Monday, October 8, 2012

Guest Post: Why Orfevre Deserved a Better Fate

Or, is a walk in the park the best way to train a Thoroughbred?

--Mark Cramer

You can rightfully ask why I, a horse race handicapper who knows nothing about training horses, can be so presumptuous as to pass judgment on a poor job of preparing Orfevre and several other good horses for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
   Well, I do know something about human training. I was so well-trained for the Arc that, after the race, finding my bicycle with a flat tire, and with a pump failing to help, I was able to walk it all the way home, crossing three cities. I had trained well for this eventuality.
   In fact, according to a study by the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, “Comparison of the horse and human X chromosome maps show remarkable conservation of gene order along the entire span of the chromosome…”
   So there! Now back to the training of Orfevre. In my earlier blogs and article, I had questioned the slow prep races of Orfevre (Prix Foy) and Saonois (Prix Niel) compared to the Prix Vermeille, won by Shareta. The Foy and Niel were like a walk in the park, going the first seven furlongs in 1:36 while the Vermeille went the same route, same track, same day, in 1:29. (The final 16th of the three preps had similar times.) I questioned whether the first two preps were enough to prepare a horse for the Arc. And this is one reason why I felt that Orfevre was not worth a win bet at the odds. (Though I did not pick the winner on top.)
   So let’s look back at the Arc finishers. Coming from the slow Foy, Orfevre was second and Meandre was 12th. Coming from the slow Niel, Saonois was 15th, not liking the soft going, and Bayrir and Kesampour, who had great credentials for the soft turf, finished 11th and 15th respectively.
   Now we come to the Vermeille, for fillies and mares, the real-race prep. Shareta could not handle the soft going and finished 9th after a bad start. But SolĂ©mia, third in the Vermeille, was the winner of the Arc at 41-1, and Yellow and Green, fourth in the Vermeille finished a good fifth at high odds.   
   About those two, I had written in TDN:
   “Two of the fillies who finished behind [Shareta] in the Prix Vermeille, Solemia (Poliglote) and the improving Yellow and Green (another Monsun) are rightfully entered, though big longshots. Either could surprise. Solemia will have Peslier aboard, a considerable asset.”
   Under normal circumstances I would have had nothing positive to say about those two fillies, except for the fact they ran so much faster in their Vermeille than Orfevre had in his Prix Niel walk in the park.
   Which brings us back to Orfevre and why I say he deserved better: the four other horses that ran in the slow preps, all of them classy horses, and two of them specialists in the soft going, finished 10th, 12th, 13th and 15th. Orfevre was the only horse that survived the Bhuddist method of training. Meanwhile, the fast prep produced the winner and the fifth place finisher of the Arc, with those two girls doing so much better than so many of the boys, as has often been the case in this race.
   I made it home walking my bike along the pretty Seine barge canal, crossing part of the Boulogne forest, Neuilly, Levallois and Clichy. I had some fast hiking and long-distance cycling as a training cushion. When I got home, I went back out for a stroll with my wife to share a whiff of the clean autumn air. As we strolled, I thought, “My God, this is the way Orfevre prepped for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, and he managed to finish second. What a great horse!”

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