European Race Report: All Sakhee in Arc

European Race Report: All Sakhee in Arc
Photo: Associated Press
Jockey Frankie Dettori and Sakhee win the Grand Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
Published in the Oct. 13 issue of The Blood-Horse
Jockey Frankie Dettori has never lacked confidence, but even he was bubbling over at Sakhee's prospects in the 80th Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I), sponsored by the Lucien Barriere group of hotels and restaurants. "I've ridden some great horses in my time--Dubai Millennium was probably the best of them--but I've never come up to a big race like the Arc with so much confidence," he said. "I told Simon (Crisford, owner Godolphin's racing manager) this morning the only way I could lose this race was if I fell off.

"When I read the field, I couldn't see anyone giving me a race. I had a beautiful draw (15 of 17) and I knew I wouldn't get in trouble and I didn't mind giving up a couple of lengths on the turn. All he (Sakhee) had to do was repeat his York performance (seven-length winner of the Juddmonte International, Eng-I)."

Over Longchamp's right-handed 12 furlongs, Sakhee looked in control of Europe's middle-distance championship race once the field started downhill with some six furlongs to run. Saddler's Creek, trainer Aidan O'Brien's pacemaker for St. Leger (Eng-I) winner Milan, led the field away from the gates with German-trained outsider Anzillero second and Prix Niel (Fr-II) winner Golan third on the rail beside Prix du Jockey-Club (Fr-I) winner Anabaa Blue. Then came Sakhee and supplemented (400,000FF) Diamilina.

In the long, sweeping downhill turn, Anzillero took over, but approaching the false straight, about a half-mile from home, Sakhee moved effortlessly into second on his outside. Dettori claimed the lead just before the straight and Sakhee did the rest. Opening substantial daylight with more than two furlongs to run, the winner drew away by six lengths and easily maintained the margin to the line.

Aquarelliste, Daniel Wildenstein's 3-year-old Prix de Diane and Prix Vermeille (both Fr-I) winner, came from well back to claim second. Sagacity, coupled with Diamilina for France Galop president Jean-Luc Lagardere, got up by a head to deprive Golan of third place. Then followed Milan, Little Rock, Hightori, Egyptband (second last year), Anabaa Blue, and Foreign Affairs with the rest strung out behind in the "holding" going.

"This is a great horse," Dettori said. "He'd give Fantastic Light a race, no doubt about it. It would be a tough choice between them. I hope they won't race together."

Sheikh Hamdan bred and owns Sakhee within Godolphin, which was recording its 77th group I win and 11th of the year. His intention had been to run Sakhee back in Newmarket's Dubai Champion Stakes (Eng-I, Oct. 20), but a crack at the Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) has not been ruled out.

The 4-year-old was the only horse that could give subsequent Arc winner Sinndar a race in last year's Epsom Derby (Eng-I) when trained by John Dunlop, but he cracked a knee in Dubai during the winter and his career was in doubt. Sakhee won a listed race at Newbury before York and is undefeated this term.

By his own reckoning, the Arc was Dettori's 100th group or grade I win. The 30-year-old Italian has been contract rider for Godolphin since 1994 and took the 1995 Arc with their undefeated Lammtarra, trained, like Sakhee, by Saeed bin Suroor.

France Galop reconfigured Arc weekend this year, bringing the Grand Criterium (Fr-I) for 2-year-old colts forward one week and presenting six group I races on Oct. 7 bracketed by a handicap as the first and last races. The Oct. 6 card featured four group II races.

Golan's rider, Kieren Fallon, said the ground on Oct. 7 was "about as bad as I've ever ridden in" and upsets were the order of the day in the group races until 9-10 Rock of Gibraltar and 2-1 Sakhee sent the chalk players home happy.

The opening Prix du Cadran (Fr-I), a 20-furlong marathon, fell to provincially-trained Germinis, who gave Normandy trainer Patrick Chevillard and jockey Renaud Janneau their first group I wins. A regular winner in lesser company, Germinis rolled home six lengths on top of Generic and defending champion San Sebastian for owner Robert Sallet.

"We gave him two months off," said Chevillard. "He runs well fresh and adores heavy ground."

Continued...

(Watch the Arc, France-Galop)

(Finish Line Photo, France-Galop)

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