o You Think’s breeders may not be on great terms with each other, but they’re all in Paris to watch their pride and joy try to accomplish what would arguably be New Zealand thoroughbred breeding’s greatest moment.
Cecile Smith, Mike Moran and Helen Moran have flown from Cambridge to watch So You Think in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (2400m), Europe’s most important middle-distance race, on Monday morning (AEDT).
American-born Smith’s Piper Farm bred So You Think along with Australian-born Mike Moran, marketing manager for one of New Zealand’s largest studs, Windsor Park, and his wife Helen.
Smith and the Morans have fallen out in the past two years and have had court battles over the ownership and care of the subsequent foals of Triassic, So You Think’s dam.
“My business commitments meant I haven’t seen him race in Europe this year,” Smith, who runs a company importing elements for the whiteware industry, said.
“But I’m going over to Paris, along with my 87-year-old mother. He’ll be a real champion if he wins.”
Mike Moran made it to Europe for So You Think’s only European defeat, at Royal Ascot in June, and confirmed last week he would be in Paris this weekend.
“It’s pretty special for a New Zealand-bred horse to be running on the world stage. We’ll be keeping our fingers crossed,” he said.
Bought as a yearling for $110,000, So You Think won two Cox Plates in a stellar Australian career for legendary trainer Bart Cummings before being sold to Coolmore Stud in Ireland.
This year he has run five times in Europe for Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien for four wins, three in Group One races, confirming he is one of the best horses ever bred in New Zealand and earning second favouritism for this weekend’s race behind French mare Sarafina.
So You Think will be aiming to outdo Balmerino, who provided New Zealand breeding with one of its finest moments when running second in 1977 to Alleged – ironically prepared from the same Ballydoyle yard where So You Think is now based.
New Zealand breeding has had a few great international moments since then – Horlicks’ Japan Cup triumph in 1989, Sunline’s Hong Kong Cup win in 2000, Starcraft’s European Group One double in 2005 and Vengeance Of Rain’s Dubai Sheema Classic victory in 2008 – but in terms of international prestige, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe outdoes them all.
There are some doubts about So You Think’s potency over 2400m – most of his best form has been at 2000m and his only start beyond that distance resulted in a Melbourne Cup third over 3200m last year – but Moran doesn’t think the trip will be a problem.
“He’s bred to do it, and he’s got one of the best trainers to do it. I’m sure he wouldn’t run if his trainer didn’t think he could do it.”