Racing: Lone Star dollars lure Bago to Texas

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It was a race, appropriately enough considering the environs, which brought the guillotine down. Bago, the winner of the 83rd Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in Paris, is now manifestly the best middle-distance horse in Europe. That argument has been truncated.

Yet Europe's richest race meeting in the Bois de Boulogne over the weekend was as much about blossoming as termination. Those behind America's most valuable gathering, the Breeders' Cup meeting, held this year at Lone Star Park in Texas at the end of the month, would hardly have been dismayed about events.

When the brushes start flattening the glued advertising posters to the wall they can now include the name of not only Bago, but also Ouija Board, the Arc third, and maybe even Var, the mouth-opening victor in the Prix de l'Abbaye on Sunday. Another Niarchos horse, Pascal Bary's Six Perfections, is already on the aeroplane to defend a Mile crown so beautifully captured at Santa Anita last fall.

It may not be the sort of daunting raiding party which Santa Anna once brought to Texas, but it is a troubling assembly for the hosts all the same.

To start with Bago. The colt was reported in fine fettle yesterday by Andrew Cooper, racing manager to the owning Niarchos family. That was an information blitz by his standards. We do know though that Bago has long been thought a contender for deep in the heart of Texas by Stavros Niarchos's daughter, Maria. What she wishes has a tendency to transpire.

Bago may not have the traditional breeding for a winner of the Breeders' Cup top prize, the Classic on dirt, so it may be that he has shown something of his turf brilliance on the All Along artificial gallop at Chantilly.

However, intrinsic quality will not be at the core of any downfall. Hindsight provides the clearest of vision, but retrospect allows us to conclude that Bago was the one true vindicator in Sunday's race. He had proved his quality shimmeringly at two, while the likes of North Light and Grey Swallow were successful, but less mesmeric, in their Classic victories this summer.

We should have believed in Bago a little longer, perhaps understood that when he was beaten in the International Stakes at York it was no sign of weakness. Bago may have lost for the first time on the Knavesmire, but he gained so much more, essentially what it was like to be a competitive racehorse, to have his glinting sword crashed by another.

There was also renaissance of a different kind in Paris on Sunday when Oratario won the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardère, providing Aidan O'Brien with a second juvenile Group One victory in 72 hours following Ad Valorem's success in the Middle Park Stakes.

The career of One Cool Cat seemed to be emblematic of O'Brien's season of unfulfilled promise, but now that the discredited wonder horse has gone his Co Tipperary yard appears to have been steam-cleaned of his stinking effect. The restraints are now snapping on the sleeping giant of Ballydoyle.

O'Brien himself immediately seems to have rediscovered his youth after an eroding season. Clive Brittain too was dancing around Longchamp's winners' enclosure like an embarrassing grandfather at a wedding after Var's success.

Var, an ex-American claimer, would be a combative addition to the Breeders' Cup Sprint, at which he would at least know how to get out of the gate, but it seems Brittain might have other fish to fry, probably in soy sauce. The Hong Kong Sprint at Sha Tin in December has emerged as the premier pot of gold.

"It seems a very obvious thing to go to Hong Kong," the Newmarket trainer said yesterday. "It is a very fast five furlongs and the race yesterday was run in a very fast time. I think that would probably be the best option."

BREEDERS' CUP CLASSIC (Lone Star Park, 30 October) William Hill: 9-4 Pleasantly Perfect, 11-2 Bago, 6-1 Birdstone, Ghostzapper, 7-1 Roses In May, 12-1 Saint Liam, 16-1 Funny Cide, Victory Moon, 20-1 others.

2,000 GUINEAS (Newmarket, 5 May 2005) Ladbrokes: 10-1 Dubawi, Etlaala, Shamardal, 14-1 Librettist, 16-1 Ad Valorem, 20-1 Iceman, Oratorio, Rob Roy, Tiger Dance, 25-1 others.