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2010 Arc Festival Review

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This post ended up a bit on the long side, so if you've got some time to kill, have at it. 

First things first, below are the winners of Saturday's and Sunday's group stakes at Longchamp, along with their final time. 







G2 Prix Chaudenay

Celtic Celeb (IRE)




G2 Prix de Royallieu

Maria Royal (IRE)




G2 Prix de Wildenstein

Royal Bench (IRE)




G2 Prix Dollar

Cirrus Des Angles (FR)




G1 Prix de Cadran

Gentoo (FR)




G1 Prix de l'Abbaye

Gilt Edge Girl (GB)




G1 Prix Marcel Boussac

Misty for Me (IRE)




G1 Jean-Luc Largadere

Wootton-Basset (GB)




G1 Prix de la Foret

Goldikova (IRE)




G1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe

Workforce (GB)




G1 Prix de l'Opera

Lilly of the Valley (FR)



Some not so ramdom thoughts about Arc weekend:

-Following the conclusion of Sunday's Arc there was as stewards' inquiry into a bunch of bumping and crowding that took place behind Workforce in the final furlongs.  (Workforce stayed up but Planteur was placed last for interference).  The inquiry took what seemed like an eternity, as least to us here in America.  For the French, it was just standard inquiry operating procedure (did anyone see the 07 Arc?). 

Anyway, the overly-long delay got me thinking, and I wrote it in the comments, what in the world would happen at Churchill Downs (or the Breeders' Cup) if it took 30 or 40 minutes to declare an official winner after the Kentucky Derby?  Seriously, you jam 135,000 people into Churchill, get them drunk on mint juleps (otherwise known as a glass of whiskey with a bit of sugar and mint in it; two of those and you're feeling real good...four of those and you'll be lucky to walk out of the place), and then you make them sit there and wait to learn who won the biggest race in America.  I could see the complete breakdown of basic services while grizzled horse players await their pari-mutuel fate.  Can you imagine a player that thinks they hit the Superfecta having to wait over a half-hour to find out if the order of finish stands?  Anarchy, complete and utter anarchy. 

-Let's get one thing out of the way right off the bat...this metric system stuff is a bit tough for an American-bred, American-schooled citizen like me.  A race at 2,400 meters?  Really?  Can't the rest of the world get with the program and get off the metric system?  It makes much more sense to use the system of measurement that is utilized in only one industrialized country in the entire world.  (I don't really hate the metric system; I write that with tongue firmly implanted in my cheek.)

By the way, I have always known that 400 meters is "about" a quarter of a mile but I never can remember what the exacta conversion is, so I did a bit of homework this morning in order to ensure I was presenting the pace information as accurately as I could.  Turns out that the difference is so negligible that I completely I wasted my time trying to be that exact about it.

The Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe is run at 2,400 meters, which is 1.49129 miles.  I'm going to call it a mile and a half and not quibble over a difference of .00871 miles...which is a little over 15 yards...or 45 feet.  (See how good I am at that?  Pure genius.  It's almost like there is some kind of website out there than coverts distances for you.  Don't get me started on Celsius and Fahrenheit...meters and yards are just enough right now, thank you.)

Okay, now that I channeled my inner angry American, and also demonstrated that American schooling has taught me enough to figure out that meters and yards are essentially the same for horse racing purposes (I went to private school), let's look at the pace lines from this weekend's Group 1 races at Longchamp, which (for the first time that I can ever recall) actually posted fractional times during the video broadcast.  Some of the times and graphics displayed on the screen seemed outright wrong (a 2,000 meter race that shows a split of 33 seconds for the first 1,000 meters...that can't be right), which I think is the result of the multiple starting positions at Longchamp and probably hammering out the details in the timing system.  Regardless of the few hiccups in the system, the timer appeared to work fine for Goldikova's win in the Prix de la Foret, which I have summarized below.














Goldikova led in the early stages of the race, was passed with about 3 furlongs to go, and then re-rallied to win by a ½ length over the late charging Paco Boy

Look at those splits above.  On ground that was labeled as very soft, Goldikova ran fractions that would be considered quick even on America's hard and fast turf courses.  She did all the dirty work on the front-end in this race and still had enough to hold off the horse that had the luxury of closing into her pace.  This after her connections considered scratching her from the race due to the condition of the turf (Goldikova generally doesn't prefer such soft going). 

(If you want to get just an idea of the softness of the turf course, check out the picture at the top of the post and look at Goldikova's back two feet and the depth that they are in the ground.)

Goldikova was already a great champion but the way she won the Foret, and the conditions under which she won it, puts here in another echelon of thoroughbred history.

If you didn't see the race, I've embedded it below.  If you speak French, you'll know exactly what's going on.  If you don't...well, just watch the horse on the lead in the light blue jacket.

-Moving to the Arc itself, heading into the race I felt that Workforce was somewhat a mystery; he dominated the Epsom Derby but ran so poorly in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes that you had to wonder if his Derby win was a fluke.  He hadn't run in several months, so I also believed there would be a bit of a fitness question surrounding him.  By the end of the Arc, Workforce had tossed all of the doubters aside.

The pace times/graphics for the Arc didn't click off for the early parts of the race with the first split coming until after the field had run seven furlongs.  From there the field put up the following splits:


1 1/8

1 1/4

1 1/2















Assuming I've got these splits correct, and that the timer was functioning properly, the final ¼ mile of the Arc wasn't run in breathtaking fashion (26.90 seconds).  But like the Foret, it's important to remember the conditions under which these horses were making their final charge and that they had already run 10 furlongs under those same conditions. 

Something I try to always make a mental note of when I'm watching a race from Europe, especially the Arc, is the fact that the field will make their way up and down a series of inclines during the race.  The starting gate for the Arc is at the bottom of a hill and the final stretch run also has a bit of an incline to it.  As if it's not testing enough to run a mile and a half over very soft ground, toss in some uphill running and you have an incredible test of speed and stamina. 

Perhaps the reason that every Arc winner that has tried to win the Breeders' Cup Turf has failed is because the turf races in North America don't require that same level of stamina that a race like the Arc demands.  Not that winning the Breeders' Cup Turf is easy, it isn't.  But it's possible that it doesn't require the same traits as it does to win the Arc, which is why when we see a European horse win the Turf it is usually a horse that finished a bit behind in the Arc or didn't run in it at all. 

Both the BC Turf and the Arc are run at a mile and a half on grass, but the similarities between the two races essentially ends at that fact.

The Racing Post (UK) is reporting that it is possible that Workforce could run in this year's Breeders' Cup Turf, although nothing has been decided by his connections.  

For your viewing pleasure, below is the replay of this year's Arc.

-On a final note, the last four or five days have been exhausting...Belmont, Oak Tree, Zenyatta, Jockey Club Gold Cup, the Arc...lots and lots of action to write about.  I spent almost all of Friday, Saturday and Sunday handicapping, watching races and watching football, so I'm going to spend the next couple of days attempting to be a productive member of society (aka, do things my fiancée wants me to do).

Keeneland opens on Friday, so I'll have a post previewing the fall meet in the next couple of days.  Until that time, I'm going to recharge the batteries for bit so posting might be a little lighter than usual.