Thanks to Sid Fernando for pointing out that video of the 2009 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe was already up on Youtube yesterday....I added a link to my original post on the victory of Sea The Stars, but I also went back and looked at the race again. The Youtube version is actually far better than the live feed on HRTV.
Looking at the race again did not change my opinion of Sea The Stars at all, but it did let me see some aspects of the race I had not been able to see on HRTV, aspects which confirmed my previous opinion in a couple of different ways. The first thing I noticed is what a truly rare feat Sea The Stars performed about 250 meters from the finish. Mick Kinane has maneuvered Sea The Stars off the rail and he is rallying between Stacelita and Dar Re Mi. He is moving fastest of the three, but visually only very slightly faster than Dar Re Mi. If he had maintained that pace, he would likely have finished perhaps a length ahead of Dar Re Mi...which would mean he would have been in a photo finish with the placed horses.
At that point, however, Dar Re Mi, who is drifting in, bumps Sea The Stars slightly, and actually pushes him slightly off balance. His response is dramatic and electrifying. As Kinane throws a cross at him, Sea The Stars visibly throws in an extra effort, an emphatic jump to the right and forward, and he accelerates a second time, and within five strides is three lengths in front. You can see for yourself here during the live action at about the 2:15 minute mark. The best view, however, is the close-up, head-on view at about the 6:50 mark.
This is not the first time, Sea The Stars has accelerated a second time to win a race. Watch what he has to do to beat Rip Van Winkle, the best horse he has faced, in the Eclipse Stakes in July. At about the 3:50 mark, Sea The Stars has already accelerated once to take the lead. Rip Van Winkle, coming from a couple of lengths behind, closes to within a neck or half-length at the furlong pole, but Sea The Stars accelerates again to win by a little more than a length.
That ability to accelerate twice is very rare, and, for me, confirms Sea The Stars's place in the 140 Timeform class.
The other thing I wanted to see in the Youtube replay was exactly what happened to Youmzain and Conduit, the second and fourth. In truth, both overcame trips that were actually worse, in terms of position and route, than that of Sea The Stars. Conduit is the horse in the white silks who is alongside Sea The Stars on his outside for most of the trip. Youmzain is the horse in blue and white who is directly behind Sea The Stars for most of the race. At the top of the stretch, however, Sea The Stars gets through on the inside, Conduit goes widest of all, and Youmzain splits one horse inside of Conduit.
Basically Sea The Stars turned into the stretch alongside Conduit and about two lengths in front of Youmzain. He accelerated more quickly and took the shorter route home, but ended up about the same distance in front of Youmzain as he had been 2 1/2 furlongs earlier.
In terms of absolute form, you simply can't get away from this fact. Look back at the 2008 Arc when Zarkava beat Youmzain by two lengths. Zarkava's run is nowhere near as visually impressive as Sea The Stars, but notice how Youmzain, who enters the stretch several lengths in front of her, gets trapped on the rail and has to come around fading horses late. He should have finished closer, but would never have beaten Zarkava.
I am in no way implying that Zarkava was as good as Sea The Stars. Her 133 Timeform rating, (equivalent of 136 for a colt) fully reflects her ability relative to Youmzain, who is an extremely reliable yardstick. But my point remains. If Zarkava only ran to a 136 equivalent beating Youmzain last year, why is Sea The Stars victory over the same horse worth more this year?
Well, in my book, it IS worth more, mostly because of the way Sea The Stars pulled for the first half mile, but don't tell me he had a harder trip than Youmzain or Conduit, because he didn't. I'd still rank him at 140.
And by the way, Tony C....I always thought Dancing Brave was slightly overrated. Equal to Vaguely Noble who beat Sir Ivor by three lengths in the 1968 Arc? Two pounds better than Nijinsky II? I don't think so!
Here's an interesting viewpoint on the subject of Sea The Stars's place in history from Sam Walker of the Racing Post.
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