Racing: Les Arcs accelerates upward trajectory of Pitt's training success
Saturday 15 July 2006
It has come to something when Godolphin need a Group One winner more than Tim Pitt. But that is how things remained after the rookie trainer yesterday accelerated his dizzy rise with a second championship sprint - the richest in Europe - for Les Arcs.
The photo that identified this remarkable animal as the winner of the Darley July Cup did so at the expense of Iffraaj, who would have given Godolphin their first élite prize of a troubled season in Europe. At least they can blame ill fortune now, rather than ill health. John Egan gained a decisive first run on Frankie Dettori, who had to delay his challenge briefly in order to manoeuvre round weakening horses, and Iffraaj's voracious finish failed by just a head.
While Godolphin grope their way back, Pitt is showing astounding conviction in his debut year as a trainer. Les Arcs himself was his first winner, in a handicap on the sand at Lingfield last December, and Pitt had barely a dozen other horses in his charge near Bawtry, a racing backwater near Doncaster. Yet these included Admiral, whose Chester Cup success was the prelude to an even more outrageous breakthrough in the Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot.
That kept Pitt above Saeed Bin Suroor both in terms of winners trained in Britain this year - they arrived with nine and eight respectively - and prize-money won. And that is how things remained as Pitt joyously accepted his prize from John Ferguson, who showed his customary good grace in representing the sponsor, as well as the runner-up.
"Today I'm more thrilled for the horse's sake than anyone else's," Pitt said. "He proved today that he's a genuine top-class sprinter. I'm not at all shocked by the progress he has made. He wasn't the quickest away today, but he travels supremely.
"John has taken his time and let him find his feet. He is the most genuine animal in the world, but when he gets to the front, he thinks he has done his job and I was petrified that Frankie might do us."
Having learned the ropes under Gerard Butler, John Gosden and Peter Chapple-Hyam, Pitt owed his opportunity to train to Willie McKay, the football agent who owns both the stable and its most remarkable horse. Their targets now are understandably immodest, with huge prizes at stake in Japan and Australia.
He would hope to fare better there than a pair that have made the reverse journey. The romantic odyssey of Takeover Target hit the rocks yesterday when he managed only seventh, his jockey observing that he "was pretty much going up and down on the spot", while Falkirk trailed in 13th.
Any disappointment in the Godolphin camp was placed in sensible perspective. "It's good to have a horse run well in a big race," Bin Suroor said. "We're happy that the horses seem to be coming back to themselves. Iffraaj has been giving us a good feeling on the gallops, much better than when he ran at Ascot."
The other historic prize on the card also went north when the Ladbrokes Bunbury Cup was won by Mine - for the third time. In such a competitive handicap, it goes without saying that this achievement was without precedent, though the veteran had advertised his sprightly form by finishing first on the far side in the Royal Hunt Cup. James Bethell, his trainer, suspects that he has never been better, and certainly this was easier than his wins in 2005 and 2002 - indeed, he shared a dead-heat that year.
"He took a long time to get fit this year after having a good holiday," Bethell said. "He came back enormous and the cold spring held him up. But I had him in top condition for Ascot, where it was the draw that beat him. This horse is just so laid-back, that's the key to him."
The past two runnings of the Weatherbys Superlative Sprint were won by élite performers in Dubawi and Oratorio, but the bookmakers were dismissive of the Classic credentials of Halicarnassus after his 33-1 success. You can get the same odds and better against him winning the 2,000 Guineas over on the Rowley Mile next spring, but the Cape Cross colt quickened brightly off a decent gallop and Mick Channon will be entitled to a more positive view.
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