Racing: Rail Link back next year to defend Arc crown

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The Independent Online

The Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe victor Rail Link emerged from his stable at 14 Avenue de Bourbon yesterday in a matter befitting his new status. The bay three-year-old gazed about him rather imperiously and even the way he picked at grass, led out by his devoted page Alain Jeandon, had a regal air to it.

"He was the new prince among princes," said Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to the colt's owner-breeder Khaled Abdullah. "He was completely at ease and has come out of the race absolutely fine."

Those who stole the 24-1 pari-mutuel price on Sunday will have to wait until next year for the next glimpse of their hero after confirmation that the son of Dansili, a magnificent seventh Arc winner for trainer André Fabre, will not race again this season. "It will be exciting to have him back as a four-year-old, but he's done enough for now," added Grimthorpe. "He's still relatively inexperienced and it was wonderful to see the way he coped mentally with the big occasion.

Grimthorpe admitted that he had been tempted by the long odds against Rail Link, winner of his previous four races. "Just before the race I saw the prices flash up on the screen," he said. "But then I thought that my 10 euros would probably be the equivalent of a 20lb penalty. Sunday was just one of those rare racing occasions when everything went just right."

No real reason has emerged as to why everything went pretty wrong for Rail Link's stablemate, Shirocco. The German-owned five-year-old trailed in a tame last of the eight runners and plans to defend his Breeders' Cup Turf title are on hold. "He seems fine," said Paul Harley, racing manager to Baron von Ullmann, "but there isn't much to say as we don't have an explanation for his run. We haven't decided yet about the trip to America."

One of Britain's Arc day successes, Sergeant Cecil, swaggered off the cross-channel ferry yesterday lunchtime with his ears pricked and may go back to France to try to add to the battle honours won under Frankie Dettori in the Prix du Cadran. The Gallic marathon was the doughty seven-year-old's first Group One success; now another, the Prix Royal-Oak in 20 days' time, is in his sights. "He at up well in Paris on Sunday night, he's obviously on good terms with himself," said the chestnut's trainer Rod Millman. "Our first impression was to rest on the Group One success, but there aren't going to be many races for him next year with the penalty for that."

Though the Godolphin team were unrepresented in any of Sunday's prestige contests in the Bois de Boulogne, it had a bumper weekend nonetheless, with a Group 1-2-3 set courtesy of Caradak and Echo Of Light at Longchamp and Satchem at Newmarket. The roll continued in New York on Sunday night, when the exciting US-based three-year-old Discreet Cat maintained his unbeaten record when winning by 10 lengths at Belmont Park.

The Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs in November remains an option, but there he would clash with Sheikh Moham-med's Bernardini.

For those who do not breed a champion like Rail Link, the opportunity to buy one is offered at Newmarket this week, in the Tattersalls auction ring. Starting today more than 600 blueblooded yearlings will go under the hammer, including half-brothers and sisters to the likes of George Washington, Araafa, Sixties Icon and Spinning Queen. Substantial resources are needed to go shopping there, though; last year's average price was nearly 120,000 guineas. The half-brother to George Washington comes up for sale shortly after noon today.

Soon afterwards his trainer, Aidan O'Brien, has a date at BHB headquarters in London, at the appeal by Ballydoyle jockey Seamus Heffernan against a 14-day ban imposed by the Ascot stewards for the team tactics they judged he employed during George Washington's Queen Elizabeth II Stakes success.

Chris McGrath

Nap: Iffy (Huntingdon 4.00)

NB: The Nifty Fox (Catterick 2.20)