Al Kazeem primed for Arc raid after Eclipse triumph

 

The horse who has emerged as the discovery of the season continued his harvest of top prizes yesterday. Al Kazeem's decisive success in the Eclipse Stakes, his third in a row at Group 1 level, confirmed him as Britain's best middle-distance performer and a most credible candidate for the end-of-year showdown in the division, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. His purposeful progress up the rankings is now there in the formbook; his place in public affection has been slower to come but his charisma must surely now be acknowledged.

The five-year-old is, after all, talented and conspicuously handsome. But he is something of a parvenu and does not come with a glossy hype machine attached.

His trainer, Roger Charlton, though one of the most capable in the business over several decades, has never sought self-promotion, always preferring to let the animals under his care take the plaudits.

Previously, they did so to best effect when Quest For Fame and Sanglamore won the Epsom and Chantilly Derbys in 1990 then it was the turn of other top performers, such as Patvellian and Avonbridge, and more recently Bated Breath and Cityscape.

But Al Kazeem, who races in the colours of his breeder John Deer, is proving the shoutiest of the lot. The talent those closest to him knew he possessed has been a while in the unveiling – the horse suffered a fractured pelvis 14 months ago and was out of action for more than a year – but the fact it has emerged is a matter of huge credit to Charlton's team at his Wiltshire stables. And that it is delighting in these parts is down to Deer, who turned down life-changing offers from abroad for his pride and joy.

The Eclipse Stakes was billed as a re-run of the previous elite 10-furlong encounter on the circuit, the Prince Of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot, and Al Kazeem, with James Doyle in the saddle, was made 15-8 favourite to confirm his superiority over Mukhadram and The Fugue. That he did, emphatically, though not wholly smoothly.

As last month, Mukhadram blazed the trail into the straight before being caught close home by Al Kazeem but this time Doyle, presented with daylight between the leader and Mars, had to make his challenge earlier than ideal with the result that his mount, as he mastered his rival and began to surge clear up the demanding finishing hill, veered right towards the inside running rail, in the process hampering Mukhadram. The manoeuvre cost the young rider a five-day ban for careless riding.

"When the split came I had to take it," he said. "Once he got to the front he began to idle a bit, prick his ears and have a look. As is typical at Sandown, he rolled over to the rail. But he had the race won and won well."

The incident probably cost the unbalanced Mukhadram second place as he was caught near the line by Declaration Of War and nearly by Mars. The Fugue, so close at Ascot, had an off-day and was last of the seven runners.

The last horse to win a Prince Of Wales's Stakes and an Eclipse Stakes in the same season was Mtoto, who achieved the feat for the second time 25 years ago and went on to win the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Whether or not Al Kazeem tries to emulate his exploits back at Ascot later this month remains to be seen. "He's a proper horse, easy and uncomplicated, and brave," said Charlton. "But I would perhaps be reluctant to keep him going for the King George as maybe he's due a break. The timing of the Irish Champion Stakes [September] is about right and then the Arc."

Al Kazeem, who proved his stamina for 12 furlongs in the Jockey Club Stakes last year, is now vying for Arc favouritism with Intello, who runs at Longchamp today.

David Johnson, owner of 2008 Grand national winner Comply Or Die, has died at the age of 67 after a long battle against cancer. His blue and green silks were also carried by the two-miler Well Chief, and the mare Lady Cricket, who won the Gold Cup at Cheltenham in 2000.

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