herald

Saturday 3 December 2016

Track Talk: Halfway point in flat season and still so much to race for

Kauto Star
Kauto Star

Derby weekend was deemed a huge success by officials at the track and although Jack Hobbs proved to be just way too good, the competitive appearance of the field in the build-up got people talking.

The crowds were up, the sun shined in the most part, the supporting cards were top class and the general feeling was good.

The winner will go on and be a live contender in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, while the placed horses could contest St Legers on either side of the Irish Sea and the filly Qualify will be back at HQ later this month for a tilt at the Irish Oaks.

The big races will rate well above their standard, and, yes, it may have taken a ‘win and you’re in’ incentive to get some of the horses to the Curragh last weekend, but it worked and hopefully that carrot will be left dangling next year.

The Curragh have been criticised for the uncompetitive nature of its flagship race but there is little they can do when Coolmore and Ballydoyle want to back the blue-riband race in their own country and anyone from outside those gates doesn’t fancy taking them on.

Just a maximum of five go to post for Saturday’s Coral Eclipse, and that race is open to the ages. All things being equal, it’ll be a fairly straight-forward assignment for Epsom Derby winner Golden Horn but it’s only a fraction of the prize money.

As the old saying goes, ‘you can bring a horse to water but you can’t make him drink it’. The Curragh and Dubai Duty Free supply one of the fairest tracks around and next year €1.5m prize money for the Irish Derby alone. If they can’t attract a good bunch of the Classic generation, it certainly won’t be any fault of host or sponsor.

We are at the halfway point in the season and the stage where races like the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, and prior to that, Glorious Goodwood, begin to take shape.

As is so often the case at this time of the year, so shortly after the two Derbies and Royal Ascot, and with the Eclipse on the horizon, the Arc come into the reckoning and it promises to be a cracking race.

Although, we unfortunately won’t now learn much from the Eclipse, it’ll be intriguing to see Golden Horn against the older horses led by The Grey Gatsby.

The remarkable filly Treve will go for an unprecedented three-in-a-row and she was a winner at Saint-Cloud on Sunday. 

For a moment or two, it looked as if she might struggle to finish in front but at the death she stamped her authority and it was a workmanlike performance.

She would hardly have had time to have a drink in the parade ring afterwards before Paddy Power sent out a revised price for her for the Arc which really was amazing. If they were shortening her for simply being alive and well, fair enough, but I doubt that was the case and nothing we saw in the race itself deserved her being cut from 11/4 into 5/2. It’s like these decisions are made even before the race pans out.

Poor Kauto Star didn’t get the opportunity to enjoy the long retirement he deserved. It’s never nice for something like this to happen, it’s obviously much harder when he was such an iconic figure. Such a freak accident just shows how fragile these animals are but it also points to how good a job Paul Nicholls did with him when he was pushed to the limits of training and racing and kept producing at the highest of levels. A horse of a lifetime he certainly was, it is just a shame his lifetime was cut so short.

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