It was impossible to know, from a performance of such serenity, that a great career had just come to an end. But that was the shocking sequel emerging from Paris last night, when bookmakers scratched Manduro from their betting on the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe barely two hours after making him favourite.
One of the most accomplished racehorses in the world – none has a higher rating – Manduro had extended his flawless campaign with an easy win over the Arc course and distance in the Prix Foy at Longchamp. But he was apparently later found to be lame and X-rays revealed a suspected fractured bone in his off-hind. Suddenly the Arc became a trivial matter. Ironically, he had seemed to seal the most obvious chink in his armour with this, a first success over a mile and a half. Only Mandesha among his four rivals was capable of any kind of opposition, and Manduro was able to see her off more or less on the bridle, by two and a half lengths.
It seemed that André Fabre had material worthy of an eighth Arc success. "You don't need to be impressive in a trial race," the trainer shrugged. "You just need to win it quietly – which is what he has done."
But suddenly the new horizon became a sunset. Manduro's flowering this season will be remembered as one of the most glorious even in Fabre's career. He won three consecutive Group One prizes, at Longchamp, Royal Ascot and Deauville, and Fabre had even talked of taking on the Americans at their own game in the Breeders' Cup Classic.In his absence, Authorized is as short as 6-4 favourite with Ladbrokes. Soldier Of Fortune confirmed himself the main danger, at 5-2, by winning the Prix Niel for three-year-olds on the same card. A runaway success in the Irish Derby in July had made it seem possible that he needs soft ground, but he produced an assured display despite being thought in need of his first race since.
Sensibly ridden by Johnny Murtagh, he struck for home two furlongs out and Zambezi Sun never threatened to follow him through. Instead that colt was passed by Sagara, and must find unusual improvement if he is to reverse the form in the Arc. "He'll improve for the race as he'd been off a long time," Murtagh said of the winner. "Once he got going, I gave him a smack and he was off. The pacemaker did his job and got me to the two-furlong marker and my fellow did the job in the style of a high-class horse. He has a great attitude and a great heart. He loved the track, but did get a bit tired in the last couple of hundred yards. It looked a solid race, and while he went on the ground he would appreciate it slightly softer."
Murtagh had already extended his golden summer into the autumn by stealing the Prix Vermeille on the outsider, Mrs Lindsay. This was a valuable piece of opportunism, gaining first run while West Wind, trying the trip for the first time, was held up in traffic before flying home late. Back in third was Passage Of Time. Henry Cecil included two races over 10 furlongs – the Prix de l'Opera and Champion Stakes – among her options, but will also consider the Arc.
Arc (7 Oct, Longhamp) betting: Ladbrokes: 6-4 Authorized, 5-2 Soldier Of Fortune, 9-2 Dylan Thomas, 8 Zambezi Sun, 10 West Wind, 12 others.Reuse content