dimanche 1 janvier 2012

Return to the racetrack, and a 3rd place finish for Deep

Deep Ocean and Magical Flower, canter at the piste at Maisons-Laffitte

Deep Ocean returned to the races on Friday, and what a return he made. It was his track debut in the Paris races, coming up from the yards of Belgian trainer Jean Marc Capitte in Calas, near Marseilles. His usual jockey, Gérard Pardon, made the trip up from Marseilles to run for Deep's owner and her husband, a former jockey himself.

A 5-year-old Sinndar colt, caught up at the crossroads of greater world history as a consequence of the Tunisian revolution, without great pretensions as a stallion -- unless he does his owner the tremendous pleasure of winning a listed race.

He was bred by Slim Chiboub at Aga Khan Stud. At 52, Chiboub is a former Tunisian volleyball player who eventually became president of the sports club l'Espérance sportive de Tunis. During his tenure, the club's soccer team won 15 titles, but after a defeat in the 2004 Tunisian Cup to rival Club sportif sfaxien, Chiboub was asked to step down. He went on to become involved in FIFA, served as vice-president and then president of Tunisia's Olympic Committee, and ran the breeding activities of his stud farm, Al Badr Stud in Bixerte, until he was forced to flee the country in January 2011.

Certainly unfortunately for Chiboub, his status as a favorite of former Tunisian president Ben Ali, married, as he is, to the second daughter of Ben Ali and first wife, began to slip after Ben Ali married Leïla Trabelsi, who naturally chose as her favorite her own daughter's husband, boosting the influence of the Trabelsi clan. All this, of course, in the fickleness of the intrigues of political marriage and power, merely set the stage for Chiboub to turn against the fallen president. In January 2011, with some 800 car bombs set to go off throughout Tunisia, Slim Chiboub outed Ben Ali's plans to destabilize Tunisia, thus earning himself a ticket to Dubai (rather well-known for horse racing, unless I am mistaken) rather than face whatever other significantly less clement future might have awaited him in post-revolutionary Tunisia had he not spilled the beans. A chance for a late-summer desert bloom after the Arab Spring.

Meanwhile, Deep Ocean had gone to Marseilles, where he was in training with Capitte. His bills went unpaid, Chiboub's assets in horse flesh in France were seized, and Deep, reportedly worth some 60,000 €, sold for considerably less in the fire sale of the aftermath of the Arab Spring. The beneficiary is his present owner, Madame Paule Descargues, followed by Gina Rarick of Maisons-Laffitte, where Paule and her husband decided to place Deep in training. This meant that Gina now had a son of Sinndar and a daughter of Montjeu, Deep Ocean and 2-year-old Surrey Storm, who has raced 4 times, placing in three of those outings (4 8p, 3p, 3p, 4p).

For anyone who follows European horse racing, these two names evoke one of the great duels in a recent chapter in Europe's most prestigious race, the 2000 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, now known as the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, in which Sinndar beat Montjeu for the crown of glory at fabled Longchamp:
One giant was slain, another created here in the Bois de Boulogne yesterday. When the dust settled after the 79th Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, it was Montjeu, perhaps the best horse in the world for the last two years, who was on the floor. The hoof on his chest belonged to the new champion, Sinndar, the first horse to win the Derby, the Irish Derby and Europe's seasonal climax in Paris.
Deep caught the eye of the France Galop stewards at Deauville Friday and ran to a 3rd place finish in the Prix de Berd'Huis, to everyone's delight. And, may I tell you the thrill you feel when your horse, and I am being generous with myself here -- after all, I was with the owner, the trainer and the trainer's husband, and his lads, one apprentice and another owner, who enjoys the work of head lad on race day, in short, Deep's team --, breaks and finishes third in a field of 16?

Seeing Pardon let him go ahead in the final straightaway, no one in front of him, Gina wondered if he hadn't let him go 100 meters too early, but after the race was over, the owner's husband said no; Deep has a bonne pointe de vitesse, meaning that he can run really fast, even if not necessarily for very long, long enough, anyway, for those 100 meters to be a non-issue, even without another horse right in front of him. Deep's jockey knew him, and he knew he could let him hit that speed and see him over the finish line with a strong finish.

To watch your horse hold his own and not let half the pack pass him on his way to the post is a phenomenal feeling, even when you haven't bet a fiver or have a stake in him.

As for me, I took a bunch of great photos on the backside, and realized only afterward that I had forgotten to put the memory card back in my camera, and I lost my lens cap. Again being generous with myself, I will chalk it up to nerves. Disorganization would be the more accurate culprit. These training photos will have to do.

Finishing their canter

Now, let's see what little Milly, otherwise known as Surrey Storm outside the yards, can do at Cagnes-sur-Mer.

Meanwhile, it's Satwa Sunrise's turn again tomorrow at Deauville in the Prix du Val de Saire, a 1900 meter race for jockeys who have not won more than 15 times. She has drawn the 9th start and will be ridden by Tristan Normand.

Deep Ocean

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