Racing: Windy excuses as Arazi meets defeat again

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The Independent Online
THE DEMISE of Arazi was completed at Longchamp yesterday when the one-time world champion traipsed in third in a race which, in his prime, he would have won wearing a straitjacket. Almost as breathtaking as this defeat was the verdict of his connections, who refused to abandon hope despite the fact that he was beaten more than six lengths and finished just one place in front of his pacemaker, writes Paul Hayward.

It defies the memory to recall a racehorse sliding down the ability league as fast as Arazi has this season. As recently as the spring he was still humiliating his galloping companions, and after he returned to win the Prix Omnium II at Saint-Cloud in April there was every reason to believe that Arazi would extend the global dominance he achieved as a two-year-old in 1991.

Yesterday's defeat by Arcangues and Prince Polino (who they?) will almost certainly mark the resting point of Arazi's racing life, even though his trainer, Francois Boutin, felt able to say: 'He was very rusty. It wasn't a great surprise. We'll have to see how his hock is tomorrow before making any decisions (the horse injured a hock in the run up to this race).'

Lack of fitness was not Boutin's only explanation. In an unguarded moment he will quickly regret, France's foremost trainer said: 'It was very windy. I wish he could have been hidden a bit more.' Steve Cauthen, meanwhile, was similarly disinclined to denigrate Arazi, saying: 'He needed this race, and 10 furlongs is probably the limit of his stamina. Don't forget he had six days off (with the injury). I haven't written him off.'

Boutin and Cauthen are now almost alone in remaining loyal to Arazi, who would surely face further ignominy if he were to contest the Breeders' Cup Mile at the end of October. It was at the world's richest race meeting, of course, that Arazi flattened America's best after completing the French grand slam of top two-year-old races.

His first-season career still bears comparison with that of any juvenile in thoroughbred history. What has happened to him this season - starting with that defeat in the Kentucky Derby - is a lesson in how brittle racehorses are, and how one wrong move can derail a career for ever.

Logic suggests that it was that second trip to Churchill Downs that ruined Arazi. Down the backstretch in America's greatest race, we saw again the body-chucking rush past rival after rival, but this time, with his hurried preparation beginning to tell, it was Arazi, and not the chumps he was passing, who was galloping into darkness.

The sight of him drifting and choking with fatigue in the straight at Churchill Downs was, as yesterday almost certainly confirmed, a portrait of the end.

Walter Swinburn, out of action for over a month since suffering head injuries in a late-night incident, returns to the saddle at Nottingham today.