The doughty seven-year-old Warrsan, winner of the Grosser Preis von Baden for the second time, is one of those horses who could not possibly be trained by anyone else but the man who does, the irrepressible 71-year-old Clive Brittain. Both were arguably hewn, not born.
Warrsan, racing for the 40th time, earned his ninth career victory in the mile-and-a-half contest, and his fourth at Group One level. It was, though, his first success since his visit to the Black Forest spa town a year previously. "I know people were beginning to say he'd lost it," said Brittain after the race, "but I never stopped believing. You don't when you've got a top-class horse."
Last year, the occasion was the stage for Kerrin McEvoy's inaugural Group One success in Europe, when Warrsan battled home by a neck. This time, it was easier for the young Australian and the veteran Irish-bred. As Frankie Dettori blazed a fairly moderate trail on the 2-1 favourite, Cherry Mix, his Godolphin deputy kept tabs, never worse than fourth, and surged through going to the final furlong to beat local filly Gonbarda by a length. The top-class stayer Westerner, dropping back in distance for the first time this year, was caught flat-footed when the pace quickened in the straight, but stayed on for third.
"He's done that very well," added Brittain. "He'd finished a good fourth in the King George at Newbury last time, when he didn't really get the run of the race. We'd freshened him up since then and I was confident he was as good as he's ever been." The Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe will be Warrsan's next outing.
It was a case of Antipodean rules at Longchamp, too. During the close season the New Zealand-bred, Australian-owned five-year-old Starcraft, already proven at the highest level on his own patch, was sent to Luca Cumani for a Northern Hemisphere campaign. He finished third to Valixir in the Queen Anne Stakes at York, and sixth to Oratorio in the Eclipse.
Sidelined since with a pelvic stress fracture, he bounced back with a vengeance yesterday to show his true mettle in the Prix du Moulin, the latest round if the élite mile division.
The chestnut made every yard under Christophe Lemaire and galloped his rivals into submission, quickening off his own pace to come in two and a half lengths clear of the French filly Gorella. The other Newmarket-based raider, the Jeremy Noseda-trained Majors Cast, was a creditable short-neck away in third, with Whipper, runner-up to Dubawi last time, fourth, and the market leader, Valixir, only fifth.
On this display, Starcraft looks a leading player in the mix for mile honours and will take on the pro tem divisional leader, Dubawi, in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Newmarket 20 days hence. "He is impressive," said Cumani, "and very powerful. The plan was always to make the running if no one else would. The strategy was to keep him running and running. He is a horse that I always knew had it in him."
The afternoon's other Group One action was in Ireland, where Rumplestiltskin continued Aidan O'Brien's excellent recent record in the Moyglare Stud Stakes. The daughter of Danehill gave the Ballydoyle maestro his fourth success in the season's first top-level juvenile fillies' contest, after Sequoyah, Quarter Moon and Necklace, but she was perhaps less impressive than a well-backed 2-7 shot should have been, with only a neck to spare over the 25-1 chance Ugo Fire.
In her defence, she had to be brought wide by Kieren Fallon to launch her challenge, never shirked the battle and was pricking her ears once she was in command in the final few strides.
"She pulls up when she gets to the front," said O'Brien. "She's really only as good as the horses she races against. She only ever does just enough." Rumplestiltskin did not impress the bookmaking fraternity, though; Ladbrokes pushed her out to 16-1 for next year's 1,000 Guineas.
On the same card, last year's Moyglare Stud Stakes winner, Chelsea Rose, continued her revival as she beat the Oaks third Pictavia by an easy two lengths in the nine furlong Listed race.
There was a clean sweep for the raiders in the sprint feature, the Flying Five, in which the Mark Wallace-trained Benbaun relegated The Tatling to back-to-back runner-up spots, with The Trader in third.
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