Racing: Empire strikes and so do the stable staff

The favourite for next year's 2,000 Guineas and Derby, Aidan O'Brien's Second Empire, reinforced his reputation yesterday at Longchamp, where striking stable staff proved his most difficult obstacle. Greg Wood reports.

While British clerks of the course wrestle with the problems of rain and frost, an altogether more bizarre disruption faced their counterpart at Longchamp yesterday, as the card which included the Group One Grand Criterium, one of the most important two-year-old races of the season, was placed in jeopardy by a posse of angry stablehands.

Poor pay and conditions are as much a fact of life for staff in French yards as they are in Britain, but on the other side of the Channel, they are not afraid to take direct action to demonstrate their annoyance. A dispute over a rule which would have allowed trainers to sack stablehands who weighed more than 65 kilos was negotiated to a settlement, but a series of unresolved issues, involving wages, rest times and security, prompted a picket yesterday morning of one of the country's biggest horse transport companies

This prevented many horses from making their way to Longchamp, and while the five runners for the Grand Criterium, due to be the third race on the card, arrived without mishap, almost half of the field for the second race did not. This had serious betting implications, since the second race was the basis for the daily Tierce, the Tricast-style bet which is by far the most popular in France. Eventually, 16 of the 18 runners for the Tierce made it to the track, and the second, third and fourth races went ahead almost three hours late, with the remainder of the meeting either postponed or abandoned.

For punters in Britain, meanwhile, the Grand Criterium was far more interesting, with Second Empire, the ante-post favourite for next year's Derby, among the runners. Michael Tabor announced over the weekend that Entrepreneur, the 2,000 Guineas winner, has been retired to stud, but he has found another serious Classic prospect in Second Empire, who recorded an easy win in a Group Three event at Longchamp last month and made short work of the step up to Group One company at the same course yesterday.

Aidan O'Brien's colt, with Michael Kinane in the saddle, did not need any serious encouragement from his rider to beat Charge D'Affaires by three quarters of a length, and was immediately cut to 4-1 favourite for next year's 2,000 Guineas by William Hill. The same firm cut his Derby odds to 8-1 from 12-1, but it is also worth noting that the runner-up yesterday provides a useful line to one of the season's other leading two-year-olds, Xaar. The latter, who is trained by Andre Fabre and prominent in ante-post betting on next year's 2,000 Guineas, beat Charge D'Affaires by three lengths in the Group One Prix de la Salamandre three weeks ago, and will clearly take some beating when he lines up against Daggers Drawn in the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday.

Second Empire will doubtless find some supporters for next year's Classics even at his new, truncated odds, but there was a reminder yesterday that when it comes to racehorses and long-range targets, you can never take anything for granted. Clerkenwell, last year's Ebor winner, has been campaigned all season with just one race in mind, the Melbourne Cup at Flemington next month, and did not even make his seasonal debut until the first week of September. After months of careful preparation, however, a virus has intervened and he will not be making the trip to the Antipodes.

"Clerkenwell scoped badly yesterday," Anthony Stroud, Sheikh Mohammed's racing manager, said yesterday. "It is very disappointing he looked the right sort of horse. He had a good preparation for the race and had what looked to us a good weight, and it would have been a challenge on a new frontier."

The potential British challenge for the Cup is now down to just two runners, Arabian Story and Harbour Dues. Lord Huntingdon, Arabian Story's trainer, reported yesterday that his horse is well and will travel to Australia next week, with Frankie Dettori expected to ride in the big race on 4 November.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This publishing company based i...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor