Racing: O'Brien looks on bright side

Trainer keeps one eye on the sky as rain threatens to dampen High Chaparral's challenge for the Arc
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The Independent Online

When Brits gather abroad, the talking point tends to be the weather. Yesterday here was no exception, with the Irish joining in the discussion. Rain over the previous few days had turned the ground soft, more was forecast overnight and, despite the blue skies over the Bois de Boulogne, today's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe increasingly has a familiar autumnal cast to it. Aidan O'Brien, on behalf of the chief raider, High Chaparral, is slightly concerned that it does not develop into a winter game.

"He goes on any ground, really," said the master of Ballydoyle after the colt's rider, Mick Kinane, had reported the going soft but dead, "but what we don't want is for it to turn into a point-to-point. He has class, and we want him to be able to use it."

Add the locals to the instant meteorologists. "I do not want it to rain tonight," said Alain de Royer-Dupré, trainer of the favourite, Dalakhani. "Deep ground will suit High Chaparral better." The three-year-old's owner, the Aga Khan, concurred. "The heavier it gets the better it will suit the older, stronger horses."

The Arc field will race on a fresh strip, but the best guess by course officials was somewhere between very soft and holding.

As a consequence, one notable defection from the supporting card will be Oasis Dream from the Prix de l'Abbaye. His trainer, John Gosden, recommended the withdrawal of the July Cup and Nunthorpe Stakes winner after walking the straight five furlongs. Khaled Abdullah's colt will now go straight to the Breeders' Cup Sprint later this month.

British and Irish trainers had a day to forget yesterday, with just two third places - Gosden's Ocean Silk in the Prix de Royallieu and the Mark Johnston-trained Gateman in the Prix Daniel Wildenstein from 17 entries in the four Group Two contests - but Thierry Jarnet had a worse one. The four-times French champion threw away the Royallieu on Whortleberry by mistaking the winning post, of which there are two at this course.

As he passed the first of the pair he stopped riding the filly, only to realise almost immediately what he had done and restart his urgings. But in that split-second the damage was done, Whortleberry lost momentum and Moon Search swooped to conquer, by about an inch, in the Abdullah colours.

Jarnet was stood down for 15 days, a ban which includes the Breeders' Cup meeting, and to compound his agony his gaffe was an almost exact replica of one he made in the same race four years ago.

A distraught Jarnet blamed today's ride on Ange Gabriel in the big one for his lapse. "On a massive weekend like this, you just have so much on your mind," he admitted. "I was thinking of other things and I made a mistake."

Even with Oasis Dream's non-appearance, Abdullah's weekend, following Three Valleys' Middle Park win on Friday, was fruitful, with a one-two in the Prix Dollar here preceding Moon Search's slice of luck.

Weightless, ridden by Thierry Thulliez, had two lengths in hand of Short Pause in the 10-furlong contest, with fourth-placed Chancellor best of the raiders and Ikhtyar, who beat only one, disappointing, even allowing for some interference suffered.

The winning trainer, Pascal Bary, said that the winner, notching his fourth win from six career outings, may take his chance in the Breeders' Cup Classic. "He was a late starter, but does not cease to improve," he said.

The afternoon's easiest winner was Special Kaldoun, who produced a four-length romp in the Prix Daniel Wildenstein. The four-year-old is now bound for a valuable contest in either Japan or Hong Kong, depending on his owner's palate. "It will be either sushi or nem," said trainer Daniel Smaga, "according to which Madame Chalhoub fancies."

Steve Carson, on the sixth-placed Tout Seul, was just happy to be riding. An engine on his light plane cut out over the Channel, necessitating an emergency landing at Dieppe.

The Aga Khan warmed up for today with a winner with topical connections; his filly Behkara, heroine of the Prix Hubert de Chaudenay, is out of his Arc runner-up Behera.

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