10/04/2013 3:16PM

Jay Hovdey: Arc winners are like fallen souffle in BC Turf

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All Along, shown winning the 1983 D.C. International, won that year's Arc and then came back the following year to finish a close second in the inaugural Breeders' Cup Turf.

There are any number of ways to irritate a Parisian you might encounter sipping an espresso and smoking a Gauloise in a boulevard café. Use the wrong fork. Order in English. Say anything in English. Misquote Sartre. Mock Jerry Lewis.

But if you really want to watch their Gallic blood boil (in Celsius, no less), try suggesting that the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, first run in 1920, is just another prep race for the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

There was a time a case could be made. These days, however, the Arc de Triomphe has become a prize so great that all European roads seem to lead in the direction of Longchamp on the first Sunday in October. This Sunday will be no different, with the field led by Japan’s superstar Orfevre, King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner Novellist, Prince of Wales winner Al Kazeem, Epsom Derby winner Ruler of The World, St. Leger winner Leading Light, and the unbeaten French filly Treve.

Every school child knows that the richest Thoroughbred race in all creation is the $10 million Dubai World Cup at a mile and a quarter on Meydan’s synthetic main track. But can they name the second richest? It’s the Arc de Triomphe.

In terms of history, the 1 1/2-mile Arc is tough to top, especially with winners like Mill Reef, Sea-Bird, Allez France, and Ribot, who won it twice.

Since 2008 the Arc has been sponsored by the Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club. The purse is 4 million euros, which this week converts to 6.5 million U.S. dollars. The 2013 Japan Cup is offering a purse of $5.7 million. The Melbourne Cup is worth $5.6 million, then comes the Dubai Sheema Classic, Dubai Duty Free, and the Breeders’ Cup Classic, each with purses of $5 million.

At $3 million, the Breeders’ Cup Turf just barely competes, and suffers further by being surrounded on the calendar. In addition to the Arc, the Japan Cup, and the Hong Kong Cup, the Turf, to be run this year on Nov. 2, is crowded by the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot, worth $2 million. The Champion runs on Oct. 19.

Since 2008 the only Arc winner to ship for the Breeders’ Cup Turf was Workforce, in 2010, and he was scratched because of the condition of the Churchill Downs course. This is a far cry from the early history of the Turf.

All Along, winner of the 1983 Arc on her way to North American Horse of the Year, finished third in the French race in 1984, then made the trip to California for the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Turf at Hollywood Park. She was beaten a neck by her French compatriot, Lashkari. It should be noted that between the two starts All Along stopped by Woodbine to run fourth in the Rothmans.

Patrick Biancone trained All Along to be North American Horse of the Year in 1983, when her record included victories in the Rothmans, Turf Classic, and D.C. International, as well as the Arc.

“We kept her in training because the Breeders’ Cup was beginning the following year, with the hope of winning the Turf,” Biancone noted. “She wasn’t as good at five as she was at four, but she was still very good.”

He pointed out that success in the Turf does not naturally follow success in the Arc.

“They are two very tough races in a row, sometimes only three weeks apart,” Biancone said. “In tennis, just because you win at Roland Garros does not mean you can win the U.S. Open as well.”

In 1986 the BC Turf attracted Dancing Brave, hailed at the time as the best horse European racing had produced since, like, forever. The 3-year-old colt had just dusted a legendary Arc field and was odds-on to handle the best the U.S. could muster at Santa Anita. He finished fourth behind Manila, Theatrical, and Estrapade.

One year later, Arc winner Trempolino descended upon Hollywood Park for the Breeders’ Cup Turf. A field of 14 ran, and he beat them all except for the New York-based Theatrical.

After watching All Along, Trempolino, and Dancing Brave fail in the first four years of the Breeders’ Cup, Europeans began referring to the BC Turf as “an afterthought” for hard-used Arc runners, tempted only by the filthy lucre offered in America. But who could blame them? At the time, the BC Turf was worth $2 million, while the Arc de Triomphe was worth about half that amount well into the 1990s.

In 1990, Arc winner Saumarez was at Belmont Park for the Breeders’ Cup, but he was upstaged in the Turf by Arc fourth-place finisher In the Wings. In 1992, Subotica won a tough battle in the Arc against User Friendly, then shipped across the pond to finish fifth in the Turf four weeks later at Gulfstream Park.

A harsh message had become clear: The winner of Europe’s greatest race was nowhere near a lock in the upstart American event. Then they stopped coming.

Between 1993 and 2007 only one reigning winner of the Arc de Triomphe appeared at the Breeders’ Cup. That was 2001 Arc champion Sakhee, who finished a nose back of Tiznow in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on the Belmont Park dirt. During that stretch, four Arc winners showed up a year later for the Breeders’ Cup, but their luck was no better. Carnegie was third, Montjeu seventh, Bago fourth, and Hurricane Run was sixth. It would not be until 2007 before another Arc winner jumped from Paris to grace the Breeders’ Cup Turf, when the redoubtable Dylan Thomas sunk to fifth in the Monmouth Park mire.

Whether or not any runners, let alone the winner, will come out of Sunday’s Arc to compete at Santa Anita one month later remains to be seen. Last year there were only three Europeans in the Breeders’ Cup Turf field of 12 and two of them – defending champ St Nicholas Abbey and Shareta – came out of poor efforts in the Arc. St Nicholas Abbey was a close third to Little Mike and Point of Entry that day, so perhaps the Arc wasn’t such a bad prep after all.

John Murray More than 1 year ago
There are half a dozen knowledgeable, experienced, excellent posters who have commented on the superiority of Euro's, Emerati, now Japanese t'breds. While any horse can pop up and win depending on weather, track conditions, on any day, consensus indicates that North American horses have been bred for too long to anticipate anything but the occasional exception to the rule.
[removed] More than 1 year ago
This comment has been deleted
John Murray More than 1 year ago
Cut Jay some slack he is under pressure and doing his job, good point, maybe Rachel on her day?
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
She barely won the Woodward how the hail she going to win at 1 1/2. WOW.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Hovdey signs his name to his work.
Hector Lebron More than 1 year ago
Hey Jay, which American horse could have beaten Treve(FR) in today's Arc?
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
make the question easier. Who could have beaten the fourth horse.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Silver Max takes the whole thing...
John Murray More than 1 year ago
Black Beauty :)
Van Cushny More than 1 year ago
Give me a break, Jay. Get your facts straight. Numerous horses that finished up the track in the Arc have won the BC Turf. Meanwhile, not a single US-based horse has even attempted to win the Arc since Old Mill Farm and Billy Wright sent the great El Senor to Longchamp in1991. Hopefully Ken Ramsey remedies that situation next year.
John Murray More than 1 year ago
I agree Van, no North American t'bred of note has ventured over the Atlantic for three or four decades, that I can remember, except for a couple of 2 yo Ascot campaigns recently, (trainer's name escapes me) Horse Cents' posts capture the reality and point out the hurdles overcome by Euro's and hypocrisy of faded glory.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
The 3 yr old filly Treve wins the Arc by a widening four over Orfevre remaining undefeated, five for five. 1 1/2 miles over giving undulating ground , a field of 18 and a purse of 6.5 million. That's a horse race. Moonlight Cloud wins going 7f in 1:21, last to first in about 300 meters. On Santa Anita's hard turf that would have cracked under 1:20 easy. Comparing Euro racing to American turf is not like comparing apples to oranges, it's like comparing Nascar to Formula 1 racing. Both are on some form of grass and the animals involved are thoroughbreds, the comparison ends there. We're so ignorant and arrogant that we demand they come here to prove they're better than us. It's laughable. They send a few good ones and several second and third stringers and still compete. 11 hour trip in the air, quarentine, and a day or two to jog the track and get a bit familiar with the surroundings and the heat. Then run on a track the wrong way, completely out of their reality on a hard surface around tight turns and we think we're great if we beat them. Anything we have would get their hat handed to them if going over there and running against their best on their track, even if having months to prepare. Sound familiar?
Ann Maree More than 1 year ago
Have to agree with most of your points, Horse. Would like to point out that races are run in both directions "over there", though mostly right-handed. Same in Australia. Only in the U.S. are we so stupid to not realize that running in the same direction on tracks that are slanted to drain towards the inside has a deleterious effect on Tbs musculoskeletal health. Kenny McPeek actually trains his horses in both directions at his facility to counter this negative effect on Tbs. His observations indicate a tendency to more injuries in the same area on Tbs in the U.S. because of this seemingly subtle difference in the height of the ground on the horse's left and right sides. Other differences in U.S. and Euro training/ conditioning methods and races are believed to contribute to our horses being more prone to injury: shorter races (more sprints), Lasix (draining fluids from a horse prior to heavy exertion, especially in developing younger horses), standing in a stall 22-23 hours a day (not good for hoof/foot health). Other differences include turning horses out while in training, training away from the track, affording more freedom of movement.. Then there are differences in what breeders look for in the U.S. compared to overseas (heavy emphasis on early maturing, precocious speedballs in the U.S.) It never is just "one thing", but after watching the Arc races today and the splendid ability of overseas horses to outshine their American counterparts, I continually seek out overseas racing and prefer it to the sport in the U.S. Seems to me to be much more civilized. Horses don't seem to break down as much, and, they tend to run back more often on short rest (I'm guessing part of the reason for this is the shorter season "over there".) All of these thoughts are for debate by those with more experience and expertise, but just as an observer, the more people are exposed to racing elsewhere in the world through today's technology, the more I believe they will begin to prefer it to the sport in the U.S. Hope things change here, but I bet not any time soon. Just too many who prefer the "status quo". A pity.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
This would take way too long to discuss here, so for the most part I'll just say I agree with everything you said very well. I never liked or thought good, the 22 hours a day in the stall which goes against a horse's instinct as a pack animal. Light gallops do little and then the occasional short breeze. In Europe they go out maybe in packs of 8 or more, up and down hills for miles through the countryside. Without more detail, far superior training methods. As much as I admire their training and fantastic old courses and racing, I don't know as much as I would like and honestly probably would never follow it more than American racing, but the ignorance and arrogance of the Americans regarding the Euros is ridiculous. That said, bucket list is Longchamp Arc and Royal Ascot.
Paul Aussenhofer More than 1 year ago
Totally agree on your bucket list. Mine too.
John Murray More than 1 year ago
Agree, excellent observations and discussion Horse Cents
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
It seems like yoy guys are saying the trainers are superior to US as well, that is interesting.
Tom Hickey More than 1 year ago
It seems that Euopean horses are superior in most ways, especially stamina and the fact they can run without drugs, for the most part.
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
Correction from previous post, wise Dan could not beat Frankel more than 2/10 times if he is lucky and little Mike can not win the arc.lol
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
That stat might hold up if running here, if over there it would be 0/10.
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
Hahaha, 0/10 totally agree,
Jorge Garcia Lopez More than 1 year ago
Treve had Little Mike for breakfast.
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
Until an American horse goes and wins Arc. Give me a break. American Horses not better on turf than Euros. Euro trash come over here all the time with there 4 and 17 records and win grade ones. Top horses are not even coming over here in Bc turf and they are still scoring victorys That's right I said it, Wise Dan cant beat Frankel more than 2/10 times and little Mike dam sure cant win the Arc. At least they bring horses over here to run in Bc mile and Bc turf and there records are not bad. Have you ever thought about the travel time. Less then a month after running a race at 1 1/2. How bout after the Belmont Palace Malice goes 5000 miles away to run 1 1/2.
Jorge Garcia Lopez More than 1 year ago
TREVE vs Little Mike...??? Hahaha