Brendan Duke: More is lost by indecision than wrong decision

Dukey dissects the fall-out from the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe but has one eye firmly on Newmarket this weekend ...



Well the Arc certainly delivered on the anticipation. Normally when the favourite beats the second fav we can box a race off as predictable and get on with our lives. Not in this case though. No end of talking points.

The winning distance was key of course. When a horse just fails to get there, what ifs are inevitable. The tactics employed on the runner-up Sea Of Class have been a topic of much discussion. We must remember two things here. Racing is a deeply conservative sport. Also, trainers and jockeys, in common with most employees, will usually heavily weight any decision in favour of the one that is least likely to get them sacked.

Sea Of Class arrived in Paris chasing a five-timer. All those wins had been achieved using hold up tactics. She draws a wide stall. What to do? Should they change her run style to remove some of the variables, or does that just add different variables?

The answer will almost always be to stick with the same tactics and hope, or in this case, pray. Use these few days in the build up to get your decision validated by some big names in the racing echo chamber. They didn’t get to be big names by being fired very often after all.

That is not to say that they made the wrong decision. The Ballydoyle team decided on a similar strategy with Kew Gardens, a horse less well adapted to quickening from the back. Study Of Man was rushed up from the widest gate. This seemed to light him up and his jockey then tried to jam on the brakes, which resulted in a midfield position with no cover.

We shouldn’t be too critical though, wide draws are just very tricky to overcome. Now that the decision has been made we hand over to the jockey to execute the plan. James Doyle clearly heeded the words of Tony Soprano, another man struggling with innovation in a traditional culture.

More is lost by indecision than wrong decision.

Doyle’s ride was nearly flawless. Of course it helped that the early pace was stronger than I for one had predicted. We all need a bit of luck. He quickly positioned Sea Of Class on the rails and never left it until every other horse was running in a straight line too. He managed to navigate an almost seamless path to the line.

He just had to pause for a couple of beats, once on the home turn and once early in the straight.

As it turned out those beats were the difference between singing the blues or dancing La Macarena.

While it’s interesting to dissect a race, that’s not the reason we watch. The reason is that last furlong, when the breath was held, as Sea Of Class ate into Enable’s advantage.

Whether for you the post came just in time or a stride too soon, we could all collectively exhale and feel alive. My hunch is that Sea Of Class was the best horse in the race so therefore the tactics employed on the second were flawed. However, in solidarity with the working man, I understand why they did it.

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Enable wasn’t the filly we saw last year. John Gosden put this down to her being 85 per cent fit. I’d be sceptical. Information like that inevitably bleeds into the betting market. She was rock steady all day. It was disappointing that he didn’t mention her running a temperature in the weeks leading up to the Arc.

Gosden is a good communicator, who doesn’t appear particularly ungenerous with information. The racing public don’t really know what trainers do and top-class horses are generally the most physically and mentally robust.

When one does have problems it would be fascinating to hear how connections are managing the recovery. In an age where animals are increasingly anthropomorphised, that narrative would certainly engage a subset of fans and may bring in others.


The circus rolls on with a couple of Group 1’s for the two-year-olds at Newmarket this week. The Fillies Mile on Friday looks impossible to fathom. The Dewhurst looks a belter. I’m hoping, and becoming increasingly convinced, that Ten Sovereigns will run.

Couldn’t recommend backing him until after tomorrow’s declarations on Thursday though to be sure of a run – or at least getting your money back if he doesn’t. If declared anything around 7/2 or bigger would look a good price to me.

There are a couple of appealing bets. Well Done Fox in the Cornwallis Stakes (1.50pm) looks to have the strongest form in the race. The bookmakers disagree and only make him fourth favourite. I’m happy to wager they’re wrong. It appears Southern France is going to run in the Cesarewitch. He brings Group form to the party, as a three-year-old and gets a healthy weight allowance and to my eyes will relish the trip.

He should go very close and is around 8/1. Again it’s worth waiting until declaration time on Thursday before backing him.

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What do you think?