Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe Review: Torquator Tasso backed at 999/1 ante-post

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Torquator Tass winning at Longchamp
Torquator Tass wins the Arc on Sunday

Sports journalist Barry McEneaney backed the shock winner of Sunday's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at maximum odds ante-post, the second time he's landed a 999/1 Arc bet on the Exchange. Here he dissects a famous victory...

"There were major question marks over his level of natural ability in such exalted company, with trainer Marcel Weiss indicating that a sixth or seventh-place finish would be regarded as a successful outcome."

France Galop's tracking system revealed that Torquator Tasso covered more ground than any of his rivals in winning the 100th renewal of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on Sunday.

The official winning distance may have been just three-quarters of a length, but Torquator Tasso won a shade cosily in the end, with the close-up replay capturing the giant smile that swept across Rene Piechulek's face even before the pair hit the line. Those who backed him at 1000.0 antepost on the Exchange also had cause for celebration.

That smile gave way to a look of total incredulity just after the winning post, with Piechulek admitting immediately post-race that it would take some time for the magnitude of the victory to sink in.

Riding wider than your rivals in an Arc run on good ground might often prove a poor strategy, given that the shortest way from A (the stalls) to B (the finish line) is in a straight line - or in this case, tight to the inner rail.

Testing going muddies the waters. Was it softer down by the rail? Did racing wide and ceding ground actually confer an advantage on Torquator Tasso? We can't say for certain, and even if we could, we couldn't quantify the advantage and assign a weight or number to it.

We can be more certain on time. The GPS/GNSS sensors that the runners carried also confirmed that the German raider clocked the fastest final furlong in the race at 12.44 seconds.

Adam Kirby Adayar Derby win 1280 x 904.jpg

Adayar (pictured above) took them along at steady enough fractions in the conditions, which resulted in comparatively quick closing sectionals times. The first three home, and Bubble Gift back in eighth, each clocked 37 seconds or under for the final three furlongs. In the race which followed directly afterwards, the Prix de l'Opera, only two runners managed that feat, even though the trip was two furlongs shorter.

Sealiway, who finished fifth, and Bubble Gift recorded the joint-fastest time for the sectional from 600m-400m marker at 12.14 seconds.

The penultimate furlong at Longchamp almost always produces the fastest furlong sectional. The Arc was no different, with Tarnawa covering the distance in a sizzling 11.76 seconds. That's a sensational time on heavy going. The winner was only joint-fourth fastest in this part of the race before his stamina kicked in over the final furlong.

Torquator Tasso, Hurricane Lane, Adayar, Sealiway, Snowfall, Bubble Gift and Baby Rider all travelled keenly in the early stages to some degree. That was as a result of the lack of early pace in the race. In the case of Baby Rider and Sealiway, it was also likely due to both being 10-furlong horses, while freshness was clearly an issue with the latter on his first start in 119 days.

Never write off the Germans

The market obviously didn't heed the truism about never writing off the Germans. Torquator Tasso was a 71.5/1 shot on the local Pari Mutuel, while he returned an 80/1 SP on the UK and Ireland industry market. The Betfair SP predictably dwarfed those prices, with Gestut Auenquelle's winner a 140.25 shot on the Exchange. Only Bubble Gift at 181.69 and Baby Rider at 466.66 returned bigger prices on the site.

If Torquator Tasso looked like one who would outrun his odds, there were still major question marks over his level of natural ability in such exalted company, with trainer Marcel Weiss indicating that a sixth or seventh-place finish would be regarded as a successful outcome.

However, there's nothing to suggest that the result was a fluke or that he wasn't the best horse on the day.

How did so much improvement come about?

Being the "best horse on the day" partly explains it. An entire season has been structured for Torquator Tasso to run the race of his life on the first Sunday in October in the Bois de Boulogne.

He obviously was incredibly unfit when sixth of seven on his late seasonal reappearance in a Group Two at Mulheim in June. That's not exactly Arc-winning form. Progress in the intervening months has been steady, with all eyes firmly fixed on Longchamp.

Torquator Tasso never raced as a juvenile, with his three-year-old debut coming over just shy of 10 furlongs. The late maturing son of Alderflug has plenty of stamina on both sides of his pedigree. His optimum trip was always likely to be in a 12-14 furlong range.

However, he's no clearly no plodder, given the pace scenario that played out in the Arc. The ground was likely key to his victory as it blunted the finishing speed of some of his rivals, most notably Tarnawa.

Shades of 2012 in 2021

There are a number of striking parallels between this year's race and the 2012 renewal, which was won by Solemia - another 1000.0 antepost winner.

Both races were run on ground officially described as "heavy", but race times backed up the visual impression that the terrain on Sunday wasn't as testing as it had been nine years earlier, when the contest took place on a quagmire.

Over £20,000 was matched at 1.011/100 when Orfevre stormed to the front a furlong and a half out, but the swamp-like conditions by the rail put paid to Japan's quest to win the Arc for the first time.

Torquator Tasso and Solemia clocked almost identical times, although they were achieved in a different manner. They didn't hang about in the 2012 contest, whereas the most recent edition was something of a speed test.

In both cases, the race fell to an outsider who looked short of class but who was a stout stayer, with the runner-up a fancied adversary who boasted a potent turn of foot.

Solemia was laden with even more stamina than Torquator Tasso. Her late sire, Poliglote, is best remembered for his stars of the winter game, including Politologue, Don Poli, Top Notch, Sire Du Berlais, Hinterland and Wonderful Charm.

Solemia wins Arc 2012.jpg

Solemia required soft ground and a strong pace to produce her best, while the classier Torquator Tasso demonstratively only required one of those scenarios to deliver an elite performance.

Tarnawa impresses in defeat

Christophe Soumillon, who did the steering on Orfevre in 2012, finished second again in the big race, but his ride on Tarnawa was magnificent.

The ground was clearly against her over this trip, hence the market drift, but the tempo of the race negated that slightly.

Soumillon was just beaten to the punch by James Doyle on Hurricane Lane (pictured below) when a gap appeared between Mojo Star and Alenquer as they approached the cutaway. It was a split-second opportunity, and one so brief that the Belgian rider should avoid criticism for missing out on it. What matters is that he took decisive action, angling his mount inside and finding a clear path to the line.

Tarnawa deserves to be a very short price for the defence of her Breeders' Cup Turf crown, where she will experience far more favourable conditions. However, it should be borne in mind that she did have a hard race here.

"Good horses go on any ground," they say. Only that's never been true. "Go" is a subjective word in this context, but almost all horses will have a going preference that enables an optimal performance.

In a more strongly run race, Torquator Tasso would likely have been a more authoritative winner, given his copper-bottomed stamina. On good to soft or better, Tarnawa's push-button acceleration would have probably seen her score narrowly - due to the customary hold-up tactics deployed with her - but decisively.

Hurricane lane york.jpg

While the winner and the runner-up enjoyed the perfect campaigns to peak on Arc day, the same can't be said for race favourite Hurricane Lane. It's difficult not to conclude that his St Leger win might have just compromised his chances slightly. His four-year-old campaign will likely see him prep in the Prix Foy, which is always a less arduous affair.

Huge effort from Sealiway

Two other runners stand out from a sectional standpoint.

Nothing was travelling as well as Sealiway entering the home straight, with the eye drawn to a motionless Franck Blondel perched on the son of Galiway.

Cedric Rossi's colt posted the fastest sectional from the 1000m-800m marker, and again for the 800m-600m phase of the race. As highlighted earlier, he was joint-fastest for the sectional from the 600m-400m point. However, those exertions took their toll on his performance in the final two furlongs.

It was still a huge effort after a lengthy break for a horse not bred to get this trip. Connections could try the distance again over a tight track, with the Breeders' Cup Turf a potential target. However, it's fairly obvious that Sealiway is a 10-furlong horse, and one capable of competing in all the top races over that distance.

The standard of race riding matched the calibre of the contest, with one notable exception.

Gerald Mosse's 'effort' - if you can call it that - on Bubble Gift was a deplorable one, despite the horse outrunning his position in the market.

After partnering Mikel Delzangles' charge on six of his eight career starts, it appears that Mosse doesn't understand his mount's strengths and weaknesses. If he does, that's a far more damning indictment.

Bubble Gift may have won three of his seven starts before the Arc, but the clock and the subsequent form lines reveal those contests to have been poor affairs.

However, the pace bias scenarios he had encountered and, in particular his pedigree, offered encouragement that he could leave that form behind him.

Bubble Gift will benefit from better ride

Bubble Gift was held up off a slow pace in both the Grand Prix de Paris and the Prix Niel. His closing sectionals in the former didn't match those of either Hurricane Lane or Alenquer, and he covered less ground. But he's been ridden as a non-stayer, even though that is likely to prove his forte.

His half-sister Bubble Smart has developed into a smart stayer since upped in trip, finishing third in Saturday's Prix du Cadran for the same connections. Her sire is Intello. Bubble Gift is by Nathaniel, who is a stronger stamina influence.

The Arc distance has to be regarded as his absolute minimum trip, even though he's yet to race beyond it.

Bubble Gift actually held an entry in the Prix Chaudenay on Saturday, a staying contest over 15 furlongs. His trainer and/or owner are obviously aware of his attributes, even if Mosse is still in the dark.

Bubble Gift ran a remarkable race on reflection. Anchored at the back of the field, he predictably hit a flat spot when the dash for home began turning into the straight. But his response was surprising.

His time for the 1000m-800m section was second only to the speedy Sealiway, he shared the fastest time with that rival for the 600m-400m part of the contest, only Tarnawa and Hurricane Lane ran faster in the penultimate furlong, while he was the fourth fastest in the final furlong behind the first three finishers.

Bubble Gift managed to quicken in a race that wasn't run to suit. He achieved that despite Mosse. He possibly could have finished fourth with a more judicious ride. Where would he have finished in a strongly run contest?

If horses aren't machines, neither are jockeys. Most of the lambasting they receive from punters is unfair. Race riding in Europe is not easy. In the US, jockeys have the benefit of racing around almost identikit tracks.

Courses in Europe are so idiosyncratic that setting perfect fractions is almost impossible, it's normally a case of who is getting it least wrong.

However, when a jockey keeps giving the same horse bad rides over the same course and distance, that warrants criticism.

Mosse is a veteran of the weighing room, one who has spun around Longchamp thousands of times in his near 40-year career.

Bubble Gift has his quirks, hence the hold-up tactics. But a jockey shouldn't willingly consent to be a hostage to fortune, hoping for a pace scenario which can never be guaranteed. That's too fatalistic, particularly when you're riding in Europe's most prestigious Flat race.

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