Peintre Celebre gives superb display
The conventional wisdom before yesterday's Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe was that this season's Classic crop weren't a match for the older horses: maybe the majority aren't but Peintre Celebre in two minutes and 24 seconds of absolute quality proved the danger of generalisations.
To be precise, it was a record 2.24.6 minutes of quality, and while the dangers of hyping horses was proved by last year's brilliant winner, Helissio, finishing only sixth this time, Peintre Celebre looked so good that to call him a superstar could be defensible. Rarely if ever has a horse accelerated so quickly up the famous Longchamp straight and left a quality field looking so pedestrian. And the one thing that yesterday's field is not is pedestrian.
Pilsudski and Oscar Schindler again ran superb races and they looked to be better animals this year than last when second and third. Yet Peintre Celebre put five lengths between himself and them to prove that the flashing stride with which he won the French Derby is not reserved for beating his fellow three-year-olds alone.
"He is very special," conceded Andre Fabre, French racing's little Napoleon who had won the race previously with Subotica and the previous track record holder, Trempolino. "He was a very good Classic winner and now the leading horse in Europe. I couldn't ask for more. He is the best middle distance horse I have trained. Maybe Zafonic could compare but he was a miler".
It was also a momentous race for owner Daniel Wildenstein, (80), who was winning his fourth Arc, but he and Fabre admitted to concern with the position that Peintre Celebre and Olivier Peslier found themselves in just before the straight.
"Peintre Celebre must have a good sense of direction," joked Fabre afterwards, but with Helissio setting sail for home and Pilsudski guaranteed a clear run on the outside, the matter of getting a clear run for the colt could have seen Peslier panicking.
If that didn't, then the presence of his less than bosom buddy Cash Asmussen immediately on his outer may have, but the measure of Peintre Celebre is that he was niggled to hold his ground and still quickened when a miniscule gap appeared before starting his amazing run. "He is a nice horse, isn't he," Peslier smiled with the sort of masterly understatement that indicated the coolness with which he got out of trouble. But ultimately he too was thrilled with the exhibition. "I got the gap two furlongs out. He changed legs and half a furlong later he led. And then he really got going!" he exclaimed. In behind, Kinane had Pilsudski in position A to make his run but, quicken as he did, he was no match for the winner's several change of gears. Kieren Fallon had a thrilling first ride in the race to finish third, but Oscar Schindler's connections, despite their thrill at the horse's effort, were left cursing their Longchamp luck again. Asmussen secured a better position early on this time but Oscar Schindler, with Pilsudski on his outer, appeared to be hampered after a couple of furlongs and after that he was always fighting to get back into a prominent place.
"Without that interference I might have got second but he gave me everything and after a performance like that, I can have no complaints. He is all heart," Asmussen said. Kevin Prendergast also pointed to the ground, which he called "firm", as being a little too fast for Oscar Schindler, but immediately nominated the Breeders Cup Turf at Holywood Park as the next target. Connections also pointed to the ground being too fast for Ebadiyla, who never featured prominently in the race. In the supporting contest Britain re-asserted its dominance of the Prix de l'Abbaye when Carmine Lake, having only her second race of the year, sailed through the closing stages to add this Group One to Saturday's Prix du Cadran for trainer Peter Chapple-Hyam.
"To all intents, she's a cripple," said Chapple-Hyam. "She has arthritis in the knee which is why she has only run once, but I fancied her very strongly today on her work at home. I don't fancy going for the Breeders Cup as the dirt would jar her knees. She will be very stiff tomorrow morning."
The other Group One , the Prix Marcel Boussac, saw Loving Claim charge to joint favouritism for next year's 1,000 Guineas when making all to win after the Fabre-Peslier favourite, Anna Palariva, was slowly away at the start. Ultimately, though, this will be remembered as Peintre Celebre's day, a day when a horse proved himself clear of his generation.