I’m writing from the waiting hall of the Eurostar here at Gare du Nord in Paris, awaiting my train back to St Pancras. Paris is full of glamour, but this waiting hall is absolutely not. It’s bleak and dank, and a far far cry from the glorious Bois Du Boulogne barely an hour south west of here. Scattered round and about are fellow racing fans who joined me on Sunday beneath the shade of the Parisian trees, now bleary-eyed and thirsty for strong coffee. They, like me, are eager to get home, have a bath and, presumably, watch the action from Longchamp all over again on the TV.
From memory, we didn’t quite get the historic result we, as racing romantics, wanted. There was to be no third Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe for Treve. Perhaps the ground was too firm, perhaps Thierry Jarnet was too anxious about trouble during his passage to the business end of the race, perhaps she just wasn’t as good as last year or the year before.
Or, much more likely, perhaps Treve simply ran into a combination at the peak of their powers. For in trainer John Gosden and jockey Frankie Dettori, Arc winner Golden Horn was in the care of two superstars.
Gosden is a giant of a man, evermore so now with this Arc win which cements his place at the top of the top table when it comes to training racehorses. True, he has wealthy and patient patrons but he has earned those rights.
And what of Dettori? His journey has been the stuff of Hollywood. From the blue-eyed golden boy of Godolphin throughout the “noughties” time shame of a drugs ban, a humiliating fallout with his Dubai paymasters, and suggestions that his mind was far from racing — to this! A Derby win and an Arc and much more besides, courtesy of Gosden and Golden Horn.
To watch him build the crowd into a frenzy of adulation after the race yesterday was to see Dettori the showman, the media darling, the conjuror of yesteryear. Racing remembers its greats, and Treve lost little in defeat — her feats will survive the annals of time. But so too will Dettori and Gosden. This is their time, again.
Your correspondent has another reason to get home swiftly. He’s broke. The weekend punting was a calamity, which will come as little surprise to regular readers. I backed New Bay to win the Arc with a safer on Found. I found it saved me nothing. I backed Gutaifan in the Abbaye. The two-year-old sprinter ran like a possible Ascot Gold Cup horse. On the bones of my bum, I shovelled all I had onto Limato, who was odds against in a race I had chalked down for him as an odds-on certainty. He came second. And the worst thing of all is I was punting away in Euros, largely oblivious to the damage I was inflicting. Sadly, this morning, I’ve totted it all up. And we are fully four weeks away from pay day.
My month-long absence has been the result of my wedding at the start of September and subsequent honeymoon. It was the best month of my life, and took me not only to Dubai and the home of Godolphin but so too to Mauritius, which, I came to understand, is unlikely to ever make it big in international racing.
In a taxi, my wife and I passed the main racecourse on the island. “Do you bet?” I asked my friendly cabbie. “No, no. Not me. I don’t know who’s going to win. But my brother does. He has links to the mafia here and most of the jockeys. He helps decide who wins what. They take turns each week to sort the winners out. Everyone knows who needs to know. My brother is rich but may die at any moment. But we’re not in touch.”
I decided to discontinue my line of questioning, comforting myself that I restrict my punting to slightly more regulated territories.
Last week, I accepted my first invitation to appear on a Cheltenham Festival preview panel, in early March 2016. I did so absent-mindedly, before waking up to the fact that I’d be hard pushed right now to name more than a handful of horses in National Hunt training, let alone their credentials for the season ahead.
I admire those pros who have an encyclopaedic memory of horses of both codes, regardless of the time of year. I don’t have it. I tend to remember those who won me money (not many horses to remember) and those whom I backed to inglorious defeat (an endless list). But in a month’s time, the Panama hat and linen suits will be up in the attic, having crossed with some thick tweeds and reinforced boots on their way back down.
Cold, crisp Saturdays await, and the chance to put behind me a summer of stretched fortunes in exchange for a wondrous winter of profit. Hope springs eternal, and I’m only just back off honeymoon!