Mike Cattermole: Highs and lows

Top racing broadcaster Mike Cattermole reflects on a troubling week in the world of racing and looks ahead to the weekend's action at Cheltenham.

Sportinglife.com columnist Mike Cattermole

Baffert rules again at Breeders' Cup

It doesn't get much better than Arrogate and California Chrome does it? What a superb race they produced – one of the most memorable Breeders Cup Classics, and there have been a few!

So, the clock didn't lie at Saratoga in the Travers, Arrogate confirmed he is indeed outstanding and probably the best in the world right now.

Perhaps, for the first time in his life, he really had to battle at Santa Anita – and didn't he keep on battling. I thought he was well on top at the line, but he did have a hard race, of course he did. It will be fascinating to see how it will it affect him going forward. He could progress again, or he may not.

California Chrome gave his all, lost little in defeat and was giving the younger horse 4lb, which will probably get the weight-for-age debaters going at it again.

While it was a great spectacle, which will be rightly celebrated in US racing folklore, Mike Smith's use of the whip – not for the first time – was not easy on the eye as he hit Arrogate repeatedly on the saddle-cloth, at the bottom of the rib cage. American jockeys are prone to doing this – a lot. It smacks of laziness and looks horrible. Take a look at Frankie Dettori on Queen's Trust – that's how to do it. And what a ride that was!

Meanwhile, just how good is Bob Baffert's luck? Or, just how good is Bob Baffert? Just a year on after the exploits of the great American Pharaoh, the silver-haired legend has another tip-top colt in his barn. Even Baffert must be amazed at the progress that Arrogate has made in recent months, given he only made his debut at humble Los Alamitos back in April.

Arrogate didn't race at two, whereas the Pharaoh was a dual Grade One winner as a juvenile. Arrogate seems to have surprised everyone.

I wonder if connections will be tempted by this new "Pegasus World Cup" at Gulfstream in just over two months' time? He is not an intended runner at the moment and if the race takes place without him on January 28, it would render the whole thing rather hollow.

All of the 12 berths were soon snapped up for $1m each by the extremely wealthy, and I just feel that Juddmonte will not be getting involved in a bidding war to secure a place.

Maybe they will sit this one out and wait for another day before taking California Chrome on again, most probably in Dubai in March. By that time, Sheikh Mohammed might well have made his own World Cup even more valuable than the Pegasus. Just watch this space.

Freddie Tylicki

I was just leaving a function for World Horse Welfare last Friday when I checked my emails to find the shocking news about Freddie Tylicki.

Having spent the evening among good people who cared hugely about the plight of abandoned and neglected horses across the globe, this brought matters into a sharp perspective.

I think we all knew, deep down, that the lack of good news emerging about Freddie was extremely worrying but, even so, to get it confirmed was a hammer blow to all of us. What it must be like for him, I just can't imagine.

Apart from the odd "hello" I have not had much to do with Freddie but he has always struck me as one of the good guys and I was there at Chantilly, only a month ago, to see the joy on his face when he returned to the winner's enclosure on Speedy Boarding after the Prix de l'Opera. That, very sadly, will be a mere side story to his life now.

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The fighting fund started by ATR colleague Matt Chapman – well done Matt – has been an amazing success, even by the standards of our all-caring extended racing family. Freddie will not be lacking for sympathy and support either now or for the rest of his life, from the IJF in particular, and let's hope that that is a small comfort.

But inevitably there will be times when he will be on his own and you can't help worrying about him. As he wakes in the morning, especially over the next few months, it will take a second or two and then he will remember. He has such a tough road ahead.

I wish him all the very best.

Vautour a huge loss

A three-time Cheltenham Festival winner and not yet eight years old, Vautour, who lost his life after a freak accident in a field, is now guaranteed to go down as a jumping legend.

In spite of his incredible achievements, it will always be a case of what might have been. How many more Festivals would he have taken by storm? One? Two? Three even? Could he have won the Gold Cup? Maybe. A King George? Probably.

He was a brilliant horse, no question. I think his best performance was in the JLT Novices' Chase in 2015 when he jumped like no novice I have seen around Cheltenham. Fence to fence, he was stag-like, a tour de force, as he thumped Apache Stronghold and Valseur Lido, both top class, by 15 lengths. He was in a class of his own that day.

Already, Valseur Lido is embellishing the legend by winning so well at Down Royal last weekend.

Vautour's loss is a huge blow to all of us jumping fans and especially to Willie Mullins and Rich Ricci. It was, however, typical of Ricci to put it into the correct perspective when he guested on At The Races on Monday.

Acknowledging what had happened to the likes of JT McNamara, Robbie McNamara and Freddie Tylicki, he said: "It's not great, it's sad, but if you put it in that kind of context, God, it's nothing."

Newcastle can be great again

I was up at Gosforth Park this week for the first time since the Tapeta track was laid down at a cost of £12m just six months ago. You would have thought it had been there an awful lot longer as it has been blended in very skilfully into the parkland. An eyesore it most certainly isn't.

Both trainers and jockeys have been delighted with how the track has been riding. It is roomy, flat and has claims to being the fairest AW course out there. The fact that it has the longest straight of all of the British all-weather courses also gives it some versatility.

It doesn't take much to imagine the AW Finals Championships being held there one day. That's once they have improved the facilities for the racegoer, however.

The old stands there are desperately in need of refurbishment or replacing. They did a job in their time but time has long since moved on. One day the racecourse scenes from "Get Carter" (made in 1971) will look out of date.

That's because the good news is that ARC is developing plans for racegoer facilities but, as I understand it, have yet to put anything formally to the local council. Planning permission will be required and we may have to wait a year or two before we hear about what should be some exciting news on that front.

The best days of Gosforth Park as a racing centre are not in the past and may well be not too far into the future. Let's hope so.

Let's focus on the jumpers!

The Melbourne Cup and the Breeders' Cup have been and gone and surely, at long last, we can say cheerio to the Flat brigade.

This weekend's Open Meeting at Cheltenham is brilliant, one of my favourites, and has almost become an Autumn NH Festival over the years. So many exciting horses to look forward to, as the season really starts to take shape.

With all sorts of publications out there to herald the new season, there is a whole load of reading to be done at this time of the year and it can be overwhelming, although probably well worth it.

Given that, may I take this chance to recommend "The Final Flight" which has been written by Grant Copson and Lee Lewis, two young fans of the NH game whose enthusiasm knows no bounds.

There's over 100 pages of incisive essays from the lads, who are not short of opinion, and also illuminating interviews with top jockeys Richard Johnson, Tom Scudamore, Lizzie Kelly and Irish point-to-point legend Derek O'Connor about the horses they are most looking forward to seeing.

With plenty of other features included, the £9.99 asking price is good value. It is available from The Final Flight Publications or copies can be ordered through Twitter on @thefinalflight1.

For any feedback on this week's column, Mike Cattermole can be contacted on Twitter on @catters61

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