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Ungentlemanly?

Spirit One’s victory in the Arlington Million is being somewhat overshadowed in the European press by the manner of Archipenko’s defeat. The Guardian quotes trainer Mike de Kock as referring to Johnny Murtagh’s ride on 3rd-place finisher Mount Nelson as:

“…the most ungentlemanly piece of riding I have seen in a long time”

The Independent, meanwhile, sees the result as coming out of Archipenko’s backstory as as Coolmore also-ran (before his switch of ownership and trainer):

Regardless, De Kock strongly implied that he felt Murtagh’s priority had been to stop Archipenko. “He rode his horse to keep him in,” he said. “It’s different if you still have a chance, but he was beaten and still didn’t let Kevin out. There was no need to do that. That is the most ungentlemanly piece of riding I have seen in a long time. I know it’s not a game for gentlemen out there, but I’d say that was a pretty ordinary piece of sportsmanship. I know he’s King Johnny at the moment, but I’m a bit disappointed with what I saw.”

Shea insisted that he would have won if Murtagh had given him a break. “I had so much horse I should have never lost,” he said. “Johnny had me trapped the whole way round, and when it was time to go I begged him to let me go – and he wouldn’t. If he’d had half a chance to win the race, I would have said: ‘Fine’.”

Johnny Murtagh responded to the claims:

Murtagh’s explanation: “I secured a pocket on the rail [running second] and I was where I wanted to be. At the half-mile pole, I thought we were going to get there. We just couldn’t get there.”

Mount Nelson certainly never seemed disadvantaged as a result of any tactics employed during the race (he was still very close for third), and we can all point to more egregious examples, so it sounds more like grumbling than anything else.

Archipenko
isn’t the only former Ballydoyle horse who was running at Arlington over the weekend – the same article notes that Secretariat runner-up Plan was purchased by IEAH and is off to Rick Dutrow’s barn.

Speaking of the Secretariat, Winchester’s victory seemed to demonstrate just how far ahead the European turf 3-year-olds are at this point versus American stars like Tizdejavu (especially given where Winchester sits in the European firmament right now — which is to say not terribly high); one wonders if he’ll stay Stateside as well, since Lasix seems to agree with him. There is also the possibility that Tizdejavu just had a bad day or didn’t like the track, given his lack of response to urging from Garrett Gomez, but if we take the result at face value, there’s still a considerable talent gap.

It was encouraging to hear that Mauralakana’s win in the Beverly D will add a few more months to her racing career; although the French-bred mare was already highly accomplished, with graded-stakes wins in France and the US, she seems to be finding her best now at age 5:

“Some horses do get better from 4 to 5 (years of age), the same as they do from 3 to 4,” Clement said after Mauralakana’s fourth straight victory and her fifth in six starts this year.

It seems her move to a stud farm in Australia will now be delayed until after the Breeders’ Cup, so her victory also means we should continue to see exciting races in what is an increasingly deep division.

But back to the boys for a moment; it’s a shame that Einstein’s stumble at the start of the Million essentially took him out of the race, but I look forward to him taking on another field of this quality with better racing luck. But for now, the lesson seems to be to bet the Euros when they pay a visit (indeed, only Curlin and Big Brown even merit a mention in Timeform’s top 20); if only any resulting winnings could be paid out in Euros!

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