Racing: Sagamix seals Peslier's Arc trilogy

Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe: France's top rider confirms his status in a grinding win that does not rank with the greats
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The Independent Online
IT WAS a delivery from a master trainer and a master jockey, but few will argue that Sagamix's victory in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe here yesterday was an exhibition of equine greatness.

Andre Fabre and Olivier Peslier now have eight Arcs between them - three in a row for the jockey - and it is an eccentricity of the turf that their best vehicle, Peintre Celebre 12 months ago, will be followed in the record books by an animal which neither has trumpeted.

Sagamix proved he was courageous and bold, but the brilliance that is normally required in the Parisian autumn was absent yesterday. The grey won under metallic skies, but the ambience was rather tinny.

Fabre tried to convince us otherwise, but the trainer's pre-race observation that his runners (he also saddled Fragrant Mix to be sixth and Limpid to be 12th) were ordinary horses in an ordinary year was immovable. Sagamix remains unbeaten, but his artisan manner of success ensures that his place in history remains lowly. He was the best, but the rest were not up to much.

"Peintre Celebre was another class," Fabre said, his head poking up like a tulip among a foliage of tape recorders. "But it's difficult to compare horses. How do you compare your friends with each other?" added the trainer who has also saddled Trempolino, Subotica and Carnegie to win the great race.

Comparisons, however, are what racing is about. Sagamix has done nothing wrong, but what he has achieved has come with little panache. He could retire tomorrow as an unbeaten Arc winner, the first of his dark grey hue in 50 years, and few would remember him.

Fabre and Peslier are different. The little trainer has had a quiet year by his own blaring standards, but it must never be forgotten that he is one of the great practitioners of the horse-preparation trade.

Peslier, who wins leading contests around the globe, has now swollen the club of outstanding French jockeys, formed by Yves Saint-Martin, to two. His success followed wins on Helissio in 1986 and Peintre Celebre last year and emulated Pat Eddery's triumphs on Rainbow Quest, Dancing Brave and Trempolino between 1985 and 1987. His effort yesterday clanged resoundingly with that of Michael Kinane, who was unusually timid on Britain's leading hope, High-Rise.

Luca Cumani's colt had been one of the outstanding models in the assembly of the pre-parade ring. He could not be bracketed with Dream Well, the French and Irish Derby winner, who circled with ears flat to the head. Racing, it seemed, was not an enterprise in which the latter was still interested. The German horse Tiger Hill was the object of most spectator attention. His supporters unfurled national flags on the banking.

When the equine pulses started racing, High-Rise was immediately taped to the rails and remained there for the major portion of the contest as Happy Valentine hammered away up front. Leggera, John Dunlop's filly, was never far away from the inferno, while Sagamix appeared to be sweating to keep up. Four furlongs out, the eventual winner was being punished to improve his position while High-Rise was travelling ominously well.

"I asked a big question because he is very lazy, and I was pushing and pushing," Peslier reported. "But he fought well and kept going. "He knows exactly where the winning post is. I don't, because I just push and whip. But I smacked, and he went all the way."

However, while Peslier's urgings were answered in the clear, green pastures of the middle of the course, the British beast was pointed up a series of culs-de-sac. High-Rise surged willingly into seventh and may not have won in any case, but his finishing position was not a reflection of naked ability. "We were too far behind to begin with and it was a slowly run race," Cumani said. "In the straight we never had a chance and it was all too late. He didn't run really."

"Michael said that the position wasn't ideal and in the straight we didn't get many gaps. When they came it was too late because it became a sprint and they hadn't gone fast enough. A furlong out he was still on the bridle.

"Sagamix was wider and he could run, but we couldn't. We were block and switch, block and switch. If you don't have the room to run then you can't show how fast you can go."

John Dunlop, Leggera's trainer, tempered his disappointment at defeat with the consolation that the run was much the best of her career.

"What an improved filly," he said. "I thought it was a good run from her to win the Vermeille, but she has beaten three Derby winners today. She was only just beaten in the last 50 yards, but that is where it matters. Another day's rain might have made the difference."

Going which had been the consistency of yoghurt at the start of the weekend had dried up considerably before start of play and there was little mud spattering around. This kept Peslier's sunshade goggles mercifully free from matter, and did not interfere with the post-race procession. Connections were transported in carriages down the course after the main action, a Royal Ascot caravan in reverse.

Jean-Luc Lagardere, the winning owner, looked dapper in the way Frenchmen do best and Mme Lagardere was rather splendid in feathered headwear which may have landed after she left home. It was a relaxed procession which the race had not been.

Monsieur Lagardere is an industrialist and a big noise in France. He has come to racing relatively late in life, but his commitment is not sloppy. He pays bills for 220 horses.

The best of the bunch, Sagamix, will stay in training next season and his stock may yet rise to an appreciable level. He will meet High-Rise at some stage in 1999, when the level of Kinane's competence yesterday will be easier to gauge.

Peslier rode High-Rise to success in the Derby this summer when the growing colt was allowed to untangle his legs up Epsom's straight. He was not given that luxury yesterday as the French, once again, kept their favourite prize at home.

Sagamix, the horse with the crouching gait and grey tipped tail, won the 77th Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. It remains for him though to capture our hearts and minds.

THE ARC RESULT

1. SAGAMIX brown colt by Linamix out of Saganeca 3 8 11 O Peslier

2. Leggera bay filly by Sadler's Wells out of Lady Ambassador 3 8 8 T Quinn

3. Tiger Hill bay colt by Danehill out of The Filly 3 8 11 A Suborics

Also ran: 4. Croco Rouge; 5. Caitano; 6. Fragrant Mix; 7. High-Rise; 8. Dream Well; 9. Sea Wave; 10. Happy Valentine; 11. Courteous; 12. Limpid; 13. Zainta; 14. Posidonas.

Trainer: Andre Fabre

Owner: Jean-Luc Lagardere; Breeder: SNC Lagardere Elevage

Pari-Mutuel: 3.50 (coupled with Fragrant Mix); places 1.80, 3.60, 2.90. DF: 39.90.

Distances: nk, 3/4, 3/4, 3/4, 1/2, hd, hd, 1/2, 11/2. Time: 2min 34.5sec.

HOW THEY RAN

Sagamix: held up in mid-division, 8th straight, headway over one furlong out, ran on to lead close home.

Leggera: always prominent, 3rd straight, led approaching final furlong, hard ridden, caught close home.

Tiger Hill: always in touch, 6th straight, headway well over 1f out, every chance inside final furlong, no extra closing stages.

Croco Rouge: held up, 10th straight, headway and not clear run well over 1f out, ran on well final furlong, nearest at finish.

Caitano: slowly into stride, 12th straight, headway on outside final 2f, nearest at finish.

Fragrant Mix: in touch, 7th straight, no headway from over 1f out.

High-Rise: 9th straight, not clear run over 1f out, stayed on final furlong.

Dream Well: held up, last straight, headway final 2f, never in a challenging position.

Sea Wave: in touch, 5th straight, beaten well over 1f out.

Happy Valentine: led, clear half-way, headed approaching final furlong.

Courteous: 11th straight, always in rear.

Limpid: prominent, 4th straight, weakened well over 1f out.

Zainta: held up in rear, 13th straight, never a factor.

Posidonas: raced in 2nd to straight, ridden over 3f out, weakened over 1f out.

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