It will always remain a huge ‘bone of contention’ but why oh why do we have to watch genuine classic winners be relegated to the role of pacemakers?
This is exactly what happened in the 2011 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe when the Aidan O’Brien trained, Treasure Beach, runner up to Pour Moi in the Epsom Derby and subsequent winner of the Irish Derby trail blazed a path for the clear Ballydoyle number one contender, So You Think around Longchamp in Europe’s richest race on Sunday.
In the event, So You Think, who many believe was naively ridden by jockey, Seamie Heffernan, could only manage fourth place after being held up at the rear of the field for most of the race. Treasure Beach meanwhile unsurprisingly weakened and finished 14th of the 16 runner race, which was won by the German bred filly Danedream, a 20/1 outsider, one that very few would have backed but was good enough to finish a full five lengths clear of her nearest rival.
It was the filly’s in fact who dominated, taking the top three positions, a result that not only defied the odds but totally defied the many so called horse racing experts, who never even mentioned Danedream as a potential winner. Even star filly Sarafina who went off as the 4/1 favourite failed to make the top six in a most unsatisfactory and perplexing result, that paid the Bookmakers handsomely and sent punters home with their “tails tucked firmly between their legs”. Second home was 66/1 outsider Shareta, pacemaker for Sarafina, while third was the ever consistent English Raider, Snow Fairy, for trainer Ed Dunlop.
But who exactly is Danedream? What form did she have to suggest that she could end up in the winners enclosure of Europe’s most prestigious race? She had won twice in Group One company in the two races leading up to the ‘Arc’ but with the best will in the world, neither of those two races would have earmarked her for a win in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Her win at Baden-Baden last month, whilst an emphatic success came on ground that was very soft, hardly suggesting that she would go around the mile and half trip at Longchamp in a record breaking time.
At the end of the day, Danedream was nothing more than a gifted “fun horse” who cost only £9,000 and whose breeding was far from eye-catching. As a three year old running in the race, she received the maximum weight allowances, a particularly unpopular fact of racing life, where it seems that the ‘girls’ get far more favourable treatment than the ‘boys’. The debate remains open as to whether or not she would have won the race at level weights, but in fairness, her five length success, arguably made her the best horse on the day. Whether or not So You Think, who was the ‘best of the boys’ would have adopted different tactics on a level weight basis will never be known but the word from Ballydoyle is that the Australian import will stay in training next year suggesting that the 2012 Arc will be his end of career target.
For most, then the 2011 Arc was an unsatisfactory race which produced an unsatisfactory result. Prices of 20/1, 66/1 and 14/1 were hardly the odds one expected to see for the first three home in such a prestigious race even though the weight for age/sex rules clearly give the fillies and mares a clear advantage. No doubt the arguments will once again re-surface but the days where one could assume that a good colt would always beat a good filly can no longer be applied in a race like the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
The plan for Danedream is yet unknown but there’s every chance she may now take her chance in the Breeders Cup next month or be put away til next season.