Racing: Winners relish Sea of tears: Japan awaits the winner after an Arc when emotion mattered more than money

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The Independent Online
FORGET ratings and time- figures, measure the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in terms of the emotion it arouses and Sunday's race scores as highly as any on the planet. Urban Sea's success will not bring her the status of a champion, but it brought many tears.

For her jockey, Eric Saint- Martin, and her trainer, Jean Lesbordes, the crying came as they realised this was their moment and that they would probably never have another like it; unlike last year's winners, Andre Fabre and Thierry Jarnet, they simply do not have the firepower at their disposal to figure regularly in their country's most coveted race.

From Lesbordes' pony- tailed son, Clement, who rides Urban Sea in her daily work, came tears too as he screamed his favourite horse home from a position in the stands. 'I lost my voice,' he said, before adding a financial aspect to his delight: 'We've landed an incredible bet.'

But winning the race could not have less to do with money, even with a first prize of pounds 597,372. One look at Peter Chapple-Hyam's face as he tried to wipe away the emotion after seeing White Muzzle go so close to vindicating the trainer's belief, told the story.

Chapple-Hyam's next reaction was to affirm that he and the horse would be back in 1994, this time to win, and Luca Cumani too said that the Arc would be a target for the luckless fifth, Only Royale.

They would be wise not to pin too much on their charges' ability to play a significant role again. User Friendly and Vert Amande, second and third to Subotica last year, were victims of the typical roughness the race produces and finished 22nd and ninth respectively.

It is that aspect of the Arc which gives horses that are below top class such a great opportunity to upstage their betters and Urban Sea joins a list that includes Gold River, Carroll House and Subotica in that category.

The trainers of next year's champions would do well to bear that list in mind when exhorted to miss the premier races of summer in favour of an autumn campaign centred on the Arc and that other impossibly difficult event, the Breeders' Cup.

Lesbordes is certainly not a disciple of that theory, having given Urban Sea six races this season prior to the Arc, but he did allow her a short break after her last success. 'When she won last time out, at Deauville in August, I said she would go straight to the Arc without a preparatory race,' he said.

'I also said she would stay without any problem. She showed that when she was a good third in last year's Prix Vermeille (over the Arc's course and distance) when she was some way short of maturity.'

The next stop for Urban Sea is next month's Japan Cup. 'She is a great traveller and has already run in Canada, America, Hong Kong and Britain,' Lesbordes said.

The question is how many other runners from Sunday's 23-strong field will eventually head east. White Muzzle will also contest the Japan Cup and is highly likely to return there at the end of his racing days as he is owned by the family of the late Zenya Yoshida, who was the foremost breeder in his country. White Muzzle's sire, Dancing Brave, is already at stud in Japan and Opera House, third on Sunday, will also take up stallion duties there after contesting the Breeders' Cup Turf.

With Chapple-Hyam's 1992 Classic winners Rodrigo De Triano and Dr Devious among other stallions purchased in yen, that adds up to a lot of significant blood being leaked from Europe. The success of Urban Sea's owner, David Tsui, a Hong Kong businessman who became involved in racing only two years ago, can only fire Far East interest.

What is worrying for the European breeding industry is that if the Far Eastern domination that manifested itself in the Arc continues, then the breed will be weakened in the continent where it originated. Unlike other dominant owners in the Maktoum family, Khalid Abdullah and Fahd Salman, the Japanese have no interest in their purchases ending up at European studs and only the second-rate specimens will find their way back.

And if Sunday's result can be read as being representative of our times, then the Aga Khan will want to move on swiftly to a new chapter. Nothing capitulated more quickly than his well fancied filly Shemaka, who eventually finished last in the final Arc sponsored by the Aga's financially embarrassed hotel chain Ciga.

Another change next year could mean the Arc field being restricted to 20 runners so that it can be used for the nationwide Tierce, Quarte and Quinte bets. The latter requires naming the first five home. Finding the next Urban Sea is the first job.

(Photograph omitted)

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