Al Kazeem set for tilt at Arc
Al Kazeem confirmed himself as Britain's best middle-distance horse with a decisive victory in the Eclipse at Sandown yesterday and the odds are good that he will now be put away for an autumn campaign centred on the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Though he was plainly the best horse in the race, he barged across Mukhadram in the closing stages, costing that horse second place and provoking anger from trainer William Haggas.
Fans of the sport must hope that Al Kazeem wakes up entirely sound at his Wiltshire stable this morning. When he hung to the left in winning at Newmarket last year, it was the first sign that he had sustained a hairline pelvic fracture that kept him off the track for almost a year, so it was worrying to see such a straightforward, professional racehorse hang to his right, toward the inside rail, when he had barely edged in front of Mukhadram.
Though he has now won three Group Ones in the space of six weeks on fast going, Al Kazeem is thought to be better suited by some give underfoot and it may have been discomfort that caused him to hang.
Before the stewards had decided to leave the placings unaltered, Haggas was asked what he thought. "I think he'll get two days," the trainer said, annoyed as he predicted a short suspension for James Doyle. The rider was banned for five days.
Haggas later added: "The winner won on merit but I'm upset that my horse was only third when, in my opinion, as the incident took place, the other horses were three lengths behind. I'm not saying the winner should be thrown out because of course he shouldn't, he was the best horse. I just feel sorry for my horse, apart from the fact that it's cost my owner about £50,000."
Asked what he liked about Al Kazeem, Doyle said: "Everything about him. His cruising speed, his turn of foot, the way he settles in a race, his whole rhythm. If you look at him, he dwarfs a lot of horses. He's just a monster."
Roger Charlton, the trainer of Al Kazeem, was talking to journalists when the news came through that the stewards would let him keep the race and showed an impressive coolness.
"It's always nice to hear that, even if you're expecting it," he said, allowing himself the narrowest of smiles. "I thought it was a better field of horses than at Ascot [where Al Kazeem won the Prince of Wales's Stakes] but, if it was, he certainly won more easily, so he's either improved or something's happened. He's had three races on pretty firm ground. He needs to be treated like a proper horse and I don't think we should be tempted, personally, to run in the King George."
That race, at Ascot on July 27, may be a target for Mukhadram. The Aidan O'Brien-trained Declaration Of War, who ran on for second here, is now likely to return to a mile for the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood the following week.