Found caps 'unbelievable' Arc sweep for O'Brien
Story & Photos by RON FLATTER
Chantilly, France – For all his accomplishments in Ireland and England and even in America at the Breeders’ Cup, Irish training icon Aidan O’Brien has endured almost nothing but frustration in the world’s richest turf race.
Yes, he won it with Dylan Thomas nine years ago. But he did not so much as hit the board with 16 runners the last six years. O’Brien got off that schneid in a big way Sunday with a Coolmore-owned, Galileo-sired trifecta. Found, Highland Reel and Order of St. George finished 1-2-3 in the $5.6 million Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) nat its temporary home Chantilly.
“It’s massive in a big race. It’s unbelievable, really. Hard to believe it could happen,” O’Brien said of the sweep by his 4-year-old filly and two 4-year-old colts. “We couldn’t even dream of it. They’re three great horses all by Galileo, which is incredible.”
The 2015 Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) champion was guided along the rail by Ryan Moore to a close, sixth-place position in the turn, eventually taking the lead in the last quarter-mile of the 1 1/2-mile race. Found (9-to-1) finished 1 3/4 lengths ahead of the late charge by Highland Reel (24-to-1) with Order Of St. George (15-to-1) holding on another 1 1/2 lengths back in third.
The winning time was 2:23.61 on turf that was rated good.
Coming in with six consecutive wins, the favored Postponed (2-to-1) finished fifth, four lengths adrift of Found and behind fourth-place longshot Siljan’s Saga (66-to-1).
“We have to digest this unpleasant surprise,” said Postponed’s trainer Roger Varian, not wishing to commit to the Breeders’ Cup or anything else just yet. “The horse got a good jump and was quickly in the thick of things. But he had to move three-wide. At the top of the stretch he was on the wrong leg, and he never gave the finishing kick he needed.”
Makahiki (7-to-2), briefly the favorite thanks no doubt to early betting from a big group Japanese fans, was never in it and finished 14th.
“The horse was stressed in the starting gate,” jockey Christophe Lemaire said. “He was never breathing well because he was tense.”
Becoming the fifth female to win in the last six Arcs, Found not only ended a bad run for O’Brien, but so snapped her own odd streak of five second-place finishes.
“I think she’s been second in nine or 10 or 11 Group 1s (actually nine) and won a couple,” O’Brien said. “This is the first clear run she got. Ryan gave her a brilliant run. He was so cool and crept down to the inside on her, and when he released her she took off.”
Moore chuckled when he was asked about finding the rail so early without much of a challenge.
“Yeah, it opened. I got there,” he said, wearing a big, canary-flavored grin. “I was happy with where I got. It was in my head to get to the inside.”
It also seemed it was in Moore’s head that he got away with a diabolical plan.
“I thought it was spot-on,” he said of the rail question. And the devilish chuckle.
Starting from post position 12 in the field of 16, Found was racing eighth along the long, starting backstretch as Moore got her to the rail behind The Grey Gatsby before the right-hand turn. With rival rabbit Vedevani setting the pace, Order of St. George uncorked his typically keyed-up, sweaty entrance under Frankie Dettori to challenge the lead for the first mile. So did Highland Reel before Seamie Heffernan reined him in to stalk. It was against that pace backdrop that Found excelled.
“They were both horses that got a mile-and-a-half really well, and they were forward,” O’Brien said of Highland Reel and Order of St. George. “The two lads gave them great rides. I think it was there for everyone. I think something else made them run, but they were happy to be handy, and we knew both would stay well.”
Often bellicose after races – win or lose – Moore was anything but on Saturday when he reflected on his second Arc win after he had missed much of last year with a neck injury and this summer with a hurting hip.
“It’s frustrating and annoying,” he said. “It hasn’t always been easy to get back. It’s all about getting back for these sorts of races now and for the important ones. Hopefully I’ll stay in one piece for the future.”
Moore returned from injury last year to guide Found past the favored Golden Horn to win at Keeneland in the Breeders’ Cup after finishing ninth to Golden Horn at Longchamp. Now he has bounced back to collect his first Arc win since he guided Workforce to victory in 2010.
“To win it again it’s the same,” he said. “It’s usually about the best race in the world class-wise. It’s very important.”
O’Brien said Found may or may not be back to defend her Breeders’ Cup Turf championship at Santa Anita.
“She would have an option to go to the Champions Stakes (October 15) at Ascot or the Breeders’ Cup. She was penciled in for all those races. They would be all options. We’ll see how she is.”
The only firm Breeders’ Cup commitments from the Arc meet came from the final race. But instead of the Mile (G1), for which the Prix de la Forêt has been a traditional prep, connections for both the winner Limato (4-to-5) and third-place Suedois (11-to-1) said they would prefer the Turf Sprint (G1).
“I want to go if he’s all right,” Limato’s owner Paul Jacobs said. “But I don’t know if we want to take on Tepin in her back yard. If he’s OK we may enter him in both the Mile and the Turf Sprint and make our choice later.”
Connections for all of Sunday’s “win and you’re in” victors – Wuheida in the Marcel Boussac (G1) (Juvenile Fillies Turf [G1]), National Defense in the Lagardère (Juvenile Turf [G1]) and Speedy Boarding in the Opéra (Filly & Mare Turf [G1]) – said they would not go to the Breeders’ Cup. They said their horses were done for the year with Speedy Boarding likely being retired to become a broodmare.