x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Sea the Stars aiming for Arc triumph

Sea the Stars is the out-of-sight favourite for Europe's most prestigious race, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, today.

Mick Kinane aboard Sea the Stars romps to victory in the Irish Champion Stakes in September.
Mick Kinane aboard Sea the Stars romps to victory in the Irish Champion Stakes in September.

There will be many great athletes performing awe-inspiring feats this weekend, but it would be hard to find a specimen in any sport with greater physical and mental attributes for the task in hand than Sea the Stars has in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe today. He is just three years old, considered a baby in any other codes of horse competition, yet he has a maturity beyond his years and boasts a physical perfection and flexibility that allows him to win over distances ranging from seven furlongs to a mile-and-a-half. The five-time Group One-winning colt is described as a "magnificent presence" by his trainer, John Oxx, and is racing's middle-distance equivalent to Usain Bolt. Neither his peers nor the older generation have been able to touch him and even the desperate, stamina-sapping tactics employed by Aidan O'Brien's five runners in the Irish Champion Stakes had no impact on the formidable colt last month. He is bred from Cape Cross, a sire owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai's Darley breeding operation and widely accepted to be the finest racehorse of the last 20 years. Unsurprisingly, he is the out-of-sight favourite for Europe's most prestigious race today. Drawn in stall six, the starting location of two out of the last four Arc winners (Dylan Thomas, 2007 and Hurricane Run, 2005), Sea the Stars will run on his ideal going with the ground declared good at Longchamp. His jockey, the unrivalled Mick Kinane, who has tasted international victory on the seven-time Group One-winning Rock of Gibraltar, super sire Galileo, his half-brother and Arc-winner, Montjeu, and five-time Group One-winner, Giant's Causeway, has already been so bold as to proclaim Sea the Stars the best horse he has ever ridden. "To find a horse like him at this stage of my life is fantastic and he's the best one I've ridden," said the 13 time Irish Champion, who knows this race could be the crowning moment in his incredible 35-year career. "It's phenomenal how he can travel, he's never in trouble and I haven't ridden a horse like him who can do it at any distance." Sea the Stars has triumphed over the mile of the 2,000 Guineas, the mile-and-a-half Epsom Derby, and the mile-and-a-quarter of the Coral Eclipse, Juddemonte International and Irish Champions Stakes. The Arc will be by far his biggest challenge to date and steps him back up to a mile-and-a-half, thought by some to be the very limit of his stamina, and it is in that belief that his rivals place their hope. O'Brien, keen to taste Arc victory for a second time, once again saddles more than one, and will no doubt use his three runners, Fame and Glory, Grand Ducal and Set Sail, as the racing equivalent of a wrestling tag team as they attempt to push the pace beyond the favourite's comfort zone. Mick Channon's Youmzain, runner-up in 2007 and 2008, is hoping for glory under the man who beat him by a neck in 2007, Kieren Fallon, while Sir Michael Stoute's King George IV and Queen Elizabeth Stakes-winning Conduit sets out his stall under Ryan Moore. But the way Sea the Stars has been bolting across the line recently suggests he will have enough left in the tank for the extra two furlongs and O'Brien's best entry, Fame and Glory, was beaten by two-and-a-half lengths by Oxx's horse at Leopardstown. It is possible that fatigue could play a part in Sea the Stars bid for ultimate glory today, but Oxx is not the type to enter a runner in Europe's showpiece if he did not think he was fit enough. "You wouldn't call running in a Group One every month since May, as this horse has done, as being a typical Arc preparation," said Oxx. "But Sea The Stars has taken all his races really well seems to be thriving. "He's one of those landmark horses that come along every 25-30 years that we always remember and he's the nearest living thing to a machine. If any of us is still around at the end of the century, I doubt there will be too many other horses who have achieved what he has done."

stregoning@thenational.ae