Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Few Lessons from the Arc

by Mark Cramer
By now, everyone knows that Trêve (Fr)(Motivator {GB}) has scored an unprecedented repeat victory in the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
But what happened in the three weeks between Trêve’s disappointing fourth in the Prix Vermeille and the convincing win in the Arc?

Alec and Criquette Head at the post race press conference
If you check the sanitized press release from France Galop, it would appear that owner Sheikh Joann Bin Hamad Al Thani knew in his heart that Trêve would be able to do it again. But Madame Christiane Head-Maarek told the press conference audience that “It was not easy to tell Sheikh Al Thani to not rule Trêve out of the Arc. In fact, she asked him to “just have faith in me”.
She was under pressure from others as well. Following the Vermeille, rider Thierry Jarnet said to the trainer, “Maybe you should retire her.”
To take what would seem to be such an extraordinary risk, Madame Head would need someone to encourage her. Her father and breeder of Trêve Alec Head never stopped believing in both the filly and his daughter. “I was certain she was going to win,” he said. “I’m crazy with joy for my daughter Criquette.”
One of the thousands of Japanese fans takes a picture
In the winners’ circle, Madame Head shed profuse tears of joy. She later told us that this victory was even sweeter than last year’s Arc. There was no secret that Trêve suffered from foot and back ailments. “After all the problems I went through with her, this was my best day ever,” she affirmed.
If a persistent and loving hands-on training led to this victory in the Arc, the story of the second half of the Arc exacta also involves perhaps the most underrated trainer skill of all: patience. As I hadmentioned in my previous article, “If the track is still dry, Flintshire becomes an in-the-money longshot inclusion.”
Flintshire (GB)(Dansili {GB}), trained by André Fabre, had been hounded by bad weather. As we noted, all of his poor performances occurred on soft or heavy tracks. But if you edited out those occasions, you ended up with a near perfect horse.
Mr. Fabre cannot control the weather, so he simply had to wait, scratching the horse on occasions when the track would come up too wet or grudgingly running him. Here in France we try to read the mind of Mr. Fabre, because unlike Madame Head, he does not talk to the press. But the word was out that Flintshire much preferred a firm surface. Still, he went off at 20/1. Even though Madame Head announced before the race that Trêve was much better now, her odds were up to 14/1.
It is highly unlikely that Trêve will come to the Breeders’ Cup. Sheikh Al Thani told Madame Head that he’d be “scared that something could happen to her”, and he’s said that Trêve would be retired.
On the other hand, Lord Teddy Grimthorpe, the representative of owner Prince Khaled Abdullah, Flintshire’s owner, announced that “He could now run in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.”
I’m not sure I can handle next year’s Arc. Once again, I had to observe the disappointed faces of the legion of Japanese race lovers when two of the three Japanese stars made their gallant moves too late.
Both  Harp Star (Jpn)(Deep Impact {Jpn}), sixth, and Just a Way (Jpn) (Heart’s Cry {Jpn}), eighth, finished within a length of fourth place.

From Criquette Head and indirectly from André Fabre I learned a few lessons about patience and persistence. From the Japanese racing fans the lesson is to never give up. They will be back.

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