Racing: Case for Limpid is clear

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The Independent Online
HORSES ARE not the brightest of creatures, but it is usually fair to assume that when the starting stalls open, they will realise that the direction to go is straight on rather than sharp left. Not so Sea Wave, however, and as a result of his unexpected early exit from the Prix Niel at Longchamp on Sunday, punters are faced with even more problems than normal as they study the ante-post odds for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp on 4 October.

That the ground will probably be desperate on Arc day, or that a couple of jockeys will ride the difficult Longchamp circuit with all the vision and intelligence of a blindfolded five-year-old, can generally be taken as read. A fancied runner with no solid recent form to his name is more the territory of the Derby, though, but thanks to the fit of temperament which left a bemused Frankie Dettori to watch the rest of the field galloping into the distance, we can only speculate as to what Sea Wave might be able to do in Paris a fortnight on Sunday.

The memory of what happened two days ago will certainly loom large in the thoughts of the jockeys drawn on his immediate outside in the Arc. Timeform's racereaders too noticed a jink towards the paddock on the way to the start before the Great Voltigeur Stakes (his last race, and one which he won impressively). His connections, though, do not expect a repeat performance next month.

"We'd never seen anything like that before," Simon Crisford, Godolphin's racing manager, said yesterday, "and Frankie's never thought the horse had any inclination towards something like that. I really think it was a one-off."

Certainly, there will be no hurried revision of Godolphin's running plans for the autumn's most valuable races. Sea Wave definitely runs in the Arc, where he may be joined by Daylami, winner of the Grade One Man O' War Stakes at Belmont Park in New York on Saturday. Swain, though, will miss the Arc and run next in the Breeders' Cup Turf at Churchill Downs in November.

"We'll keep our plans along those lines," Crisford said. "You could ask Swain to do both, but you might not get what you are hoping for. He'll be standing at stud in America and that's the one that we want."

The upshot of all the drama at Longchamp, which also saw the heavy defeat of Dream Well, the French and Irish Derby winner, was that High-Rise, our own Derby winner, rose to the head of the Arc market while doing nothing more strenuous than nibbling a few oats. In the last 25 years, though, only Lammtarra has won both races. Irish Derby winners have a slightly better record in Paris, but Dream Well ran so poorly on Sunday that even if both he and the ground are a good deal faster in the big race, he would still be struggling.

One interesting statistic about Arc Trial day is that 50 per cent of Arc winners appear in one of the prep races. Sea Wave presumably qualifies, even if he did take only a couple of strides, but if 1998 is to be one of those years, Sagamix, the Prix Niel winner, is the most obvious candidate.

Lightly-raced, improving, trained by Andre Fabre - Sagamix certainly has most of the credentials you look for in an Arc punt. What was particularly interesting, though, about Olivier Peslier's post-race debrief was that there was no automatic assumption that Sagamix will be his ride in the big race.

The horse which Peslier might yet be astride as he seeks his third consecutive Arc is Limpid, who had a poor run when fifth in the International Stakes at York. He has the same happy treble of factors in his favour as Sagamix, but with one important difference - Sagamix is top-priced at 6-1 with the British layers, while Limpid is all of 11-1 with Stanley Leisure. Even if Peslier eventually decides to ride Sagamix, it is clearly a difficult call to make, and even jockeys as talented as he occasionally get these things wrong. An oblique recommendation it may be, but the lesson of the Arc trials is that Limpid is a major contender, and his price will move in only one direction over the next 19 days.