Late surge delivers Arc for Solemia
DESPITE a week heavy on Longchamp hype, Aidan O'Brien's Camelot and Frankie Dettori failed to prove a Paris match made in heaven.
The pursuit of European Turf's richest prize, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, can seldom have tested private loyalties, and the pride of nations, so flagrantly.
Halfway down the straight, Camelot was still going strongly under Dettori. Intriguingly, the jockey who had seen fit to ride for his employer's greatest rival -- an equitable redress, he surely feels, for the promotion of a new riding star to share his job -- was trapped by none other than Masterstroke.
This was the colt he might once have expected to ride for Sheikh Mohammed, instead partnered by his young antagonist, Mickael Barzalona. As though to reciprocate the experience and nerve of John Magnier in asking Dettori to fill the vacancy on Camelot, he sat tight.
The moment he had clear water, however, it became clear that the Derby winner had been holed below deck. The beautiful colt, barely three weeks after his first defeat, was floundering.
Instead a new illusion manifested itself: Orfevre, the champion lured from the Orient, was careering down the outside under Christophe Soumillon. As he burst three lengths clear of Solemia, the Japanese could not help but be deceived that their romantic perseverance had finally found its reward.
But all of a sudden Orfevre began to sway towards the rail. Solemia, a 41/1 outsider, was maintaining a dour pursuit. Soumillon went into overdrive, but his mount was palpably spent. It was suddenly a question of whether the post would come in time. Agony now infected the Japanese cheers.
With a couple of strides to go, Orfevre slammed into the rail. Solemia wore him down by a neck, the pair having opened up a gap of seven lengths back to Masterstroke in third.
"She had a hard first part of the season, so we gave her a two-month break and started to prepare her for the Arc," winning trainer Carlos Laffon-Parias said. "Soft ground is very important to her, but Olivier (Peslier) made the difference. Sometimes the jockey can make the difference, and Olivier is the one who won the race."
By the same token, Soumillon might now repent of committing Orfevre quite so soon. Laffon-Parias argued that the result might be traced to a more fundamental deficiency, in that he reckons the Classic generation no match for the four-year-olds, and the current colts in turn lesser than the fillies. "Perhaps Camelot is not that good," he said.
The substance of Solemia's improvement is now likely to be tested in different conditions at the Breeders' Cup, but Camelot's trainer insists that the colt -- seventh here -- will show his true colours in 2013.
"It was very sporting of the lads to run him," O'Brien said. "But he wants fast ground and it's been a long, hard season. We've stretched him every way but we'll give him a nice break now and he could be something unbelievable next year."
Dettori said: "I had a perfect trip and he took me beautifully into the straight on the bridle. But just as soon, I knew we were in trouble, and in fairness to the horse he's been going since the Guineas."
Great Heavens fared best of the British, pleasing John Gosden with her gameness in sixth.
As for the other big races, there was unconfined joy for Tipperary's Tom Hogan as his gamble to supplement Gordon Lord Byron for the Prix de la Foret reaped spectacular dividends.
Stepped back up to seven furlongs, the distance over which he won the City of York Stakes, the four-year-old looked to have plenty to do a furlong out as David O'Meara's Penitent made a bold bid for home.
But Gordon Lord Byron (17/5) picked up well and powered home to give Hogan his first Group One success.
"All credit to the owner who has had the guts to stump up €100,000 (to supplement)," said Hogan. "He's been running on this ground all year in Ireland, but we never imagined it would be this deep. We might take him to Hong Kong for the Mile."
John Oxx's Saddler's Rock could only manage fourth in Prix du Cadran as Molly Malone saw it out best for the home team with James Fanshawe's High Jinx edging out Colour Vision for second.
Richard Hannon's Olympic Glory (6/5 favourite) ensured a British success and paid his new owner an immediate divided in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere. In four previous starts, the two-year-old's sole defeat had come at the hands Jim Bolger's Dawn Approach in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Richard Hannon junior, assistant to his father, said: "I'll have to speak to the racing manager -- I wouldn't rule the Breeders' Cup out completely."
The raiders had been understandably confident of consolidating their domination of the Prix de l'Abbaye, but were confounded by the one and only home runner in a competitive field of 18.
Wizz Kid (8/1), tried in cheekpieces, somehow found traction to make up three lengths and edge out Mayson in the shadow of the post. Robert Collet is now likely to train her for the sprint on Qipco Champions' Day at Ascot and Mayson may well follow her there. (© Independent News Service)