Chris McGrath: Green Destiny's name looks written on Newbury Arc trial
Like W C Fields, it seems that racing folk are free of all prejudices. They hate everyone equally.
After rebuking the sport's biggest investors last week, for a palpable bias against trainers in the North, it now feels necessary to deplore an apparent disregard for Japan. But at least there is scope, this time, to make the culprits pay – because their stake, as bookmakers and punters, is instead in the betting market.
From a bare handful of runners, the Japanese have come within an ace of winning the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe twice already. El Condor Pasa was just nailed by Montjeu in 1999, after bursting clear in the straight; and last year the unconsidered Nakayama Festa was thwarted only in a photo by Workforce. Unlike that pair, Deep Impact was not given a local grounding before finishing third in 2006, but only the most insular could fail to observe – as when their runners finished first and second in the Dubai World Cup in March – that the Japanese will nowadays be competitive wherever they go.
Last year, Nakayama Festa made a giant leap forward after finishing second in the Prix Foy. In the same trial last Sunday, a compatriot again returned from a long break to fill the same position, run down narrowly by Sarafina. While much was made of Christophe Lemaire's indulgence to the winner, Hiruno D'Amour was himself given a sensibly conservative ride on his first start since May. Though he had won over two miles when last seen, at the expense of five previous Grade One winners, Hiruno D'Amour has also won a big race over 10 furlongs, and earlier finished second over that trip to the Dubai winner, Victoire Pisa.
Sarafina, whose habitual finish through traffic condemned her to third in a big field last year, is as short as 3-1 to win the Arc. Yet Hiruno D'Amour can be backed at 25-1. You work it out. And then perhaps have a bet.
There is a nominal Arc trial at Newbury today, albeit it hardly seems likely to volunteer a fresh candidate for Paris. Last year Dangerous Midge instead treated the race as a platform for success in no less a prize than the Breeders' Cup Turf. Having since disappointed in Dubai, he could well need the run this time round, and may have to be near his very best to cope with the flourishing Green Destiny (2.00).
Both his failures in big handicaps this summer are easily pardoned, and the form of a very stylish win, in between, looks very strong. He duly made a thoroughly convincing Group debut on his return to York last month, taking charge on the bridle before idling in front, and has long shaped, in conformity with his pedigree, as though this somewhat stiffer test will suit.
On a key day for his faltering title challenge, Kieren Fallon also has obvious prospects in a couple of the other televised races on the card. Caspar Netscher made a deserved breakthrough – both on his own account, and on behalf of his trainer – in the Gimcrack Stakes last time and his toughness will again be an asset in the Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes. He cannot afford any incipient fatigue under a penalty, however, and Redact (2.30) might just offer a bit of value if excused a disappointing run at Ripon last time. His previous run at Newbury, over the bare five furlongs, had promised better again when restored to this trip, over which he had won his first two starts by three and five lengths.
Fallon rides Kirthill in the big handicap, a prize so artfully targeted by Luca Cumani that he has saddled four of the past seven winners. That is an extraordinary achievement, in a race like this, but it may yet prove that Cumani has better prospects with the unexposed Naqshabban, assuming that he has now conquered his phobia of the stalls. Both, however, may struggle to stem the dramatic improvement shown by Dhaamer (3.05) when fitted with a visor last time.
The biggest purse of the day is offered in one of Scotland's most cherished races, the William Hill Ayr Gold Cup, where the record of David Nicholls is perhaps more remarkable still. His stable has endured a quiet summer, however, and it is well worth giving another chance to Waffle (3.20) at 25-1 after things failed to work out at Doncaster last week.
The Channel 4 cameras also pay a brief visit to Newmarket, where Dhaamer's trainer, John Gosden, appears to hold outstanding prospects with Palazzo Bianco (3.30; see Turf Account). Mind you, it is always worth remembering another piece of wisdom vouchsafed by W C Fields: "Horse sense is the thing a horse has which keeps it from betting on people."
Cavaleiro follows a Classic trail for Tregoning
The fact that the race is sponsored by a wine merchant may or may not shed some light on Marcus Tregoning's enthusiasm for the Haynes, Hanson & Clark Stakes at Newbury. Either way, he once again took home the claret awarded to the winning trainer yesterday, Cavaleiro having given him a fifth success in a race that has announced a series of champions over the years.
Now that he is no longer a salaried trainer for Sheikh Hamdan, Tregoning candidly acknowledges that he could do with another good one himself. It was fitting, then, that this handsome colt should represent the first crop of his 2006 Derby winner, Sir Percy.
Cavaleiro had required four attempts to win a maiden but plainly remains on the upgrade, seeing off the highly regarded favourite, Harvard N Yale, by a neck.
"He has had a lot of experience now, but he's progressing all the time," Tregoning said. "The dream is still alive. It didn't matter what he was by – he was a horse we wanted to bring back from the sales, as you might imagine from the look of him. Richard Mullen rode him beautifully, too. He's a very underrated jockey, very calm with a good brain."
Tregoning indicated that Cavaleiro might now be put away for a Derby trial next spring.
Much water must flow under the bridge in the meantime, of course – as you could hardly fail to observe, when Dubai Prince finally made his debut for Godolphin in the Dubai Duty Free Conditions Stakes. Unbeaten in two juvenile starts for Dermot Weld, he suffered a pelvic injury when being prepared for the Classics in the spring. But he might yet make up for lost time, to judge from the way he breezed clear under Kieren Fallon.
"He felt electric," the jockey said. "He's a proper horse. The way he moves, everything about him would excite you."
Commander retreats from rigours of fray
It is a measure of the competitive longevity shared by Kauto Star and Denman that the horse who ended their Cheltenham duopoly last year has proved unable to stand the rigours of their calling.
Pulled up in his defence of the Gold Cup in March, Imperial Commander will miss the entire season after picking up a tendon injury – albeit his trainer remains positive the horse is nowhere near the end of the road. "He hasn't returned from pre-training in Northern Ireland," Nigel Twiston-Davies explained. "I haven't seen it myself, but the injury sounds very slight and he should be fine for next season."
Chris McGrath's Nap
Palazzo Bianco (Newmarket 3.30) Gets weight from exposed rivals and can improve again over this trip, having worked so steadily through the gears at Haydock last time. That was his first handicap and, assuming this does not come too soon, a 6lb rise looks fair.
Deacon Blues (3.40 Newbury) Fascinating to see a horse that travels so strongly dropped to five furlongs for the first time, not least as he has looked eligible for a still higher grade during a summer when everything has finally fallen into place.
One to watch
Shaleek (Roger Varian) promised to strengthen her trainer's strong juvenile squad on her debut at Yarmouth during the week, green from the gate and taking a while to cotton on before finishing best to force a photo.
Where the money's going
Richard Fahey's one-two in a consolation race yesterday prompted Sky Bet punters to back one of his William Hill Ayr Gold Cup outsiders, Kaldoun Kingdom, into 14-1 from 20-1.
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