Golden Horn could be headed to BC Turf after gleaming in Arc

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October 4th, 2015

Sunday's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1) witnessed the eclipse of one legend, as Treve finished a lackluster fourth in her three-peat attempt, but it might have propelled another into that rarefied status. Star three-year-old colt Golden Horn added this coveted laurel to a resume that already included the Derby (G1), Eclipse (G1) and Irish Champion (G1). And he might not be done just yet, for trainer John Gosden held out the very possible chance of his heading to Keeneland for the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1).

Jockey Frankie Dettori showed why he's a legend as well. Not only did he earn his fourth Arc win, tying the record, but he did so by giving Golden Horn an amazing ride from post 14. In the opening couple of furlongs, Dettori deliberately kept Golden Horn far to the outside, well away from the field. After his competitors sorted themselves out, and Treve's pacemaker settled into a sedate rhythm up front, Dettori then angled over and parked Golden Horn in the catbird's seat -- a tracking second. It was all achieved with the skill of a surgeon. Any disadvantage from the draw was nullified, and Dettori put his mount in the best possible position.

In contrast, Treve was held up much further back, and wider out, than might have been expected. Jockey Thierry Jarnet later cited the quick ground as a factor, believing that the two-time defending champ just wasn't as effective in the conditions. Trainer Criquette Head-Maarek, however, refused to blame the ground at all, and graciously offered that Treve was simply beaten by better horses on the day.

I'm tempted to think that Treve ran a bit flat after her sensational performance in her prep, the Prix Vermeille (G1). Three weeks after that Arc-caliber effort, she might not have had as much left as first thought. That alone would explain why she didn't get herself into good position early, despite the fact that her pacemaker wasn't going fast.

Entering the home straight, Golden Horn kicked into gear and struck the front. French Derby (G1) winner New Bay, who had been tracking the pace himself, was on the premises, but couldn't match that turn of foot. Neither could Juddmonte stablemate Flintshire, likewise close up early.

Meanwhile, Treve advanced into contention on the outside. Although Jarnet appeared to have a handful of horse, the three-peat hopes evaporated almost as soon as they were raised. Once she was set down in earnest, she didn't produce her trademark acceleration. The great mare hung right as she tried to mount a challenge. Treve made some headway, but not nearly enough to threaten Golden Horn.  Her body language was consistent with a horse slightly uneasy on the ground. Still, her comportment may also fit a horse who was regressing. In any event, she fared best of the closers.

Golden Horn maintained his fierce gallop all the way to the line, driving to a two-length decision. The admirable Flintshire kept up his dogged pursuit to garner runner-up honors for the second year in a row. He was a neck up on New Bay, who saved third by a nose from the brave Treve.

Golden Horn's owner, Sir Anthony Oppenheimer, had boldly predicted that his homebred would "easily" beat Treve on genuine good ground. I must admit that statement struck me as tempting fate, if not an outright invitation to bad karma in this race. Didn't he just scotch his chances by saying a thing like that? Actually, no. Golden Horn vindicated him.

As Gosden said post-race, Oppenheimer's been "keen" to try the Breeders' Cup Turf. The trainer lent further substance to the idea, adding that if all's in good order, there's no reason not to go to Keeneland. For the next month, we'll be rehearsing the stat that no Arc winner has ever added a Breeders' Cup race. But a couple of gone awfully close, so it might not pay to be too doctrinaire about that factoid.

A more productive angle has been Arc losers rebounding in the BC Turf. Flintshire, the 2014 BC Turf runner-up, and New Bay are also under consideration at the moment. Another who's been mentioned is Free Eagle, the troubled third to Golden Horn in the Irish Champion and a creditable sixth in the Arc.

Treve won't be going anywhere but home to the paddocks. A broodmare career now beckons for the five-year-old.

Golden Horn will soon follow, with plans calling for him to enter stud at Darley's Dalham Hall Stud in Newmarket in 2016. I've had a hunch he'd be recruited to Darley, being by Darley sire Cape Cross. And his broodmare sire, Dubai Destination, also stood under the Darley banner.

Finally, two trip footnotes. Found had a problematic passage trying to rally from near the back. Her ninth, in a blanket finish, is better than it looks on paper. And Dolniya was the victim of major interference in the stretch. To be sure, she was safely held by the principals at the time, but she would have been much closer than 13th. After being hampered, she was wrapped up on and allowed to coast.


Golden Horn photo courtesy of Darley via Twitter.