Over 25 World Group Races Headed by Longchamp
The weekend saw a massive twenty seven Group or Grade 1 races across the world, but the main meeting was undoubtedly the Longchamp meeting in Paris France where Enable was attempting more records. With the end of term champions sorting themselves out in Europe and America and spring time in the Antipodes, to keep up with all the racing takes some doing! With continued abandonments of shows and events, the weekend saw few competitions of note for the sport horse world.
At Longchamp, the main race was of course The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, first run one hundred years ago this year, and some say the best race worldwide in any year. This year we looked forward to a strong renewal of the race with Enable attempting to break the record for any horse ever winning three Arcs. With the removal of Love during the final declaration stage, Enable’s quest seemed considerably easier. However, she was to have had 14 others to beat, and there were plenty in the race with credentials to take the honours. John Gosden also ran stable mate to Enable – Stradivarius, a five year old horse and winner of nearly £3 million in prize money with a career of 15 wins from 23 runs. Aiden O’Brien was to have accounted for another four runners including 2020 Epsom Derby winner Serpentine. Historically, Epsom Derby winners have been rather successful in winning the Arc as 3 year olds. They do get a considerable weight advantage. Before the race, this possibly looked crucial as the going at Longchamp was heavy. Aiden also had Mogul, Japan and Sovereign in the race. As for French trainers, Sottsass, recent winner of the Irish Champion Stakes for Jean Claude Rouget and Andre Fabre, never to be discounted in this race, had Persian King in the line-up. However, with neither the French horses winning over a mile and a half and with the heavy ground, their chances looked slim.
As if there is not enough sporting interruption this year – more was to come!!! On the morning of the Arc, the racing world was shocked by the news that ALL the O’Brien trained horses were withdrawn from ALL racing due to the contamination of feed containing the hormonal drug, Zilpaterol, a drug used for putting on weight for cattle. All the O’Briens use the same feed made in the States by Gain Equine Nutrition. Urine tests taken from the horses due to run were examined by officials from France Galop, and were returned as positive. The alarm was raised late on Friday evening by Aidan O’Brien himself following a consultation with the feed company. Despite the sunshine making a rare appearance for the last few days at Longchamp and quite a strong wind, the going remained heavy and also drying out which made it holding as well.
In the race itself, the eleven runners now, settled down after all had a good break from the stalls. Fabres’s Persian King took the lead with the other main fancies tucked in neatly behind. It was unsurprisingly a slow run race with all jockeys trying to conserve as much energy for the sprint finish as happens so often in French racing. As they came into the final straight, about 2 ½ furlongs, the race got rough with Enable, among others being badly jostled. Sottsass was clear of the trouble and pulled out to take the lead which he was not to relinquish as he managed to win the race and keep going through the horrible ground. Another, who was bred for the ground conditions, Scoop, was also able to travel but was never a threat to the leader. He came in second. The long-time leader Persian King was able to maintain his run, but as suspected, didn’t quite have the pedigree to see the 1 ½ miles out came third. Enable, who was the main casualty from the scrimmaging had no opportunity to use her finishing speed as was the case with Stradivarius, but to be fair, neither were able to cope with the ground and would not have won anyway. So the record of a horse winning the Arc on three separate occasions is still in tact.
Other Longchamp Group 1 Races
With all the excitement over the Arc, we mustn’t forget that there were another seven Group 1 races at Longchamp. The weekend kicked off with the Prix De Royalieu, a 1 mile 6 furling race for 3 year olds and up for mares and fillies only. This had 12 runners. Miss Yoda took the early lead and was soon beaten by others in the heavy ground. Wonderful Tonight was always close up with the leader and 2 furlongs from home, jockey Tony Picconi went into the lead and maintained a good finish by 1 ¼ lengths from Pista who was five lengths ahead of third, Ebaiyra in a rather strung out finish. The winner is trained in the UK by David Menuisier.
Next up was the long distance race over 2 miles 4 furlongs, The Prix du Cadran. Nine runners went to post to slog it out through the heavy conditions. In another strung out finish, from the second home to the last, Princess Zoe, trained by Anthony Mullins slowly increased pressure on the leaders from mid-way to take the lead by half a length from Alkuin in the last 100 yards. The winner was ridden by Jim Sheridan. In third was French trained Call the Wind who was 15 lengths behind the second home.
The first of the six Group 1 races on Arc day was for 2 year olds only over seven furlongs, The Prix Jean Luc Lagardere. A race, won more or less in most years by Aidan O’Brien, who was supposed to have two runners this time, Wembley and St Mark’s Basilica. Now with only five runners following the O’Brien withdrawals, Sealiway trained by F.Rossi took the lead at the 2 marker and was never going to be caught as he won by 8 lengths from the favourite, Clive Cox’s trained Nando Parrado.
Next up was the fillies two year old race, Prix Marcel Boussac over 1 mile. There were 12 who went to post. Even with the removal of the O’Brien runners, history was made; as this race provided the first Group 1 in France ever to be won by a female jockey – Jessica Marciatis, who brought home her boyfriend’s trained Tiger Tinaka to win by ½ a length. Second home was Tasmania and third Rougir. All the three first past the post were French Trained.
Following the Arc, the next race was for 3 year olds and up for fillies and mares over 1 mile 2 furlongs. The Prix de L’Opera was another strong renewal with winner predictions a precarious occupation. There were 12 under starters orders including Alpine Star and Tarnawa, both trained in Ireland. Tarnawa was held up in the rear and once into the straight started a steady but concerted run to take the Dermot Weld trained filly into the lead inside the final few yards, winning by a short head from the other Irish trained filly, Alpine Star trained by Jessica Harrington.
The Sprint – Prix de L’Abbey, usually won by English trained horses over 5 furlongs had 11 runners with five supplied from the UK . Battaash was to have been the sixth, the anti-post favourite, but trainer Charlie Hills withdrew the horse due to the heavy ground conditions at the final declaration stage. This left recent Irish Flying Five winner Grass Slippers in the hot seat. This is a race rarely won by French trained horses, but this year was to prove different. The Graffard trained Wooded won by a fag paper with Grass Slippers coming second.
The final Group 1 on the card was the Prix de Foret, a seven furlong race for 3 year olds. There were nine runners. This race ended in a blanket finish between favourite, Andre Fabre trained Earthlight, the William Haggas trained One Master and John Quinn’s Safe Voyage. Earthlight was driven to lead after about 2 furlongs and Safe Voyage tracked leader while One Master sat in mid division. In the final furlong, One Master had just enough petrol in the tank to take the lead to win in the final few yards from Earthlight in second and Safe Voyage in third.
In Newmarket in the UK
Elsewhere, in Newmarket, there was The Kingdom of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes for 3 year old fillies and mares over 1 mile. Newmarket was another venue with heavy ground. In the race, Nazeef was always kept close up along with Half Light and Cloak of Spirits who just held the lead. The finish was between the three protagonists, but with Nazeef just getting the better of Half Light and Cloak of Spirits who came third. In a slowly run race, the 12 runners battled their way up the Rowley Mile and clearly tiring at the end. John Gosden was the winning trainer and Jim Crowley the successful jockey. Aidan O’Brien’s classic winner Peaceful was completely undone by the ground conditions which actually happened to most of the runners. It was a pity as the renewal this year of this race was one of the strongest for several years.
At Pimlico in the USA, the third leg of the US Triple Crown was run, The Preakness Stakes. The race was contested by eleven runners for the 1 mile 1½ furlong race. Swiss Skydiver was just the sixth filly to win, reversing the order with Kentucky Derby winner Authentic by a neck. In the second fastest time ever for the race, the winner tracked the pace before jockey Robby Albarado took the lead, and despite Authentic trying to overtake the filly, she just simply was not prepared to give in. The winner is trained by Kenneth McPeek.
In the USA
At Belmont Park, the Joe Hirsch Classic Turf Stakes over 1 ½ miles for 3 year olds and up Channel Maker beat the other six runners to win by 2 ½ lengths from Loccario. The winner is trained by William Mott and ridden by Manuel Franco.
The second featured race at Belmont was the Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes where Gufo came good over the eight runners over 1 mile 2 furlong contest, beating No Word by a length. The winner is trained by Christophe Clemment, now training in the US, and ridden by Junior Alvarado.
In Keenland, the Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes attracted nine decent runners. It was won by Ivar who swept into the lead 75 yards from the post. In second was Raging Bull and Without Parole in third. The winner is trained by Paulo Lobo and ridden by Joseph Talamo. The final Group 1 race was also at Keenland, The First Lady Stakes, sponsored rather aptly we thought by UK Healthcare, especially as The First Lady has just succumbed with Covid 19 with her argumentative husband Donald. Anyway back to the race which was run over 1 mile and attracted five runners. Chad Brown trained Uni to win by a length from Beau Recall taking second and evens favourite Newpaperofrecord, also trained by Chad Brown coming third.
Grosse Preiss Von Berlin Germany
At Hoppegarten in Germany, there was the Grosse Pries Von Berlin over 1 ½ miles for 3 year olds and up. There were nine runners, all trained in Germany except for Mark Johnston’s Communique. The going was good to soft. Torquator Tasso had to work hard from midway to become the short head winner from Dicaprio with Kaspar coming third. All the top three were German bred horses and German trained and ridden. The winner was trained by Marcel Weiss and ridden by Luca Delozier. Unfortunately, the British raider came last.
At Randwick in Australia, there were three Group 1 races including the Darley Flight Stakes for 3 year olds only over a mile in which there were seven runners. It was won by Montfilia by a short head from the favourite Hungry Heart. The winning jockey was Hugh Bowman and trainer David Payne. The second two were Group 1 handicaps, both for 3 year olds and up. The first, The TAB Epsom Stakes was over a mile and attracted 17 runners. The Jamie Richards trained Probabeel took the honours by a length with a blanket finish behind with Funstar in second and Riodini third. The second was the Heineken Metropolitan Stakes again for 3 year olds, but this time over 1 ½ miles. There were 18 runners who went to post. In another blanket finish, Mirage Dancer won by a short head from the favourite Mugatoo. Angel of Truth was third.
Finally In Flemington, also in Australia, the TAB Turnbull Stakes for 4 year olds and up over 1 ¼ miles attracted 15 runners. This ended in a further blanket finish with only a piece of paper between the first three home. Jockey Mark Zahra rode the interestingly spelt Verry Elleegant to win the race, trained by Chris Waller with outsider Toffee Tongue in second and Finche third.
We have not covered every Group/Grade 1 run this weekend, but most. The editor hopes that despite the rather list like content, that the facts are there, all in one place for the major races of the weekend.
Images Courtesy Bloodhorse USA, Sky Racing, Ryan Thompson, Goldeneye Photography and International Horse
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