Racing: Condor swoops for Japan

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The Independent Online
ON A WEEKEND which introduced a new shape to the season's pecking order with Compton Admiral and the dazzling Noushkey rather closer to the top of the pile, the most impressive victory of all was that of El Condor Pasa in yesterday's Group One Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud. The success catapulted the colt into the second-favourite's berth for October's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe with only Montjeu preceding him.

The name may be relatively unfamiliar but this is no callow emerging tyro but rather a seasoned four-year-old, trained in Japan by Yoshitaka Ninomiya and already the winner of last season's Japan Cup.

Yesterday he saw off some of Europe's best middle-distance horses decisively when beating Germany's Tiger Hill by two and a half lengths with last year's French and Irish Derby winner, Dream Well, in third. Sagamix, the Arc winner, never looked like justifying favouritism and finished in fourth place, while Greek Dance, the sole British raider, was seventh of the 10 starters.

The whole exercise took the concept of international racing a large step further and the prospect of regular, successful raids on Europe from Japan - now home of many top former European stallions - is one with which British punters will have to come to terms.

Tiger Hill, third in the Arc last year, had looked the most likely winner after his pacemaker Saugerties had set a searing test of stamina leading into the final straight with Dream Well's own pacemaker, Res Judicata, unable to get his head in front. However, Masayoshi Ebina produced El Condor Pasa with perfect timing while Tiger Hill was unable to produce a response.

El Condor Pasa's win was the third Group One winner for the Japanese on French tracks inside a year and sets him up for a confrontation with this year's French and Irish Derby champion Montjeu in the Arc. William Hill cut El Condor Pasa to 4-1 from 12-1 for the Arc.

Patrick Barbe, who manages El Condor Pasa, commented: "The Arc is now our main target with a possible prep run in either the Irish Champion Stakes or the Prix Foy."

One mercy for British punters is that the Saint-Cloud race took place after Saturday's Eclipse Stakes. El Condor Pasa's win would have highlighted the horse that he had finished second to on his French debut in the Prix d'Ispahan, a certain Croco Rouge.

The latter's lamentable run in the Eclipse should not detract from a fine training performance by Gerard Butler, who assessed Compton Admiral's capabilities correctly despite defeats in the 2,000 Guineas and Derby.

"He ran very well in the Derby," Butler said yesterday. "He was going as well as anything two furlongs out then levelled off, so we thought we had to bring him back to a mile and a quarter. He'll probably stay at it and the Juddmonte International at York will more than likely be his next race."

Frankie Dettori, who rode Xaar into second in the Eclipse, goes to Ireland today to appeal to the Irish Turf Club against a 12-day suspension - five days for improper riding and a further seven for wearing a defective back protector. He was given the ban at the Irish Derby meeting last weekend.

History is on Dettori's side as three years ago Willie Carson won an appeal to the Turf Club against a ban imposed for wearing an unapproved helmet when winning the Irish 1,000 Guineas on Matiya.

Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe (Longchamp, 3 October) William Hill: 9-4 Montjeu, 4-1 El Condor Pasa (from 12-1), 12-1 Croco Rouge (from 10-1), Sagamix (from 8-1), Tiger Hill (from 14-1), 14-1 Daryaba, Oath, 16-1 Dream Well (from 10-1), Fruits Of Love, Ramruma, Slickly, 20-1 Dark Moondancer, Daylami, High-Rise, Leggera, Sea Wave, 25-1 others