Tuesday, September 16, 2008
$269.20 $54.40 $18.20: That’s Arcangues
(The second of three columns looking back at the Breeders' Cups at Santa Anita)
Los Angeles, September 16, 2008--Tom Durkin had trouble with his name. We all did, including Jerry Bailey, the jockey who rode him. But it was Durkin who alertly picked up the implausible Breeders' Cup Classic winner, coming from back in the pack in the 1993 running at Santa Anita. As the 13-horse field homed in on the far turn, Durkin said: "Arcangues. . . is beginning to find his best stride."
As French as a crepe suzette, the Gallic-bred, -raced, -owned and -trained 5-year-old made a mishmash out of the North American Horse of the Year award. Bertrando couldn't win it, not after he failed to stay at a mile and a quarter. Sky Beauty couldn't win it, not after her fifth-place finish, well back of Hollywood Wildcat, in the Distaff. Dehere, bleeding badly, eliminated himself with an eighth-place finish at 7-10 in the Juvenile. That left the two Breeders' Cup winners on grass, Kotashaan in the Turf and Lure for the second straight year in the Mile, as the only viable candidates. A couple of months later, Kotashaan--wouldn't you know it, another French-bred--outpolled Lure by 15 votes, out of the 266 that were cast.
After Arcangues' win at 133-1, which is still the Breeders' Cup record for a payoff, public handicappers asked themselves what they had missed. Underestimating Andre Fabre, the perennial leading trainer in France, might have been one thing. Fabre never looks at the tote board when he sends a horse into a race. He won the Arc de Triomphe one year with Trempolino, at 20-1. In 1988, when the Arlington Million was run at Woodbine, Fabre won it with Mill Native, who was a 42-1 shot.
Bailey was only 1 for 20 with his Breeders' Cup mounts, but that win had come in the Classic, with Black Tie Affair two years before. Before going to Bailey, Fabre had broached Mike Smith about the mount on Arcangues, but Smith would ride Devil His Due, an eighth-place finisher at a mere 20-1.
Arcangues (are-KONG), named after a village in southwest France, was a son of Sagace, an Arc de Triomphe winner. Still, he had won only four of 15 starts, and the Classic would be his first race on dirt. The undulating grass courses in France had not been kind to the horse's chronic sore back. Looking back, 133-1 was an overlay. In a field that was hardly formidable as Classics go, Arcangues probably should have been about 50-1. At any price, the only way to have bet him was through the Holy Ghost system, a ridiculous ploy. After Lure and Kotashaan, Arcangues became the third No. 11 to win. Bob Levy, then the chairman of Atlantic City Race Course, hit a $120 bet on the Classic exacta by mistake. He meant to box three horses in the Turf, the race before, but was given the Classic. He couldn't get back to the windows in time to exchange the ticket. So he had Arcangues, not Kotashaan, on top, and collected $10,154.
Bailey never rode Arcangues again. Owner-breeder Daniel Wildenstein sent the horse to a California trainer, Richard Mandella, after the Breeders' Cup, and Arcangues won only one more race, the John Henry Handicap at Hollywood Park. Arcangues was retired from the track in the summer of 1994, after finishing fifth in the Hollywood Gold Cup in his last race.
It was Mandella who dominated in the 1993 Breeders' Cup. Besides saddling Kotashaan and Phone Chatter, who won the Juvenile Fillies, he also won two stakes on the undercard. Those feats would shrink in the next and most recent Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita, in 2003, when Mandella would saddle four Breeders' Cup winners, including Pleasantly Perfect in the Classic.
Lure, whose winning Breeders' Cup prep came on a day when his trainer, Shug McGaughey, sent out four other stakes winners on a card at Belmont Park, duplicated Miesque's back-to-back wins in the Mile in 1987-88. Lure joined Miesque and Bayakoa as the only two-time Breeders' Cup winners.
Other winners in the 10th Breeders' Cup were Brocco in the Juvenile and Cardmania in the Sprint. It was a humbling day for the East Coast shippers; Lure was their only winner. But for him and the galivanting Arcangues, the other five winners were California-based horses. Eddie Delahoussaye dropped his whip 70 yards before the wire and still won with Hollywood Wildcat. Delahoussaye and his whip were inseparable when he opened the card with a winning ride on Cardmania, the first 7-year-old to win a Breeders' Cup race. Cardmania's career wasn't close to being over. He came back in 1994 to finish third in the Sprint, and ran seven more times after that, all the way into 1995. No Breeders' Cup winner ever ran more than Cardmania, who made 77 starts. The next horse on that list is so far back that he's not even worth mentioning, but I will anyway. It's Great Communicator, with 56 starts.