Tag Archive: Golden Horn

  1. Golden Horn shines at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe

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    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.

    A Golden time

    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.

    The currency of despair

    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.

    Mauritian mysteries

    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.

    Costume change

    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!

    Top image: the Longchamps racecourse by Copyleft, CC BY-SA 4.0

  2. Arabian Queen springs a surprise

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    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

  3. Remembering Red Ray Gilpin

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    It’s approaching 12 noon here in the York press room and I’m back on a course which still tries to take the gold medal in my affections. Sadly, I’m only here today, as work and wedding planning duties loom large back at the barracks. Still, I’m determined to enjoy it — although mine will be a bittersweet joy as I, along with many others at York, commemorate the life of one of racing’s great and good.

    The top jockey award here this week will be presented in memory of a press-room stalwart, Ray Gilpin. Ray passed away last week after a long illness and his famous red scarf will be much missed in the background of TV interviews at all the big northern race meetings. Strangely enough, I knew of Ray before I even began working in racing. When I told my uncle, who has lived in Wales all his life and has next to no interest in the sport, that I was trying to bungle my way into racing, he told me “Waste of time. There was a bloke I used to play football with here in Wrexham called Ray. Tiny bloke and red hair. Lightning-quick winger. Could have made it but went into racing instead.”

    Well, Ray’s hair turned grey and he never made it as a footballer. However, he did make it as a thoroughly great journalist, who was professional to the end, had a waspish humour and a delightfully filthy mouth behind closed doors. He will be much missed. Here’s to hoping the jockeys this week do him proud.

    Guts make glory

    It didn’t happen. Gleneagles didn’t turn up for his much-anticipated encounter with Golden Horn on the first day of the Ebor Festival. It’s a shame, because it had all the ingredients to be the clash of the season, with the superstar miler of the Classic generation meeting the best middle-distance horse of our time (the two now look set to face off at Leopardstown).

    My gut told me it wouldn’t happen: it rained a lot in York on Tuesday night and Gleneagles “needs” fast ground. Well, that in itself has got my goat. The reason Sea The Stars and Frankel etched their way into our affections was not purely because of their undoubted brilliance, but also because they ran over different trips (especially the former) and on different grounds (especially the latter).

    Thinking back to Frankel, it was thrilling when the rain came at Ascot in that final October of his career, and everyone started worrying. Sir Henry Cecil looked to the skies, furrowed his brow, and said “Hell yeah. Let’s roll the dice.” He ground out an historic win over Cirrus Des Aigles, who loved the cut, and his legend was complete. Frankel hated it, too, as did Desert Orchid when he won his Gold Cup in the mud and the cold. And that’s why we loved him.

    Ducking York didn’t make Gleneagles any less of a horse — and I can hardly blame Coolmore for looking to protect their commercial interests — but nor will it make him any more of a great horse in our affections. Greatness comes not by winning everything, but by winning mostly and always rolling the dice when things are far from certain.

    Yorkshire values

    There was scandal in Ripon earlier this week, and I never thought I’d write those words. The racecourse have their own Tote operation, called RiponBet, which calculates on-course pool returns and deducts a hefty cut. In a dead-heat situation, some headline writers made an easy “Rip-off” pun and Yorkshire fell quiet as the tight-fistedness of the racecourse operators was highlighted in the press.

    Fast forward a couple of days and the good folk of Yorkshire are doing their best to restore their reputations here on the Knavesmire. It’s £32.50 for a bottle of pretty good (no product placement here, readers) champagne.

    What? You think you can get it at two thirds of the price in Asda? Well, that might be the case. But you can also be forced to pay over 85 quid for the same bottle at Ascot, 70 at Aintree and over 80 at Chester. I am, of course, entirely reliant on press-room friends to inform me of these prices, as I’m fully devoted to writing my blog rather than lounging in the various champagne bars of the turf.

    A tip

    On Saturday, the marvellous handicap that is the Ebor takes place, in front of what are sure to be packed crowds. I’m tipping up a 16/1 poke at time of writing, in Arab Dawn. I can’t help but remember his Royal Ascot win and I am determined to forget his John Smith’s Cup run, which was never really part of the plan for this season.

    The Ebor, however, absolutely is, and Hughie Morrison’s words “I’d love to win the Ebor with him” back in June are echoing in my ears as I go searching for the remnants of my wallet. Good luck!