Mike Cattermole: Brilliant O’Brien
Mike Cattermole reflects on the Arc, an error in the commentary box and more in this week's column.
Found winning the Arc at Chantilly
Chantilly's very special Arc
Arc Day is one of my favourites. First, it is a fantastic race, fully deserving of the mantle of the richest and most important race in Europe.
It usually takes place on a racecourse in the middle of the Bois De Boulogne, which at that time of the year is magical place with the trees just starting to turn to various shades of bronze, yellow and red. And it is in Paris, one of the world's most atmospheric and charismatic cities. What isn't there to like?
Leaving Longchamp for the first time since the war and being staged – again for the first time – at enchanting Chantilly last Sunday was a magical interlude to the race's 95-year history and it will always be remembered now that the brilliant Aidan O'Brien has trained the first three in the race.
There have been some great trainers who have shone out in the history of our wonderful sport but surely Aidan, only 47 next week by the way, is now at least the equal of Vincent, his namesake, as being regarded as the greatest of all time. What is there left for him to do? Yes, the Melbourne Cup remains an unconquered peak but you just feel it will be a matter of if, not when, he adds that to his incredible portfolio.
Sure, unlike Vincent, he didn't train a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner but he can throw three Champion Hurdles into the mix!
Aidan's skill at getting his horses to peak at just the right time is uncanny. Found, Highland Reel and Order Of St George are all very different animals. One is the complete professional, another a worrier and free sweater but a trier and the other has a quirky personality but is supremely talented.
They were all ready to run the races of their lives on Sunday and the fact that all of them are by Galileo, Coolmore's undisputed world champion sire, was the icing on the cake for the team.
It doesn't seem possible but Aidan's season just gets better and better. It is incredible what he has won in 2016 with the Arc being his second Group One in France after the Poulains, courtesy of The Gurkha.
He has picked up five Group Ones in Ireland (although the Irish Oaks was the only Classic), one in the US and ten in Britain, including the 1,000 Guineas, Oaks, Gold Cup, King George and Sussex Stakes. That makes 18. Simply staggering.
Such has been the depth to his team of tip-top thoroughbreds, trying to manage who runs where must have been hard enough. For example, of his phenomenal team of fillies, Found was always Arc-bound when Minding or Seventh Heaven could easily have lined up at Chantilly.
Found is clearly an extraordinary filly. So talented, willing and tough. Remember a year ago after that hapless run in the Arc, she turned up a couple of weeks later and was a bit too much to do by Ryan Moore to finish second in the Champion Stakes. She had a hard race there, make no mistake, but still came back a fortnight later to beat Golden Horn at Keeneland.
Sunday's performance was a career best and she ain't finished yet, apparently, with both the Champion Stakes and Breeders' Cup Turf being considered again.
She is a three-time Group One winner now but has been second in nine of them and contested 14 at the highest level. I say all this as her toughness is beginning to remind me of Triptych, France's globetrotting wondermare of the 1980s (although she was trained in Ireland for a period) and like Found, another big, powerful mare.
However, even Found has a bit to go to match her durability. The Arc was Found's 19th start but Triptych ran 41 times, winning nine Group One's and was placed in 18 others. Now that is tough.
You do wonder whether "the lads" will ask Found to race on as a five-year-old as Triptych did. Let's see what she does next but I hope she misses a rematch with Almanzor at Ascot and waits for Santa Anita.
Almanzor – did he miss his chance or not?
You do wonder whether Jean-Claude Rouget and his team must be regretting missing out on the Arc with Almanzor. They wouldn't be human if they weren't thinking about 'what if?"
As they watched Found blitzing them for finishing speed on Sunday, they knew that that same filly had been given a start by Almanzor in the Irish Champion Stakes before finding exceptional acceleration to beat her. Given that the brilliant stablemate La Cressonniere was scratched quite late on, you'd think Almanzor really should have been drafted in.
However, I reckon Rouget was probably being very shrewd here. All of the races run on the round course on Sunday were dominated by those who raced handily and stayed on the inside. Those that challenged wide from off the pace, couldn't get into it.
Even Limato, another celebrated hold-up horse, was not too far off the speed in the Foret (he was given a great ride by Harry Bentley). Almanzor's strength, which is that incredible turn of foot, just might have been his undoing if he had been too far back and forced to come wide. I suspect Rouget may well have appreciated this. He is not champion trainer out there for nothing.
Limato, meanwhile, delighted me with his performance and I hope that if he does go to the Breeders' Cup, then it is in the Mile, which will suit him more than the Sprint. Tepin v Limato? Bring it on!
Twit on Twitter
This week I had a reality check with social media…
There was a close finish to the last race at Ascot on Saturday, when Shamshon got up to beat Dutch Masterpiece in the dying strides.
I called it as if Dutch Masterpiece had won but as soon as they had gone past the post, I feared the worst and when judge Paul Champion announced the result of the photo, I immediately tweeted my apologies.
Cue the Twitter floodgates opening – not much to "like" in there, I can tell you! Some guy, obviously keen to stick the boot in, even enjoyed reminding me about some cock-up I had made nine years ago.
The thing is, in the climax to the call, I didn't need to say anything other than it was close between the two of them. Why I wanted to look clever – or in this case stupid – rather than be safe, is the choice that commentators have to make on a regular basis and maybe ego, fatigue or laziness can affect which way you go.
I had called a very tight finish correctly on Friday when Argus beat Fireglow but, again, I didn't need to and just got away with it that time.
But my error obviously angered a lot of people and I felt for those that had backed Dutch Masterpiece, in particular. However, I wasn't responsible for calling the result. No commentator is – that's the job of the judge.
I have taken the criticism on the chin, and as a 54-year-old bloke who has been around a bit, I can accept all that. However, all of this served as a reminder of what a cruel and sobering environment social media can be.
The upcoming generations will have their entire professional, personal and social blunders put out for everyone to critique. That is quite a bit of pressure and stress for young people who are just settling in to life. No wonder parents everywhere are worried sick about the effect it can have on their children when things start to get personal.
Meanwhile, I promise to try and do better next time!
Mick Channon Book
The strap line of Mick Channon Jnr's recently published book, "How's your Dad?" is "embracing failure in the shadow of success" which gives you an idea of what it must be like to be the son of a sporting hero – and a sporting hero on two counts!
Both Mick Channons, senior and junior, are great company and if ever the younger Mick has found his vocation it is in the writing of this book. He is a natural storyteller. It is a genuine page-turner and extremely funny. Self-deprecating to the core, Jnr is also seeringly honest about everything.
His observations about his famous father and his idiosyncrasies are acute and so heartfelt.
It has been shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year and I don't care what else it is up against, this is a special book and I hope it wins.
It is published by Racing Post Books and costs £20.
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