Godolphin claimed their first European Group One victory of the season as Charlie Appleby’s Charming Thought came to the rescue in the vision.ae Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket yesterday.
Big-name runners in the royal blue silks have been conspicuous by their absence, and it was hardly the most expected time for the drought to end, with Richard Hannon’s unbeaten Ivawood a hotly-tipped favourite.
For most of the six furlongs, the race looked as if it would be a fourth consecutive victory as he cruised along under Richard Hughes, but he failed to quell the final challenge of William Buick and Charming Thought, who stuck his nose in front on the line.
Appleby said: “It’s great to get my first Group One in England out of the way. He’s a horse we’ve held in high regard from the spring onwards. He just met with a setback in the spring, so we had to be patient and it’s prevailed now.”
Treve became the first horse since Alleged in 1977/78 to win Europe's most prestigious race, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, in successive years as she stormed home at Longchamp on Sunday.
Treve — giving jockey Thierry Jarnet his fourth win in the race — came home ahead of Flintshire while English filly Taghrooda was third.
Treve, owned by Sheikh Joaan al-Thani of Qatar, had failed to win all season casting doubts on her ability to win, but her trainer Criquette Head-Maarek, who controversially took jockey Frankie Dettori off the filly, insisted she could still win.
"This is a great personal satisfaction for me, this is truly wonderful," said the tearful 65-year-old.
"I couldn't believe the gap that opened for her on the rails and then her burst of acceleration was extraordinary.
"This has been the most complicated preparation I have ever had for this race," added Head-Maarek, who also won her war of words with Dettori as he had said Treve was gone mentally — something she had hotly denied.
Head-Maarek, whose grandfather William Head and father Alec trained two and four Arc winners respectively, while brother Freddie won three as a jockey, said it was without doubt the greatest training performance of her career.
"It is the best race I have ever won with all the problems with her back and hoof and criticism aimed at her. This is brilliant, I'm not yet back down to earth yet! It is my best day," she added.
Her father Alec bred Treve and tried to sell her as a yearling only to fail to find a buyer at 22,000 euros. Sheikh Joaan bought her before the Arc last year for a reported 10million euros.
But Alec Head had one reproach for his daughter.
"She should not have run at Ascot in June but I was not around to advise her. However, I knew on Tuesday she would win here and I rang a great friend of mine (racing commentating great) Peter O'Sullevan and told him ring your bookmaker!" he said.
Treve is only the sixth horse to win successive Arcs and first filly since Corrida in 1937 to achieve the feat.
Sheikh Joaan, who had backed Head-Maarek's decision to replace Dettori in early September despite the Italian being his retained jockey, said it had been a joy to watch.
"We have proved people wrong, what a racehorse. Now she can retire to the farm!" he said.
Head-Maarek said that she would never forget Sheikh Joaan's decision.
"He listened and he agreed to give in to my argument to have Thierry on board and I am eternally thankful for that," she said.
Jarnet was in tears as he was led back to the winners enclosure.
"This is magic, magic. What a filly. This is what you get up for early in the mornings and ride the champions on the gallops to have days like these," said the 37-year-old.
The Japanese dream of winning the race they regard as the greatest in the world once again was dashed as both Harp Star and Gold Ship were left with far too much to do and their late runs yielded little.
Just A Way was prominent in the straight but failed to stay the 1 1/2miles (2400m) and faded from the fray as proven stayers Taghrooda and Flintshire came through, with the latter getting the better of the filly to take second for seven-time winning trainer Andre Fabre.
Angus Gold, the racing manager to Taghrooda's owner Sheikh Hamdan al-Maktoum, said there was nothing to be ashamed of in defeat.
"She looked like she was going to win coming into the straight but she has been beaten by a great horse. We leave with our heads held high," said Gold.
Flintshire can give trainer Andre Fabre his eighth win in Europe’s most prestigious race, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp today (start: 19:30, UAE time) in one of the races most open fields for years.
Taghrooda, owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Crown Prince of Dubai, starts as favourite but as jockey Franki Dettori said last week, “you can name 10 horses that can win this year.”
Fabre, who already holds the record as the trainer with most wins in the race, last saddled the winner in 2006 with Rail Link, who was drawn in stall four the same one Flintshire drew.
Flintshire, whose owner Prince Khaled Abdullah also owned Rail Link, was an eyecatching second in the Prix Foy last time out, and with Fabre being a master at preparing horses for the Arc, and the ground set to be good, it suggests that everything has come right for him.
“He hasn’t won this season but he was second in the Coronation Cup beaten by perhaps the best horse in Europe, Cirrus des Aigles,” said Abdullah’s French racing manager Claude Beniada.
Japan provide three potential winners in the maximum field of 20, all of them Group One winners, in the shape of the Naosuke Sugai-trained five-year-old duo Gold Ship and Just A Way, and three-year-old filly Harp Star, trained by veteran Hiroyoshi Matsuda. All three have got decent draws but doubts remain over whether they can improve on Japan’s record of four runners-ups.
Gold Ship and Just A Way will have to defy their age, no five-year-old has won since Marienbard in 2002, while question marks exist over whether the latter will stay the one 1/2 mile (2400m) trip.
However, Just A Way’s jockey Yuichi Fukunaga is adamant that the horse he guided to a hugely impressive six 1/2 length victory in the Dubai Duty Free in Dubai in March is capable of ending Japan’s 47-year quest to win the Arc.
“Victory in the Arc is the dream and the goal of the Japanese people,” said the 37-year-old two-time champion Japanese jockey. “I waited a long time to have a ride that is good enough to race in the Arc and now I have struck lucky.”
English trainer John Gosden has also fallen short in the Arc but he arrives with perhaps his best chance yet in the shape of Taghrooda, winner of both the Epsom Oaks and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
She suffered her first and as yet only defeat at the hands of Tapestry last time out in the Yorkshire Oaks.
Gosden said: “She handles any ground around good – not very soft and certainly not like a road. She’s not over-raced and I think being a three-year-old filly is a big factor.”
Gosden will hope that Taghrooda performs as brilliantly as Treve did last year, as then a three-year-old she destroyed a high class field.
Treve has failed to win in her three starts this year.