Light can lead the way in Arc

Ante-post betting has never held any great attraction for this observer, but have to say the 25-1 on offer with some of the firms about Leading Light for next weekend’s Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp was crying out to be taken.

Light can lead the way in Arc

Indeed, he was as high as 34-1 on Betfair.

Leading Light has to be supplemented first and the ‘Arc is a notoriously difficult race to win. But so what if it doesn’t work out for us, even the worst punter in the game can take a hit at massive odds.

Winning an English Leger, as Leading Light did earlier this month, would hardly be regarded as a ringing endorsement for any horse trying to win France’s greatest race.

Back in the late 70’s many of us were major fans of Vincent O’Brien’s Alleged and there are certain similarities between him and Leading Light. Let’s not for a second pretend Leading Light is in that league, he has a long road to travel before being mentioned alongside one of the finest flat horses of all time.

But it is a fact that Alleged was viewed as essentially a stayer, perhaps an Ascot Gold Cup horse in the making, until proving such thinking was way wide of the mark.

He ran in the English Leger at Doncaster in 1977, but suffered a shock defeat behind the filly, Dunfermline.

She was owned by Queen Elizabeth II, who was celebrating her Silver Jubilee that year. It was the only time Alleged was beaten.

The point is, however, that Alleged subsequently dropped back to a mile and a half at Longchamp and duly won the ‘Arc. The following year, of course, he went and repeated the trick.

It is also worth noting that one of the races Alleged won, on the way to his initial ‘Arc, was the Gallinule Stakes at the Curragh. Leading Light took that contest this year.

Aidan O’Brien has described Leading Light as a stayer with speed and all the evidence is that is an accurate summing up of the horse.

It is also worth recalling that his sire, Montjeu, was himself a winner of the race. And the fact Leading Light has proved effective on all sorts of surfaces is another plus. He won the second of his two races as a juvenile and is unbeaten in four outings this season.

Leading Light is among four O’Brien possibilities for the ‘Arc and riding arrangements will be interesting.

Ordinarily, you would expect Joseph O’Brien to be aboard what was regarded as the principal Ballydoyle hope, but that mightn’t be the case.

Leading Light, Ruler Of The World and Kingsbarns are three-year-olds, who will carry 8-11. Joseph won’t be able to do that weight, so Camelot, who will only run if the surface is good, is his single option.

Camelot went off favourite for the ‘Arc last year, but finished a disappointing seventh, when partnered by Frankie Dettori. Whatever you make of Leading Light, I think he’s made of much sterner stuff than his over-hyped stable companion.

Anyone else think that the recent Listowel festival threw up a real eye-catcher in the shape of the Henry de Bromhead-trained Elegant Statesman?

He failed to win in two-point-to-point outings, but has shown a lot of promise in four efforts on the racecourse.

Elegant Statesman began by landing a bumper at Cork, then a maiden hurdle at Limerick, before finishing a close fourth in a novice hurdle behind Que Pasa at the Galway festival.

Connections, though, clearly believe that jumping fences is his true calling and the start he made at Listowel was encouraging, to say the least of it.

Although at no stage of the contest did you feel he was actually going to deliver at the first time of asking, his jumping was sound and did stay on quite nicely at the end of what was probably an inadequate two miles and a furlong.

Heard a whisper that Jim Bolger’s newcomer, Mandatario, was regarded as quite useful so took a chance and tipped him for the first at Gowran Park last Sunday.

You had to consider that it was possibly significant the yard had won the same race the previous year with the very talented Trading Leather.

Bolger’s has never been regarded as a gambling stable and his horses go in at all sorts of prices.

As it turned out there was no activity in the betting offices in the morning and fancy odds were available for many hours about Mandatario.

In the end the decision was reached that we couldn’t allow him to run loose and a modest amount was invested on Betfair at just over 12-1.

The horse soon gained many more friends and ended at 13-2 (from 10-1) in the market itself.

When backing a horse at such large odds you really, deep down, do not expect it to win.

But Mandatario had other ideas and battled like a lion to resist the relatively experienced Kerkeni by a short head.

Could he possibly be another Trading Leather? The old Irish saying has it that a good start is half the work and this definitely represented a good start.

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