Racing: Bago needs fast ground to run in Arc

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The Independent Online

Ascot may still be warm, but racing is a most unforgiving mourner and we move on quickly, ostensibly to the Cambridgeshire meeting at Newmarket. This is the build-up time of year when an old man's heart should really be captivated by the wind tunnel of the Rowley Mile and the spartan delights of Headquarters.

Ascot may still be warm, but racing is a most unforgiving mourner and we move on quickly, ostensibly to the Cambridgeshire meeting at Newmarket. This is the build-up time of year when an old man's heart should really be captivated by the wind tunnel of the Rowley Mile and the spartan delights of Headquarters.

The uncommitted let their idle minds drift onto increasingly warm winds, however, to the balmier climes of sophisticated Paris and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at the weekend. It is an easy trap for fools, to imagine that Longchamp is somehow more significant, more deserving of attention, more proximate to great, heaving platters of seafood. Mais, c'est la vie.

Racing too will have its part to play in the Bois de Boulogne this weekend, most notably in the Arc itself, for which France's d'Artagnan, Bago, now looks a likely runner. Chantilly-based Englishman Jonathan Pease's Nashwan colt was the highest-rated in all of Europe as a juvenile after winning the Criterium International, but the halo slipped to somewhere round his bottom when he was initially third in the International Stakes at York after a virus had ruled him out of the French Guineas. He then filled the same position behind Valixir on soft ground in the Prix Niel at Longchamp.

Bago's omnipotent aura may have disappeared, but it has not been accompanied by pessimistic pronouncements from his connections and Pease has said that Bago, a 12-1 chance with William Hill for the Arc, is the best horse he has ever trained.

Alan Cooper, the racing manager for the colt's owners, the Niarchos family, said yesterday: "Bago will run in the Arc provided the ground is not soft to heavy." Mubtaker, a best-priced 12-1 with Coral, is a much more solid individual altogether, as he showed in Arc defeat 12 months ago when a three-quarter length second to Dalakhani, yet his participation has been thrown into doubt for the weekend's renewal since a disappointing run in Germany. A stretch on the Lambourn gallops this morning will determine his immediate future. "You have to take into account the fact that he had a long lay-off before the Newbury race [a winning seasonal debut in the Geoffrey Freer Stakes] and I wondered whether his next race had come a bit quick for him - maybe he's bounced as a result," Marcus Tregoning, the trainer, said yesterday.

Longchamp's Prix de l'Abbaye has become fertile ground for British horses in recent years and news arrived yesterday that the recently disappointing Patavellian, last year's winner, was raring to go after a more encouraging third to stablemate Tante Rose in the Haydock Sprint Cup. "I am delighted with him," Roger Charlton, the trainer, said. "I thought he ran a very good race at Haydock. He's in good order and on course to run in the Abbaye. Some of mine have not been especially healthy recently, but he is an exception and I am looking forward to running both Patavellian and Avonbridge in the race."

The Tatling, who was third in the Abbaye last year, will have another go despite finishing third at Ascot on Saturday. His veteran trainer, Milton Bradley, feels like he knows the journey now, having left Chepstow for a foreign jaunt for the first time last year. He did not have a clue where he was going then and just followed the racing-associated vehicle in front. He hopes the same will be happening to The Tatling on Sunday. "Everything is in order with him," Bradley said yesterday. "He just slipped up coming across the road [at Ascot], but there's nothing wrong with him at all - he's as bright as a button this morning."

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