Arabian Queen springs a surprise

By Lewis Syddall on |


Silvestre de Sousa and Arabian Queen snatched victory from Frankie Dettori and GOlden Horn at York

You’ll remember when last I wrote that Gleneagles’ participation in last week’s Juddmonte International Stakes at York was in doubt. Well, unsurprisingly, he didn’t run. So it was left to Golden Horn to complete his lap of honour, with his odds prohibitively short. Well, somebody forgot to tell 50/1 poke Arabian Queen!

The battle-hardened mare sprang the biggest upset the race has ever seen and certainly the biggest Group One shock for ages. Incidentally, I remember a certain Sole Power, unheard of at the time, stealing the Nunthorpe at the same track a few years ago at 100/1. What did he go on to do, I ask you?

Herein lies the beauty and the beast of racing; the Knavesmire racegoers were dumbfounded as Silvestre de Sousa (pictured above and below, beating Dettori at York) out-foxed Frankie Dettori to complete the shock, and the press room’s stunned silence soon turned to dismay as the hacks were forced to re write their pre-ordained opening paragraphs.

The sense of anticipation, already punctured because of the Gleneagles no show, was reduced to blinking disbelief. But I couldn’t help smile and reflect that racing has a terrific ability to embarrass the planners and the assumers. Arabian Queen and Silvestre de Souza won the race fair and square, albeit on an unheralded, unlikely and, dare I say it, unsexy horse. She won’t go down in history as a great, but she reminds us that horses have a marvellous knack of making fools out of the finest!

Elsie should know better

Arabian Queen’s trainer, David Elsworth, is a demi-god. Not for delivering the aforementioned 50/1 outsider in last week’s Group One. Far more so because he trained another horse referenced in last week’s blog as a template for gutsy greatness (and greyness), Desert Orchid. So when it comes to forgiving the quirks of an individual, we tend to make exceptions for those we prefer to worship.

It came to light in the immediate aftermath of last week’s shock that Elsie doesn’t like the press. He refused to come into the Winners’ Enclosure or to collect his prize from sponsors Juddmonte. He claims to have felt slighted by the press failing to respect his chances of success before the race, so didn’t want to play afterwards.

Well, with all due respect to Elsie, whose training feats will be chiefly remembered above all else in the fullness of time, his behaviour is more than a little objectionable. Yes, he’s stubborn by his own admission. But, this time, he came across as petulant.

It was only as I watched José Mourinho sulking yet again with the football press at the weekend that I was able to reflect on the largely brilliant relationship that racing’s key players (owners, trainer, jockeys) have with the press. Many are genuine friends, and, in return, the public have access they’ve never before enjoyed to these key players.

Football has gone the other way, with carefully contrived press conferences and players who are trained to within an inch of their lives to say absolutely nothing. Racing gets its copy in good humour, often over a pint and with a mutual respect that everyone is trying to do their job. So when Elsie shunned the press, it made for intriguing copy. But we mustn’t let it spread, lest we end up with pasteurised, highly-spun, football-style press conferences that are no fun at all.

Shalaa la la

The John Gosden-trained Shalaa won the Prix Morny at the weekend, prompting Dettori to speculate that this could well be the “best two-year-old I’ve ever ridden”. And so begins the late Summer circus of hope and expectation that keeps Flat racing fans in thrall.

We smoke the hope, often clutching crumpled Antepost vouchers for a Classic the following year, although at least we won’t have to do that this Winter, with Shalaa likely to be confined to the sprinting ranks.

Dettori should know better than to fire us all up, but we fall for it more often that not and it would take a bold judge not to think his horse might just be out of the very top drawer, based on what we saw at Deauville.

A tip?

I’m not sure what is colder than the cold list, but that’s where I find myself right now. So here’s my latest tactic: tip a horse that isn’t even going to run. That horse, to my mind is a Golden Horn, and the race is the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Hopefully we will see the Derby winner seek to restore his reputation in Ireland next month, but the prospect of his favoured good ground in Paris in Autumn looks longer than many of the odds still being quoted on him actually winning. Forget it!

Main image: Silvestre de Sousa by Rudolph Furtado


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