Talking Horses: Alpinista’s Arc success gives arm racing a boost in the arm.

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By Creative Media News

Alpinista, the winner, may struggle to crack the top 10 when the international handicappers’ annual ratings are released in January. Baaeed was back in Newmarket, Christophe Soumillon tried his best to destroy the buildup, and Soumillon did his best to sabotage the hype. However, many racing fans will fondly remember the 2022 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe even after a number of those to follow have begun to blend in their minds.

Even within the living memory of older generations of racegoers and bettors, there was a time when a 50-horse yard like Sir Mark Prescott’s Heath House, with the backing of a wealthy and determined owner-breeder like Kirsten Rausing, could fight for the trainers’ championship if the stars aligned.

Talking horses: alpinista's arc success gives arm racing a boost in the arm.
Talking horses: alpinista's arc success gives arm racing a boost in the arm.

Since the 1970s, the massive injection of royal wealth into British racing has dramatically altered the sport. In his 54 years at the helm of Newmarket’s oldest and most historic stable, Prescott has witnessed the number of strings increase to 100, then 150, and in some cases 200 or more. The city has become a global powerhouse in a globalized sport, but it is a location where size typically counts most.

Alpinista’s half-length victory at Longchamp demonstrated that traditional ideals can occasionally still prevail. The five-year-old mare, whose dam and grand-dam were also trained at Heath House, flourished due to the care and attention to detail of a trainer who resolutely refused to construct more boxes.

Her jockey was also an integral part of the plot. Luke Morris is only the third rider stabled at Heath House since 1974, following George Duffield and Seb Sanders. Due to his relentless desire for hard labor, his name is as well-known among devoted bettors as any in the game. Since 2010, Morris has had at least 1,000 mounts each year and more than 1,500 in five of the past 12 campaigns.

Arc win a shot
2gcecnj berlin, germany. 08th aug, 2021. Winning horse alpinista and jockey luke morris stand on the track after the 131st longines grand prix of berlin. Credit: gerald matzka/dpa/alamy live news

Morris had four rides at Wolverhampton on Saturday evening before departing for France on Sunday morning, including a 100-1 shot that finished a ninth of ten and had six rides scheduled at the same track on Monday, with all but one likely to start at odds of double digits. He was making his debut in the Arc on Sunday, on a track that requires familiarity, but he rode Alpinista to a flawless run, validating the bettors’ faith in her as the favorite.

He also relegated Soumillon, riding Vadeni, to second place, likely much to the relief of France Galop’s top executives as he rode on Saturday and Sunday despite knocking Rossa Ryan out of the saddle during the race at Saint-Cloud on Friday.

In other words, Alpinista’s victory was the ideal outcome for everyone involved, and given the hiccups with the new Longchamp grandstand, Covid-19’s misfortunes, and then an 80-1 winner that left spectators more confused than ecstatic, it was just what Europe’s finest race needed.

Before he was officially ruled out in mid-September, many acres of newsprint and terabytes of bandwidth were devoted to whether Baaeed, the unbeaten International Stakes victor, would – or should – race in the Arc.

The horse trained by William Haggas will undoubtedly finish an undefeated career with a victory lap in the Champion Stakes at Ascot next Saturday. But he will almost probably not finish the year as the highest-rated horse in the world; that distinction appears to have gone to the US-trained Flightline, whose Timeform rating rose to 143, 4lb short of Frankel’s 147, after an incredible victory in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar in September.

However, there is much more to a memorable racehorse and performance than a number in a handicapper’s spreadsheet, and a race with the history and tradition of the Arc does not necessarily need the best horses to be the best race of the year.

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