Followers of this blog who watched Cracksman annihilate the opposition in today’s Champion Stakes can be forgiven for feeling aggrieved at the way this horse’s career has been managed.
I’ve said more than once that I don’t think there is a horse standing in a stable anywhere in Europe that could beat Cracksman over 12 furlongs on soft ground. You could count fast ground runnings of the Arc on one hand in the past 30 or so years and that was given as the main reason for the horse missing the French race for the second year in succession.
The reality appears to be that his trainer John Gosden was once again masterminding his pursuit of prize money.
Gosden had Enable in the yard, hugely well treated in the 2017 Arc and stil looking good after coming back from injury this season.
Last year Gosden discovered (or had reinforced) that Oppenheimer is an owner who never questions his decisions. The trainer can be pretty sure he’s the only danger to Enable and that he’d be a hot favourite to win the Champion Stakes.
Why not – as a trainer – grab two big races rather than one?
This year, Enable bounces back nicely at Kempton and in what looks a comparatively mediocre Arc (if Cracksman doesn’t run) he plans to do exactly what he did last year. Oppenheimer, predictably, rolls over.
Reality is that Cracksman was never seriously being prepared for the Arc. I had thought his price a few weeks ago of 8/1 to 10/1 was a crazy overreaction to a comparatively disappointing season. I strongly suspect now that the key bookies knew that Cracksman was never likely to run.
Any doubters on that theory should note Gosden’s post race comments today, when he pretty much summed up his approach to the horse’s season – not a single mention of the Arc.
“He won the Prix Ganay in explosive style and I don’t think he was quite the same after that – I think a few things were bothering him. Obviously, he got very distracted at Royal Ascot by the girls coming back from the Windsor Forest and then we went for the King George, where it was too firm, and the Juddmonte [non-runner for the same reason] then packed in and freshened him up to come here, where he was back to his best.”
An unusually loose-tongued Gosden pretty much admitting he’d done Oppenheimer over again, as well as Cracksman’s fans and bettors.
I don’t blame Gosden in the least. His priority is to do what is best for his yard – he has done that in magnificent fashion.
Oppenheimer is the villain of the piece. Had he shown some backbone and nous, he’d have fought for what was best for the horse rather than what was best for Gosden and Dettori.
Aside from the money lost in antepost bets (last season and this), my main grievance is, as with an NH favourite of mine, the late Vautour, the horse was never given the chance to prove himself on track, despite the fact he is now likely to be voted, as he was last year by the BHA, the best middle distance horse in Europe.