29 September 2022

Oppenheimer remembers Golden Arc moment for Horn

29 September 2022

October 4, 2015 was the day owner-breeder Anthony Oppenheimer was proved right. It was the day Frankie Dettori weaved his magic from the ParisLongchamp car park as Golden Horn cast a spell on his rivals to land the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

That first Sunday in October was supposed to be all about Treve. The queen of French racing was the evens favourite to record an unprecedented third success in Europe’s most famous middle-distance contest. French tricolours were waving, the locals had piled onto the metro and descended on the Bois de Bolonge.

All that Thierry Jarnet needed to do was steer Criquette Head-Maarek’s superstar home and history would be secured.

Golden Horn on the other hand, had work to do. Posted in stall 14, the Eiffel Tower was closer to Dettori than the market leader as the 9-2 second favourite had only a cabal of outsiders for company on the far side of the track.

However, Dettori was at his inspired, brilliant best aboard the colt he had partnered to Derby success at Epsom only four months previously.

As the gloom began to descend on ParisLongchamp and a chill started to seep through to the bones of those assembled in the 16th arrondissement, the Italian produced one of the finest Arc rides witnessed in the French capital.

Away from the gates quickly, Dettori resisted the temptation to tack across to the pack and instead decided to plot a course directly ahead before edging his way over to stalk Treve’s front-running pacemaker Shahah.

Clinging onto plenty of horse as they rounded the bend for home, the now six-times Arc-winning rider was at pains to hold on to Golden Horn for as long as possible. And when the time came to push the button, the duo were in pole position to kick for home.

All that was left was for Golden Horn to stride out in the closing stages and he was full of running as the duo hit the line two lengths clear of Andre Fabre’s Flintshire.

Although cries of ‘Allez Treve’ was all that could be heard echoing around Paris before the off, there was no doubt in Oppenheimer’s mind that his all-conquering colt was the one to beat.

The owner remembers a day of Dettori brilliance, breaking French hearts and his son of Cape Cross justifying his pre-race optimism.

“I didn’t have any doubts,” said Oppenheimer. “Once the ground wasn’t heavy I thought he would win the Arc and I think I publicly said so at the time.

“Everyone said ‘well no, the French filly is much too good’, but I knew he was good enough to win the Arc.

“I think we spoilt the party slightly, Treve was definitely the horse they were hoping would win.

He travelled well, the ground was perfect and the trainer and rider were brilliant

“It was a brilliant ride, Dettori at his very best. I’m glad to see he is riding really well now, it’s very difficult to keep at that sort of level for so long.”

It cost the long-standing owner-breeder €120,000 to supplement Golden Horn for the Arc, but that proved a cheque well worth signing when the bay returned with a hefty loot of £2.2million to load onto the Eurostar.

For Oppenheimer it was one of his greatest days in the sport and a result he puts down to the talent of trainer John Gosden and Golden Horn’s evergreen rider.

“It was terribly exciting, it really was,” he continued. “We had one or two horses in the Arc a long time ago and they hadn’t done very well, but everything was perfect for Golden Horn. He travelled well, the ground was perfect and the trainer and rider were brilliant – they got him there in wonderful condition.”

The Arc would be the last time Golden Horn was seen in the winner’s enclosure and his on-track career came to an end following a half-length defeat in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland later that month.

He embarked on a stallion career at Dalham Hall Stud, before switching to Overbury earlier this year, siring Stakes winners on the Flat and even a Grade Two winner over jumps in the form of Archie Watson’s Stag Horn.

And Oppenheimer believes it was the right call to draw stumps on Golden Horn’s racing career after his US reversal and resist temptation to come back to the track at four.

He said: “Sadly in America the ground was very shifty. They had raced on it quite a few times before and we hadn’t realised that. The ground was moving, so as a heavy horse, he found every time he put his foot down it slid a little bit. So we were very disappointed he couldn’t win that as well.

“I think perhaps because he’d won near enough every race except the King George at three, we didn’t really want to run him as a four-year-old. I think looking back on it, it was very wet the next year and he didn’t like the heavy ground, so maybe we took the right decision. He was a wonderful horse.”

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