Racing: Arc wide open as Latice joins list of flops

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Anticipation in racing, not far off in life, is everything and thus the quality-plump racing of at the weekend must go down as a rather grave exercise.

The fates may have promised us a great champion, but then the fates are not to be trusted. The great winner was Rule Of Law, the victor in the 228th St Leger, yet all analysis seems to suggest that, for once, it was a jockey that won the race rather than the horse.

Kerrin McEvoy was simply flawless on Town Moor. That is not to say brilliant, but a man who eradicated the errors that just about all of his weighing room colleagues threw in.

A popular excuse at Doncaster was that the leader, McEvoy, had not gone fast enough. It was the shabbiest of explanations, as if the pace of the race was outside the influence of other jockeys. The Australian, still yet to complete a European season, was allowed to be mesmeric.

Elsewhere the spell was harshly broken. The much-spangled Doyen looked a plodder in the Irish Champion Stakes on Saturday and may now miss the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, while his fellow wunderkind, Bago, was similarly disappointing in the Prix Niel at Longchamp yesterday. It was a bad 48 hours for the heavily bejewelled pretenders.

The excuse for Doyen was ubiquitous. He cannot, apparently, be as bad as he looked behind Azamour at Leopardstown. "Doyen ran very flat which is extremely disappointing," Simon Crisford, the Godolphin racing manager, said yesterday. "We will see how he is over the next few days, but I would expect he is due for a rest and will not run in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe."

Bago, too, lost the plot in the Bois de Boulogne, as he failed to quicken off a slow pace behind Valixir and Prospect Park in the Niel. The lack of requisite acceleration was one thing, but greatly more disturbing was Bago's tendency to hang in behind the vanguard when asked for his maximum effort.

Alan Cooper, racing manager to Bago's owners, the Niarchos family, said: "We are just a little puzzled because he looked beaten and then he came home very well. Thierry [Gillet] was happy with him, but there is no confirmation of our plans at the moment." The Arc market now looks something of a hotchpotch, with the serially discredited Sulamani a warm order in some lists. The previous small fry have suddenly entered the equation. Roland de Longevialle, racing manager to Valixir's owners, the Lagardere family, immediately nominated the Arc as the colt's next target.

"Today was our Prix du Jockey-Club and this time he won," he said. "He has never been better and he'll be at the start in three weeks' time. He will give a good account of himself."

Another to soil a reputation was Latice, the French Oaks winner, who dribbled away her Arc qualifications yesterday in the Prix Vermeille. Sweet Stream, John Hammond's winner, is not even entered for the big race.

One who will taken his chance in three weeks' time is Policy Maker, who booked his place in the Arc field with an all-the-way success in the 12-furlong Prix Foy. After the son of Sadler's Wells had beaten Short Pause by two lengths, with Richard Hannon's Nysaean a further length and a half away, owner Alec Wildenstein said: "He can take his chance in the Arc. It looks pretty open. It looked a closed shop with Doyen and Latice, but they have conked out. Vallee Enchantee will also run and so will a pacemaker."

Wildenstein also has promising times to look forward to regarding Westerner, a smooth winner of the Prix Gladiateur. He raced along in mid-division behind David Elsworth's Gold Medallist, who made much of the running. "I thought he would be a mile and a half horse - he's got plenty of speed," Wildenstein said. "But he likes these sort of races and I'll keep him in the Prix du Cadran."

Elsworth said of Gold Medallist, a winner at Deauville on his previous outing: "It didn't happen last time, but you expect it in France - you make the running and they come and swamp you."