Sunday, August 22, 2010

Debussy beats Gio Ponti to give Gosden first Million win: William Buck shows composure beyond his years

He is 22 years old. He is a professional jockey. He rode a horse to victory in a Grade I race at Arlington Park (outside Chicago) Saturday afternoon. All William Buick could spare was five minutes for the media and he was off to O’Hare airport to board a plane to Paris. He had a ride in a Group I event at Deauville Sunday afternoon. Buick’s mount was Dream Ahead and the pair came through in the 1200-metre Prix Morny. David Simcock, trainer of Dream Ahead, was winning a Group I race for the first time in his career.

Wins in two Group I races on successive days is a dream for any rider. Dream Ahead is the name of the second winner. We’ll call it a ‘dream weekend’ for jockey Buick. The precocious Buick, riding for the legendary John Gosden this year, won the Sheema Classic with Dar Re Mi on World Cup day at the Meydan.

I had a word with jockey Buick before his ride. “Riding for Mr Gosden has given me a lot of opportunities. This season has gone well,” he said.

The sun came out early on Saturday and was shining in all its glory as the 12-race card got under way at 12 15 PM. Favorites were to the fore in the first three races. The fans kept the mutuel clerks busy. Arlington must be given credit for having enough clerks to handle the special needs of Million day.

Gio Ponti, trying to become the only back to back winner of Arlington’s showcase contest, was 6-5 and dropped to even money. As post time drew near, Gio Ponti was the 9/10 favorite. Marsh Side, the Canadian invader, was a scratch. Nine horses answered the starter’s call. Wagering was lopsided. If you dared to oppose Gio Ponti and if you could have picked the winner, there was a nourishing reward waiting for you but those were two giant ‘ifs.’

Tazeez assumed command early down the backside. Gio Ponti, ridden by Ramon Dominguez, lay last. The fans were not unduly worried. It was a generous pace. Richard Hills pressed on and Tazeez was, at least, five lengths clear of the field as he took the turn for the run to the line. Gio Ponti, charging six and seven-wide into the final bend, was making up ground in a hurry in the lane. Debussy, in striking range early, chose to save ground and had one beat in the final turn. It was a case of Masonic legerdemain and Buick was able to snake his way through. Gio Ponti had run past Tazeez and was being hailed the winner. Debussy’s progress had not been noticed by the fans. In the waning yards, jockey Buick found a seam along the fence. The John Gosden trainee quickened spiritedly and as Buick flashed the post, it was apparent that Gio Ponti had been caught flat-footed. Tazeez stayed on for third to give trainer Gosden the first and third finishers in the Arlington Million.

Debussy ran the 2000 metres in 2 .03.01 on a firm grass course. The winning margin was one half length. Two lengths separated Gio Ponti and Tazeez. The tote payoff was $24.00 on a two-dollar wager. Debussy was a 14-1 chance with the British bookmakers. Princess Haya of Jordan, Sheikh Mohammed’s wife, owns Debussy who, in 2009, was considered a player in the Derby picture in England. Debussy is by Diesis who was pensioned and later euthanized after suffering a fractured hip in 2006 at the age of 26. Diesis, by Sharpen Up, was the champion freshman in England in 1982. Diesis sired Halling, Docksider, Ramruma, Diminuendo, Elmaamul and Magistretti. The last-named won a Grade I race in New York and was sent to India. Debussy’s dam is Opera Comique by Singspiel who is a Dubai World Cup winner.

“I had a lot of horse and it was a question of getting room. I am grateful to Mr Gosden,” jockey Buick said.

I asked trainer Gosden about Buick. “He is a smart 22 year-old. He deals with situations as they arise, Gosden replied.

Mr Gosden, responding to my question why Debussy failed in his last start at York and improved a great deal in the Million, explained, “York had firm ground. He did not get going that day. Here, the Friday night rain helped us a lot. There was a strong pace to run at. He has gotten better at four and I believe there’s more to come.”

We will now take a look at the Beverly D Stakes. The $750,000 Group I race for fillies amd mares was over 1900 metres. The race honors the memory of the late Beverly Duchossois, wife of Richard Duchossois, Chairman of Arlington Park.

Treating Gently and Ave were the two fancied runners. They were held up and as the race progressed, were not moving into contention. Romacaca showed the way and Éclair de Lune, a four year-old filly owned by Mr Duchossois, tracked the pacesetter. Concern was turning into panic as Éclair de Lune, a 32/5 chance, had the measure of the leader and began putting some separation between herself and the pursuers with a furlong to go. Romacaca had thrown in the towel. Treating Gently and Ave were nowhere to be seen. Hot Cha Cha emerged from the pack but the Beverly D had been put to bed.

The margin was a length and a half. A neck separated Hot Cha Cha and Gypsy’s Warning who took third. The time was 1 56.56 seconds. Éclair de Lune returned $14.80 on the tote. It was the third US start for Éclair de Lune, a German-bred, who had raced in France before moving to America. Marchand de Sable is the sire of Éclair de Lune. Elegante is the dam and she is a daughter of Acatenango. Rainbow View was scratched.

I spoke to winning jockey Junior Alvarado. “Sitting in the two-hole, was that a plan or is that the way the race evolved,” I asked.

“I have ridden Romacaca two races back and won. I knew she would be in front. My filly was keen to go. We were able to sit right behind the speed. It was a dream trip, When I asked her, she responded,” jockey Alvarado said.

I had a question for Ron McNally, Éclair de Lune’s trainer. McNally trained John Henry in the 80s. “It has been a quantum leap for your filly winning a Group I race. What’s the key?”

“We got her in a French sale. She showed potential. She ran second to Tuscan Evening, running within half a length, in the Modesty, a prep race. I was confident she will get better,” trainer McNally answered.

The third Grade I at Arlington Park on Saturday was the 2000-metre Secretariat Stakes for sophomores. Only six ran and Paddy O’Prado justified half money favoritism. Kent Desormeaux waited until the last 300 metres and when he pressed the button, the Dale Romans trainee took off. Wigmore Hall was asked to move at the top of the lane by Jamie Spencer but Paddy O’Prado kept going. The time was 2.4.71 seconds.

Paddy O’Prado won by a length and a quarter. The El Prado colt (three year-old) is now three for three on the grass this year. He was third in the Kentucky Derby and sixth in the Preakness. The other two grass wins came in the Virginia Derby and the Colonial Turf Cup at Colonial Downs in Virginia, outside Washington DC. Paddy O’Prado has four wins from eight starts. He was second once and third twice and once unplaced. His earnings stand at $826,617.

I chatted with Dale Romans, “Three year-olds have a tremendous record in the Arc, The European scene-there is no standout. Will you consider taking your colt to Longchamp?” I asked.

“I am considering a race at Belmont in early October. I will think about the Arc. It is an exciting possibility. Paddy O’Prado keeps improving and we have not seen his best yet,” he replied.

I have been preoccupied with helping out a visitor from India. I am attending to a health problem. I have not been able to keep up. I will do the best I can to cover news from Europe and other action in America and elsewhere.

Chicago, Sunday, August 22, 2010

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