28 September 2022

Reid recalls Arc decision that paid off in spectacular fashion

28 September 2022

It is tempting to see the 1988 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe as ‘the race Mtoto didn’t win’. Tempting, but most unfair.

It should be remembered rather as the race Tony Bin and John Reid won together – as a masterpiece of training and jockeyship, and as the finest hour of a very game horse.

A generous dash of mid-race advice from Cash Asmussen did not go unheeded, either, and Reid expertly produced the ultimate rags-to-riches winner – sparking wild celebrations that Longchamp has rarely witnessed before or since.

Tony Bin was Italian trainer Luigi Camici’s greatest triumph, having been bought for just 3,000gns for businessman Luciano Gaucci. He went on to land Europe’s richest prize.

There had been plenty of sins, failures and omissions on Tony Bin’s CV, yet he showed himself at his best at the age of five, finishing runner-up in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud and then third to Mtoto in the King George at Ascot.

It was a strong renewal, with 24 runners, comprising the likes of Prince of Wales’s Stakes, Eclipse and King George winner Mtoto, English and Irish Derby hero Kahyasi, Princess of Wales’s Stakes victor Unfuwain, dual Oaks heroine and three-year-old European Champion filly Diminuendo and Coronation Cup heroine Triptych.

Riding the horse for only the second time in his life, Reid had found, at once, the key to Tony Bin’s complex personality and even now, 34 years on, the race is still pin-sharp in his mind.

Camici had taken the unusual step of running Tony Bin in the Prix Federico Tesio in Milan seven days before the Arc.

I've never seen so many Italians go mad in all my life afterwards. They went crazy

Reid explained: “He’d been injured. He came over for the King George and he hit his head on the top of the plane and he never ran after that. They just wanted to get a prep in him and he absolutely scooted up, so I was very confident he would run well.

“I was riding for Vincent O’Brien at the time and after he had won he called to say Dark Lomond was running in the Arc and I was to ride him. But I was so confident in Tony Bin I begged to get off that.

“Dark Lomond had won the Irish St Leger and I’d picked the wrong one (Kris Kringle, fifth) and then it was running in the Arc and I thought, ‘I’m not going to get on the wrong one again’, so I didn’t.

“I would not have asked too often, but I was very definite in my mind about which one had the best chance.”

Tony Bin, sent off a 139-10 chance, was drawn in stall four, with Mtoto and jockey Michael ‘Muis’ Roberts berthed in five, a tricky proposition for both with so many runners.

“He’d been second the year before so he didn’t have too much to prove for me,” said Reid.

“It was just a case of getting a run. It was sort of a messy race and there were a lot of runners. When we got down to the false straight, I didn’t want to go, but I didn’t want to be too far away.

“I was still quite a way back at that stage. There was a lot of dead wood in front of me. I thought that to be safe, I needed to get out of there, as waiting for a real run would have been difficult.

“I think it was Kahyasi who came back at me from the pack at the wrong time – I thought Kahyasi would have had a decent chance, but he melted even before he got to the false straight.

“It didn’t throw me off a bit, but I thought he would have enough stamina to lead me a good long way. So, I moved out a bit, because he came back real quick in the pack and he took a lot of horses with him.”

It was at that point that Asmussen, riding Village Star for Andre Fabre, having partnered Tony Bin when runner-up to Trempolino in the Arc a year before, piped up in his high-pitched transatlantic twang.

Reid explained: “Cash was on my outside. I was just having a little peep to see if I could move up on the false straight, and he shouted, ‘Johnny, don’t go yet!’.

“To be honest, I was having a look and he could see it – and he was right. I was a bit early, but a bit far back.

“I wouldn’t be taking too much advice in a race. Cash was a real hold-up man anyway and wouldn’t go until the end, but he knew Longchamp and rode it every day, so I just took a pause, because I could see I would get out from there.”

Timing is everything, of course, and with the bitter wisdom of hindsight, Roberts will have blamed himself for not finding a pathway quickly enough.

“Muis was behind me and I knew he was the big danger, and maybe me waiting stopped him a little bit.

“He couldn’t get out – he was in a possie that I could have been in – with no run – whereas I moved out and got a little bit of daylight and once I could see I could get a run, I was happy to wait a little bit.”

Reid and Tony Bin came with a late surge, quickening past Boyatino, with Mtoto running on valiantly to be a neck second.

That one was a very special win, one you don't forget in a hurry

“In fairness Muis and Mtoto should have beat me, but the Arc is the Arc and a race is a race,” said Reid. “You have to do the right thing at the right time and he didn’t get the luck.”

Reid became an instant hit in Italy, with victory sparking wild celebrations.

“I’ve never seen so many Italians go mad in all my life afterwards. They went crazy. But is was great – looking back, it was fantastic,” he added.

For the then-33-year-old Reid, now a jockeys’ coach at the British Racing School, that victory proved one of the most important among the 48 international Group One successes he recorded.

“It was a huge result. I won the Arc before I won the Derby,” the Ulsterman recalled.

“It was massive for me to win the Arc. I never really dreamed about winning it. I had only wanted to win the Derby, as the Arc was always a little out of your grasp.

“It was difficult to get a decent ride in it. I only had a handful of rides in the Arc, but I was first, second (White Muzzle, 1993) third (Apple Tree, 1994) and rode fourth in it out of about six rides.

“I had a fairly good record in it. But that one was a very special win, one you don’t forget in a hurry.”

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