Racing: Arazi arises to embarrass critics: Paul Hayward at Longchamp on a brilliant colt's rebuttal of those who expected a humble exit

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The Independent Online
THEY said he looked an abject figure in the dank air of Longchamp, an unwelcome reminder of past follies, but by joining the list of racing's great resurrections here yesterday Arazi nearly displaced the Arc as the weekend's most compelling sight. Apologies are owed, and lots of them.

A four-length win over the relatively moderate pair, Calling Collect and Alhijaz, has not restored Arazi to the status of world leader but it definitely demands that the obituary notices be recalled from the printers. As Lord Huntingdon, the Queen's trainer, said: 'Even if he gets beaten in the Breeders' Cup Mile (Arazi's target now) it was nice that he's revived all those memories, shown that he's not just a ghost.'

It was the tenacity of Arazi's sprint up the Longchamp straight that confirmed the value of this victory. The old dip of the shoulders, the lowered head was there as he slipped through a gap and rushed up the rail to suggest - and how uncanny it is to be saying it - that a victory at Gulfstream Park is no remote possibilty. His jockey, Steve Cauthen, had been roundly (though privately) derided for not abandoning hope after the horse's third consecutive defeat, but as he said here yesterday: 'The fact is that he's only been right for about three weeks this season. He's always had it in him.'

The frostiness with which Francois Boutin, Arazi's trainer, brushed past the press was a reminder of how dangerous it is to dismiss the views of hardened professionals like these. Just as Arazi rose on a froth of inflated chatter, so he sank into the disgrace of seemingly squandered talent.

The key to this resurgence was almost certainly the softened ground, which will have placed the minimum stress on Arazi's fragile knees. Whether those conditions will be reproduced in the greenhouse of southern Florida is, of course, highly unlikely, though at least his ideal distance - a mile - has finally been found.

Now that Boutin has been rehabilitated, his assertion that this race will have 'put Arazi spot on for the Breeders' Cup' must be given the respect it previously failed to attract. Boutin reminded us, too, that he said Arazi was 'right back to his best' before the Prix du Moulin, which he had to miss because of a minor injury, and in that respect nobody could question his insistence that the little horse has had 'no luck this season'.

Two other thoughts pressed themselves. If Boutin, Sheikh Mohammed and Allen Paulson (the two joint-owners) had listened to the voices in the shadows Arazi would now be tucked up at stud munching the world's finest muesli. The second of the side issues is the question of who will ride Arazi at Gulfstream, because Pat Valenzuela is contracted to ride him in his American races. The Sheikh's team will push the case for Cauthen.

Sheikh Mohammed was not to be seen during this culmination of the European racing programme, but if he had appeared to watch his massed ranks of runners he would have detected a change in the way the Maktoums' announcement at Newmarket last week is being discussed. There was a widespread feeling at Longchamp that the racing industry suffered a spasm of over-reaction when the family said they would be reducing their strings in Britain owing to low prize-money and high VAT levels. In fact, the Maktoums have scored a diplomatic triumph (they do run a country after all, so political games are hardly alien to them) in warning the sport not to take them for granted.

In the manufacture of champions, the Maktoum's over-fuelled production line has failed to keep pace with that of Khalid Abdulla, whose Tenby (like Arazi, not monstrous in size) is a credible Derby favourite following his victory in the Grand Criterium here on Saturday, the race Arazi won last year. Yesterday it seemed like a decade ago.

Lester Piggott won his sixth Group One race of the year when capturing the Prix de l'Abbaye on Mr Brooks, trained by Richard Hannon. It was the fifth consecutive victory in the race for British stables.

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