I’m finally getting a chance to catch up with things after an incredibly busy Arc weekend. With runners on Friday and Saturday and a lot of entertaining to do leading up through the race, it’s been exhausting but fun. I met a great group of Americans on Friday at St. Cloud, and one of them came for a stable visit this morning. On Saturday, Hard Way did his bit – oh, yeah, there was some other horse called Goldikova running that day, too. Hers was the only race I got to see besides our own handicap. I suppose there was a lot of shock around her defeat, but the 1,400-meter course at Longchamp is very particular, and there are horses that specialize at that distance and she’s not one of them. She’ll still go to the Breeders’ Cup to run the Mile, and she’ll probably win there. Meanwhile, our group of owners were happy just to participate during Arc weekend and even happier with Hard Way’s good showing. We all went off to the sales after racing, where we saw people with more money than sense paying silly prices for horses in training. Then it was off to dinner at a friend’s house; very hard to get up the next morning after all that, but work the horses we did, and in time to get to the Big Show, too.
We had a great table of 12 in the paddock restaurant. Thankfully, I had planned ahead, because I saw a lot of well-dressed but very sad-looking English visitors gnawing on horrible baguette sandwiches, which was the only fare on offer outside of the restaurants. Like I said in a previous post – eat before you come is the rule for French racing unless you’re going to pay up for a table. Our lunch was great, and decent value on Arc day at 110 euros a person, which included wine and a good-sized flute of Champagne.
I snuck away several times to duck back to the stables to see His Highness (no, not the Aga Khan but Sea the Stars). The lads handling him could not have been nicer, and let us give the colt a scratch or two on the head before and after the race. The horse is the most relaxed thoroughbred I’ve ever seen. He had had an endless stream of visitors all day, and he couldn’t have cared less, obliging his public with a tolerance unseen in most draft horses. “He’s just a horse like any other one at the end of the day,” one of the lads said. “He doesn’t know he’s any more important than any of the others here.” Indeed.
But speaking of His (other) Highness, the Aga Khan had a hell of a weekend, winning just about everything that didn’t involve Sea the Stars. Just about every time you looked up you saw the green and red silks in the winner’s circle. Not that the Aga Khan doesn’t win his fair share of races all year long, but seven races – including five Group 1’s – in two days is unbelievable. But it couldn’t happen to a nicer, glassier guy. The Aga Khan is, of course, part of that circle of owners who are rich beyond what most of us could imagine. Still, he always takes time to talk to the press; on the subject of his breeding program that resulted in the weekend’s success, he said “It’s important to stay humble, and to have the courage to say ‘I don’t know. I will learn.'”
And speaking of those who are rich but still nice, I finally got the chance to meet the legendary Maggie Bryant, an American who is one of the leading owners of steeplechasers in France. The France Galop gate thugs were actually denying her access to the stable area because she didn’t have a runner that day. I was stunned. I got her a bracelet to gain access, and I gave her my card. Who knows?
Meanwhile, back at the yard, Hard Way seems to come back from his race fine. He has a small knock on the inside of his back left leg, but it’s superficial and will heal quickly. He’s still asking for his Guinness. Tyke also seems to have come back pretty well, but now that Sea the Stars has left the country, it has started to rain. And Tyke. like his distant but much, much-faster shirt-tail brother, doesn’t like heavy going, so we may have to wait for the Deauville fibersand series for him. Turfani seems to be on the mend, and the rest of them are coming along. We shake off the glow of the unattainable (for now, anyway) Group races and toil ahead. For us, a Tierce will be as good as a Group 1. We’ve got one of those to win in about 10 days time. Onward.