The race that set the majesty of Dancing Brave in stone.
It's easy, and very tempting, simply to sit back and watch the video again, just to see the mighty son of Lyphard appear from the corner of the cameraman's eye like a speeding green-and-pink bullet, going from out of shot to out of this world in the space of a few turf-scorching strides. In fact, this is something I do quite often, just to remind myself of what it was like to be up close to magnificence.
But what should never be neglected is the context, the stellar backdrop against which this shooting star was set, the facts that underpinned the edifice of Dancing Brave's achievement, the opposition that provided the acid test of his ability, for without them, this would have been no race at all.
Make no mistake, Guy Harwood's Guineas, Eclipse and King Georgewinning three-year-old wasn't the only beast seeking to lay claim to prepotency on that balmy Paris afternoon. The French fielded their own Derby winner, the hugely regarded Bering, whose connections also had their eyes on horse of the year accolades, following his recordbreaking Chantilly success. It was an almighty match - unless, of course, you were a jingoistic Brit - but it was far more than a match, as well.
Shahrastani, the Epsom conqueror of Dancing Brave, took up the cudgels once more after being beaten in the King George, and he was joined by all manner of animals with Group 1s coming out of their ears. There was Acatenango, the 1985 German Derby hero and later the winner of the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud and a hatful of other races at the highest level; Japanese Derby winner Sirius Symboli; Coronation Cup winner Saint Estephe; Matchmaker International winner Shardari; Prix Vermeille winner Darara; and the awesome mare Triptych, without whom no Group 1 event of the era was ever complete.
It was a veritable league of nations and clash of generations, with no fewer than 11 Group 1 winners of all ages and origins lining up in a race the like of which hadn't been seen in many seasons. But that's the way it must be if greatness is to be bestowed. Great races prove great horses, and in spite of his massive achievements to date, it was fitting that the Arc offered Dancing Brave yet another mountain to climb on his way to the pantheon.
THAT he started the 11-10 favourite was testament more to the presence of an invading horde of Brits, all with the same thought in their minds: to be there and to be on. It was a weekend for patriotism, to beat the French in their own backyard, and for the making of history. Everybody there was looking for a warming memory, a tale to tell the grandchildren, and for once, there was to be no disappointment.
Every one of the greats showed up, in every sense. They lined up and they performed with credit, with Shahrastani setting sail for home in the straight, only to be shoved aside by Bering, whose challenge appeared so decisive that the home cameraman lost all sense of occasion and seemed to forget there was another star performer with lines in the script and a big part to play.
Right on cue, from the unseen wings of the stage, Pat Eddery, having delayed his entrance with inhuman, nerveless patience, finally unleashed Dancing Brave down the outside lane of the broad Longchamp motorway and the race that had seemed over was set alight once more. Khalid Abdullah's champion stepped into the race as though propelled by a slingshot from the lower steps of the grandstand, loomed briefly alongside Bering and swept past him, if not with ease, then at least with lan.
This was no saunter, no walk in the Bois de Boulogne. It was the best racehorse of his generation delivered at his peak by trainer and jockey, performing at his best to beat the best that could be ranged against him. Bering was defeated by a length and a half that barely reflected Dancing Brave's superiority on the day, with Triptych adding a copper bottom to the form in third place.
It was a race that delivered all it had promised and it was a display - and here Sea The Stars fans should take note - that incontrovertibly defined the greatest horse of his day. In spite of all he had achieved that season, this was the race that set the majesty of Dancing Brave in stone. jjView Dancing Brave's 1986 win: www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCucJ x2vL-k jjTomorrow: Lee Mottershead on Peintre Celebre's 1997 victory
Dancing Brave and Pat Eddery defeated possibly the greatest field ever assembled for the Arc in 1986
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|Publication:||The Racing Post (London, England)|
|Date:||Sep 30, 2009|
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