Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Rachel Alexandra retired: Twenty six left at first stage for Sunday's Arc

Twenty six horses were left in the preliminary confirmation stage for the Arc de Triomphe to be run at Longchamp on Sunday. The Arc field is limited to 20 runners. Lope de Vega, it has been reported, will be supplemented at a cost of 100,000 euros. The Arc carries a four million-dollar purse. Aidan O’Brien has seven runners. Fame and Glory and Cape Blanco head the Coolmore challenge. John Murtagh rides Fame And Glory and Christophe Soumillon will be aboard Cape Blanco. Bekhabad, owned by the Aga Khan and the Prix Niel winner, is the general 3/1 favorite. Christophe Lemaire, yet to win Europe’s most prestigious contest, took Bekhabad over Sarafina, the filly also owned by the Aga Khan. Gerald Mosse rides Sarafina who comes off a third place finish in the Prix Vermeille. Planteur has suffered two narrow losses at the hands of Bekhabad and will take his chances. Trainer Lellouche has expressed optimism about Planteur’s chances.

There has been rain in Paris since Sunday. More rain is forecast for Thursday and Friday. It is believed that the going will be soft on Saturday and Sunday. It is a two day meeting. Longchamp is a right handed course. From any part of Paris, there are convenient train and bus connections to Longchamp. Special buses (no fare) run from two prominent train stations to the course. France Galop, French racing’s administrative body, runs the meeting.

Here is news that is only hours old. Rachel Alexandra has been retired. At three, Rachel Alexandra won all her eight starts. In 2010, the Steve Asmussen-trained four year-old, could only win two of five starts. Her latest loss came in Saratoga’s Personal Ensign Stakes in which Persistently beat Rachel in decisive fashion. Calvin Borel was Rachel’s partner. Borel and I were at Los Angeles airport catching the same plane on the evening of the Breeders’ Cup (Saturday) last year. Borel told me that Rachel Alexandra will beat Zenyatta anywhere anytime. We never got to test jockey Borel’s assertion.

In recent days, Rachel Alexandra has been turning in smart times in her workouts. However, late afternoon on Tuesday, Jess Jackson, primary owner, issued a statement. “As you know, despite top training and a patient campaign, she did not return to her 2009 form. I believe it’s time to retire our champion and reward her with a less stressful life. She will be bred to Curlin next year.”

Trainer Steve Asmussen took over Rachel’s training after her romp in the Kentucky Oaks. He spoke, “I’ve been blessed to have been part of history. We are all fortunate that she carried the banner following Curlin’s amazing success story. She had the most fluid and beautiful stride of any horse I have ever seen.”

By Medaglia d’Oro (El Prado) out of Lotta Kim by Roar, Rachel Alexandra won 13 times and was second five times from 19 starts. She earned $3,506,730.

Secretariat won the Triple Crown in 1973 and made the cover of Time magazine. In 1977, Seattle Slew, who could have been bought for $17,500, swept the three big races. Affirmed, in the hands of the incomparable Steve Cauthen, accomplished the feat in 1978. Alydar was the bridesmaid and his duel with Affirmed in the Belmont Stakes (Affirmed won by the proverbial whisker) is a story one never gets tired of listening to. We move the clock to 1998. Real Quiet, a Bob Baffert pupil, won the Kentucky Derby beating Victory Gallop. The result was repeated in Pimlico’s Preakness Stakes. Real Quiet, Kent Desormeaux up, hit the front and looked like a winner 200 metres out in the Belmont Stakes. The record books were awaiting a new entrant but it was not to be. Chris McCarron inspired an incredible finishing burst out of Victory Gallop who caught Real Quiet in the last stride. If I talk of a bittersweet victory, that was it. Real Quiet was voted the top sophomore in 1998.

Real Quiet died on Monday. The 15 year-old, according to reports, fell and suffered fractured vertebrae. It was an accident in the paddock at the Penn Ridge Farm in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. At two, Real Quiet won the Grade I Hollywood Futurity serving notice of his future greatness. Real Quiet was by Quiet American out of Really Blue by Believe It.

Joseph Talamo will resume race riding when the Oak Tree meeting opens at Hollywood Park on Thursday. The 20 year-old broke his wrist in a fall at Del Mar a month and a half ago. “They said it was a good break. It was not displaced. A cast was put on it. I have turned into a biology major, “ Talamo joked.

Apart , a 23/10 chance in the Super Derby at Louisiana Downs last Saturday, came through with a strong off-the-pace rush. Jesse Campbell rode for trainer Albert Stall Jr. The Grade II $500,000 race over 1800 metres (dirt) was run in 1 52.31 seconds. Apart was coming off a victory in the Super Derby Prelude on August 28 at Louisiana Downs. Trainer Stall also conditions Blame who is getting ready for a tilt at Belmont’s Jockey Club Gold Cup. Apart is by Flatter who is a son of A P Indy.

Trainer Stall was thrilled. “When he (Apart) broke maiden at Chirchill, I thought that he was Super Derby material. He has justified my expectation.”

The last Group I race in Germany was run on Sunday. Olivier Peslier flew to Cologne from Paris to partner the Andreas Wohler-trained Scalo in the 2400-metre Preis Von Europa. The air dash proved productive. Scalo was held up and outpaced Night Magic, the 16/10 favorite. Eight ran and Scalo timed 2 34.53 seconds on a soft course. Scalo, a 11/5 chance, was getting an encore. He was victorious in the Prix Guillaume d’Ornano at Deauville. Scalo is by Lando out of Sky Dancing who’s by Exit To Nowhere.

Trainer Wohler commented. “We always had the utmost confidence in this horse. He just ran two bad races this summer and we don’t know why. He proved today that he’s Germany’s top three year-old.”

There are three horses who won at week’s end. I will comment on one of them, Casamento. The other two, Lady of the Desert and Frankel, will be mentioned in the next blog.

A Mick Halford trainee, Casamento, owned by Sheikh Mohammed, made a winning debut. The second race was the National Stakes. Pathfork (rated the top freshman in Ireland this year) beat Casamento in a photo. Pat Smullen was aboard Casamento in Sunday’s Group II Beresford Stakes, a 1600-metre race at the Curragh. Seven freshmen went postward and Casamento was the 66/100 favorite. Casamento tracked the pacemaker and cruised up to take the lead in the lane and drew off to win by four lengths. The time was 1 43.52 on yielding to soft going. It was a bright and sunny day in Kildare County but there had been heavy rainfall in the hours preceding racing. Casamento was supplemented to the Beresford after his photo loss to Pathfork. Casamento got a 16/1 quote for the 2011 English 2000 Guineas.

Casamento is by Shamardal, the 2005 French Derby and the St James Palace Stakes winner. The dam is Wedding Gift.

Trainer Halford thought aloud. “Pat (Smullen) said that when he (Casamento) got the lead, he was idling. He’s still a big baby but it was important that he did everything right. I would not worry about him getting another two furlongs as he has still a bit of furnishing to do and he goes asleep in his races.”

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

1 comment:

  1. Dear Tom,
    Excellent piece, great that you are back fullstream.
    I think the final line up for the Arc will be out by Thursday.I like Cape Blanco`s chances. He is currently at 9 TO 1 which I think will shorten when he is a confirmed starter.I am not sure however if the Soft going will suit him, may be it will suit Workforce.Planteur and Bekhabad should be close to each other.
    I am waiting eagerly for your next blog, specially to know your views on the 2 yr old wonder horse `Frankel`.I think he may turn out to be a star of the future, possibly surpass `Sea the Stars`