CHAPARRAL IN DEAD HEAT

26 October 2003

High Chaparral and Falbrav were locked into a magnificent closing duel in the the Breeders’ Cup Turf, but just as Michael Kinane inched High Chaparral ahead, the American outsider Johar closed on the outside to force a photo which after 15 minutes produced the first dead heat in Breeders’ Cup history.

Falbrav was wonderful in defeat. From his outside draw he pulled a bit too hard for his own good just behind the two pacemakers but then launched a bold attack to take the lead off the final turn. Gallantly though he tried, his stamina was beginning to wane and the superb equine athlete that is High Chaparral coursed him down only for Johar to rush down on both right by the wire.

This followed an overdue triumph when Islington and Kieron Fallon at last laid the 20-year Breeders’ Cup jinx for British-trained runners in California by wining the Filly and Mare Turf from the Irish pair L’Ancresse and Yesterday.

A boxed-in third last year at Arlington, Islington got racing room on the inside off the final turn and Fallon’s upright power always had her too strong for the lower backed American style of Edgar Prado on L’Ancresse. She had been awash with sweat beforehand but the Michael Stoute team were confident and the filly repaid them in style.

Earlier Oasis Dream’s attempt to last out the mile failed as he and our 2,000 Guineas winner, Refuse To Bend, faded in the straight while the French filly, Six Perfections, sprinted through to land the prize under Jerry Bailey.

Pat Valenzuela came back from years out with drug problems to win the first at 40-1 and little Julie Krone returned from retirement and injury to become the first woman to win a Breeders’ Cup race on the favourite Halfbridled in the Juvenile Fillies. This victory confirmed what we already knew, that Krone, 40, is the greatest female rider in history.

Halfbridled, a big lop-eared filly, carries the blue and white colours of the Wertheimer family so long associated with Alec Head and his daughter, Criquette, in France. Back in England earlier in the day it had been Criquette’s turn to turn the history page, saddling American Post to become the first French-trained colt to win the Racing Post Trophy since Alec turned out Green Dancer to score back in 1974.

American Post, who was ridden by French ace Christophe Soumillon in the green and pink Abdulla colours also worn by Oasis Dream, won smoothly enough from Fantastic View and the O’Brien trained Magritte to earn himself a 7-1 quote as favourite for next year’s Derby.

He is small and compact, much more in the role of a speed horse than a stayer. But he is by the French Derby winner out of a half-sister to a St Leger second so on pedigree he should actually be better over that trip than yesterday’s mile which he was doubling up with France’s Grand Criterium over the same distance.

For the moment he is an admirable little colt. He was perfectly behaved down at the start, unlike in France, and settled calmly on Magritte’s quarters as the Irish runner made the running. Two furlongs out Soumillon flattened down on his colt’s neck and American Post quickened two lengths clear. He hung a little to the right and held his head a fraction high for the purist. But he is already a colt of rare ability trained by a master of the profession.

He could be the future, but he has a long climb to match the horse who won the Racing Post trophy two years ago – High Chaparral.

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