungle Cat to Australia in late September to win the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes, and he sent Line Of Duty to Churchill Downs on Friday night, four days before the Melbourne Cup, and won the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

Appleby has had 12 Group/Grade 1 wins this year, spread across seven different jurisdictions.  Dubai, Britain, Ireland, France, Australia, Canada and the States.  That’s a seriously impressive year, measured by any standard. 

Three-year-olds to the fore

Two (northern hemisphere) three-year-olds lined up in the 2018 Lexus Melbourne Cup, Cross Counter and Rostropovich, and they finished first and fifth.

One three-year-old lined up in the race last year, Rekindling, and you know how that one panned out.

There were no three-year-olds in the race in 2016, one in 2015 (Bondi Beach, 16th), none in 2014, one in 2013 (Tres Blue, 22nd), and none between 2009 and 2012 inclusive.  That’s five three-year-olds in the last 10 years, and two of them have won.

Of course, you need the right three-year-old.  Rekindling finished fourth last year in one of the hottest St Legers run in recent years, and he carried just 8st 2lb in the Melbourne Cup.  Cross Counter would have been among the favourites for this year’s St Leger if they had allowed geldings run in it, and he carried just 8st in Melbourne. 

Connections of high-class European three-year-old stayers should be hugely encouraged by the results of the last two years.  And Joseph O’Brien proved with Rekindling that you can have a go in the St Leger before you get on the plane to Flemington.  There could be an influx next year.

Three incidents, three jurisdictions

Three rides, three jurisdictions: Oisin Murphy’s ride on Spirit Of Valor in the Manikato Stakes at Moonee Valley two Fridays ago, Jack Kennedy’s ride on Sir Ector in the Allianz Handicap Hurdle at Down Royal last Friday, and Christophe Soumillon’s ride on Thunder Snow in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on Saturday night. 

One rider was banned for 10 days, one for 15 meetings, and one was not banned at all.  Just shows you, the goal of the harmonisation of racing rules across international frontiers is a long way away. 

Road To Respect’s record over fences:

Soft ground or softer: 22124

Yielding or yielding to soft ground: 1313

Good or good to yielding ground: 4111


Left-handed: 1322114

Right-handed: 411231


Over three miles exactly: 2211

Over more than three miles: 143

Over less than three miles: 143211


Maroon cap, white star: 22114

White cap: 3

Blue cap: 1123

Yellow cap: 411


Summary: Over three miles exactly, on good or good to yielding ground, with a yellow cap: 11


© The Irish Field, 10th November 2018