Makahiki lifts Japan’s Arc hopes; Wicklow Brave overturns Order

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September 11th, 2016

File photo of Makahiki from the May 29 Japanese Derby copyright Japan Racing Association

Japan’s hopes of landing the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) took a step forward Sunday when Makahiki smoothly came through his French debut in the Prix Niel (G2) for sophomores at Chantilly.

Confidently handled by Christophe Lemaire, the Japanese Derby (G1) winner quickened in time to catch front runner Midterm. Doha Dream was third in the three-way photo.


In the Prix Vermeille (G1) for fillies and mares, also held over the Arc course and distance, Wertheimer et Frere homebred Left Hand pounced on Godolphin’s longtime leader Endless Time. Favored Candarliya (the gray in the Aga Khan silks on the inside) failed to pick up and reported home fifth of six.


Rounding out the Arc trials, even-money favorite Silverwave readily overhauled pacesetting Ito in the Prix Foy (G2) for older horses.


Among the milers, the Andre Fabre-trained Vadamos finally earned a Group 1 laurel in the Prix du Moulin (G1). Favored Zelzal wound up third. Vadamos has a few fall options, notably the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1).


Vazirabad didn’t overexert himself when justifying 3-5 favoritism in the about 1 7/8-mile Prix Gladiateur (G3), setting himself up for the Prix du Cadran (G1) on Arc Day. There was a significant upset in the sprinters’ ranks, as Just Glamorous wired top choices Marsha and Goldream in the Prix du Petit Couvert (G3), a prep for the Prix de l’Abbaye (G1).

Upsets were also the overarching theme during Part II of Irish Champions Weekend at the Curragh.

Order of St George was overturned as the defending champion and 1-7 favorite in the Irish St Leger (G1), floored by the Willie Mullins-trained Wicklow Brave. Frankie Dettori did the honors with a masterful front-running ride aboard the 11-1 shot.

Joseph O’Brien celebrated his first Group 1 victory as a trainer when the 25-1 Intricately nipped the 7-1 Hydrangea, trained by his father, in the Moyglare Stud (G1). Aidan O’Brien’s leading fancy, Promise to Be True, was never involved in fifth.

It was a family occasion as Intricately was ridden by Joseph’s brother, Donnacha, who was also earning his first Group 1, and Intricately was bred by their mother, Anne-Marie O’Brien. Although the Moyglare was a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), it’s questionable whether Santa Anita is on the table.

The Flying Five (G2) likewise produced a surprise, for the 16-1 Ardhoomey bested Aidan O’Brien’s Washington DC to bag a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1). Again, it’s premature to guess what impact this five-furlong dash on yielding ground could have on Santa Anita. Winning trainer Ger Lyons reportedly sounded more inclined to look ahead to next year’s major sprints.

The Aga Khan’s homebred Shamreen also forced a Ballydoyle runner to settle for second in the Blandford (G2), repelling the challenge of 5-4 favorite Best in the World.

But Aidan O’Brien couldn’t be shut out, and well-regarded juvenile Churchill got him in the winner’s circle with a decisive score in the Vincent O’Brien National (G1). Shrugging off accomplished British shipper Mehmas, Churchill drew off by 4 1/4 lengths and confirmed himself as a leading contender for next spring’s 2000 Guineas (G1).