Every now and then a horse comes along that really captures the imagination of the racing public, and this season the two-year-old Tiggy Wiggy, trained by Richard Hannon, has done just that. She’s a clear ante-post favourite in the betting to win the Group 1 Prix de l’Abbaye sprint at Longchamp on October 5, but is by no means certain to take her place in the line-up in Paris.
It’s not just because she has a name like a character from a Beatrix Potter novel or that the daughter of Kodiac has set the juvenile sprint divisions on fire; it’s because Tiggy Wiggy has shown blistering speed from the very first day she set foot on a racecourse and has continued to go from strength-to-strength with virtually every outing.
Possibly the last two-year-old filly to attract such a following was the mighty ‘Pocket Rocket’, Lyric Fantasy, trained by Hannon’s father, Richard Hannon Snr., who carried all before her in the sprint division way back in 1992. It has not gone unnoticed that Tiggy Wiggy has followed a very similar path to her illustrious predecessor. Lyric Fantasy ran six times as a juvenile winning her first five outings, most notably the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot where she ‘hacked up’ by five lengths before winning the Newbury Super Sales Sprint by an unprecedented six lengths.
It was after her Newbury win that Hannon Snr. took the unorthodox decision of deciding to run Lyric Fantasy against the top older sprinters in the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes at York, a move that many observers deemed ‘balmy’. But Hannon knew he had a very fast filly and also calculated that with the generous weight-for-age allowances she would have a sporting chance of beating some of the best older colts and geldings in the world, despite her relative lack of experience.
On a very memorable day on the Knavesmire in August 1992, Lyric Fantasy – ridden by South African star Muis Roberts – and sent off as the 8/11 favourite before blasting down the straight five furlong to run on gamely until the finish to beat her older stable companion Mister Brooks (Lester Piggott). Brooks was the winner of the July Cup, by half a length, while Lyric Fantasy also outraced top US sprinter Diamonds Galore, who finished third. The horse then returned to York to see one of the most raucous ovations in living memory.
Much thought had been given this summer to allowing Tiggy Wiggy to follow a similar path to York, but in the end connections decided to wait for an autumn campaign and their patience deserves to be rewarded.
Tiggy Wiggy was already all the buzz when she made her racecourse bow at Kempton in March on the Polytrack. She was sent off as odds-on favourite and duly obliged with minimum fuss, scoring by seven lengths. Her first run on turf saw her work harder in defeating Excentricity by a length-and-a-quarter in a Salisbury conditions stakes, before tasting defeat for the first time in the listed Langley Solicitors LLP EBF Stallions Marygate Stakes at York.
Ridden by Sean Levey, Tiggy Wiggy had every chance but just couldn’t hold the late burst of Patience Alexander, (ironically also by the sprint sire Kodiac), and went down to a half-length defeat at the hands of the talented David Evans-trained filly, who herself went on to finish third to the high-class Cursory Glance in the Group 2 Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot on her subsequent outing.
Seemingly thriving on her racing, Hannon then decided to run his speedball at Sandown in the listed Cantor Fitzgerald Equities National Stakes over five furlongs, just 13 days after her York defeat. His decision to go to the well once more was vindicated as Tiggy Wiggy produced a tremendous turn of foot under Richard Hughes to storm to a highly impressive three-and-a-quarter length success over Cock O’The North, a run that persuaded connections they should head next to Royal Ascot and the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes.
On June 18 at Ascot, Tiggy Wiggy took on the star Irish juvenile sprint filly Anthem Alexander and the pair produced a memorable contest. Hannon’s filly travelled well close to the pace but then appeared a little outpaced when they quickened two furlongs from home. Shaken up by Hughes, she responded well to surge back into the lead, but Anthem Alexander (trained by Edward Lynam) who had been slower than many coming out of the stalls, began a withering run and joined Tiggy Wiggy 150 yards from the finish.
The result was in doubt all the way until the last 20 yards when the Irish filly came home that little bit stronger to defeat Tiggy Wiggy by a neck, the pair coming home more than two lengths clear of the third-placed Zuhoor Baynoona, under Ryan Moore.
A month later Tiggy Wiggy returned to the fray to the race that had made Lyric Fantasy’s reputation 22 years earlier. The Weatherbys Super Sprint race at Newbury carried £122,000 in prize money to the winner and attracted a field of 24 runners. Tiggy Wiggy was sent off the 5/2 favourite in the horse racing betting and in a change of tactics Richard Hughes decided to let her have her head and bowl along in front.
In a breath-taking performance, his mount pinged out of the gates and simply had her rivals beaten at half-way, going clear within a furlong-and-a-half of the stalls then maintaining a tremendous gallop to cross the line no less than six lengths clear of Haxby and Fast Act. The BHA handicapper reacted by raising her official mark from 104 to 117, an indication that Tiggy Wiggy had literally improved almost a stone within a month, aided by the new riding tactics.
At York on August 21, Tiggy Wiggy tackled six furlongs for the first time in her life in the Group 2 Pinsent Masons Lowther Stakes, where she was taken on by two Royal Ascot winners; Anthem Alexander, who had narrowly beaten her in the Queen Mary Stakes, and Cursory Glance, impressive winner of the Albany Stakes. Despite questions over the longer distance Tiggy Wiggy was sent off 15/8 favourite in the horse racing betting to beat the pair – and the punters got it spot on.
Again showing blistering early pace under Hughes the Newbury winner had her rivals in trouble some way from home. Although shaken up inside the final furlong she had enough in hand to defeat Cursory Glance (subsequent winner of the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes) by a length-and-a-half, with old rival Anthem Alexander held half-a-length further back in third.
It was this superb effort that sparked talk of a bid for the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp in October, a race for which Tiggy Wiggy remains the 4.5 ante-post horse racing betting favourite on Betfair. She has terrific speed, handles the soft ground that invariably prevails at the Paris track in October, and has won in a big field as well. The big issue though is that it appears that Hannon prefers to bid instead for the Group 1 Connolly’s Red Mills Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket on September 27, instead of taking in the French race.
The advantage of the Newmarket contest would be that it would avoid the young filly having to travel abroad at the end of a long season, and more significantly, would allow her to remain racing against her own sex and age group. It’s a tough decision. Both races carry Group 1 status and are both worth substantial amounts of money, but recent reports suggest Hannon’s mind is made up.
“Tiggy Wiggy definitely goes to Newmarket,” Hannon declared, when speaking to Newmarketracecourses.co.uk. “We will consider the Prix de l’Abbaye after the Cheveley Park. She is in very good form, is fresh and well and has put on a bit of weight since York. What sets her apart is that she is such a good-moving filly; when other horses strides are shortening she is lengthening.”
“I think that it was the best Lowther [Stakes] for a number of years and I said at the time that I thought that the Cheveley Park might turn out to be the same sort of race. If that does prove to be the case I just hope that they finish in the same order,” Hannon added.
So it looks she’ll run in the Cheveley Park Stakes, with the faint possibility of going to Paris 10 days later if Tiggy Wiggy comes out of the Newmarket race still full of beans.
Assuming she handles the undulations of the Rowley Mile track, Tiggy Wiggy has to have a terrific chance of following up her Lowther Stakes success and would be a tremendously popular winner. It would be asking a great deal of her to go on to Longchamp so soon after the Newmarket race, but the Kodiac filly has already shown tremendous toughness this term and nothing would surprise with this lovable two-year-old.
The countdown is well and truly on to the coveted Group 1 Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp on October 5 in which last year’s brilliant heroine Treve has re-emerged as the ante-post market leader with the likes of Paddy Power after other leading fancies have wobbled in a number of key trials.
There have been few more impressive winners in recent decades of Europe’s premier all-age middle-distance contest than the Criquette Head-Maarek-trained filly, who simply blasted a top-class field apart in Paris last autumn, showing a stunning turn of foot to leave her rivals for dead and crossing the line with any amount in hand to win by a breathtaking five lengths from Japanese superstar Orfevre.
Narrowly defeated on her first outing since her Arc triumph when finding the race-fit legend Cirrus des Aigles just a short neck too good for her on her seasonal bow in the Prix Ganay at Longchamp in April, Treve’s only other start this term was when sent off a hot odds-on favourite in the racing betting for the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot – a race that jockey Frankie Dettori will want to forget.
Dettori suggested after Treve had finished a hugely disappointing third behind The Fugue that his mount had not felt right going to post. She certainly moved poorly on the quick ground and never looked anything like her normally fluid, elegant self. Not seen since and given time to recover from the experience, news broke recently that Head-Maarek had asked Treve’s Qatari owners to remove Dettori from the saddle and they had agreed.
But after German star Sea The Moon was beaten recently at Baden Baden recently, and with doubts about a number of other leading ante-post contenders, Treve has re-emerged as 9/2 (with Paddy Power) favourite for the big race. Reports suggest she has fully recovered from the Ascot debacle and, if true, she will surely prove the one they all have to beat on the first Sunday in October.
The countdown is on for one of the most eagerly anticipated flat races of the entire calendar as an International field of high-class equine talent will converge on Longchamp for the 2014 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
The ‘Arc’ takes place on Sunday 5th October and it has been won by some true greats in the past 15 years including Montjeu, Sinndar, Dalakhani, Zarkava and five years ago the mighty Sea The Stars claimed the event in dramatic fashion.
The horse to beat
After the most recent trial races, the English Oaks and King George winner Taghrooda is the marginal favourite with Betfair. Will she win?! Here we will run over some of the most important trends of the race in its recent history to try and help pinpoint the winner of this years’ event.
First of all, just two winning favourites for the race in the last ten years have obliged – Zarkava (2008) and Sea the Stars (2009). No horse has retained the Arc since Alleged won the race back in 1977-78. Sea the Stars’ victory back in 2009 was the only odds-on win of the last decade, while Solemia provided the biggest betting shock by springing a 33/1 surprise back in 2012 for trainer Carlos Laffon-Parias.
The winning age category provides some interesting information in that eight three-year old horses have claimed victory in the recent decade, with two four-year-old horses – Dylan Thomas (2007) and Solemia being the only other winners. You would need to go back to the Godolphin-trained Marienbard in 2002 to find the most recent five-year old winner. This would have to be a negative sign for the two Japanese-entered five-year olds in Just A Way and Gold Ship.
Six of the last ten race winners have been French trained, with Andre Fabre being the only dual winner in that timescale by saddling Hurricane Run and Rail Link for consecutive wins back in 2005 and 2006. Ireland have had two winners, while Britain and Germany make up the remaining two.
Another key element to selecting the winner of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is the draw. Last years’ winner, Treve bucked the trend of recent years with a win from stall 15. In the previous nine races that the Arc has had over ten runners, only Dalakhani back in 2004 passed the post in first place from the top half of the draw. It is interesting to note that both those wins have come up on very soft ground, meaning that it could well be prudent from an ante-post perspective to hold any bets until the draw has been done due to such an imbalance, especially if the ground turns up better than soft.
It seems a prerequisite that most winners of the Arc won their previous race before claiming glory at Longchamp. Seven of the last ten winners won before lining up for the race – which would blot the hopes of the likes of English Derby winner, Australia and Oaks heroine, Taghrooda who tasted defeats in the Irish Champions Stakes and Yorkshire Oaks respectively.
Taghrooda however, falls into the female category, which is the form gender of the recent past. Treve, Solemia and Danedream have all redressed the balance for the Fillies and Mares of late which is a boost for the Gosden filly.
This is in no way of a definitive guide to picking the race winner, but these trends do help towards making a sensible decision on which horse or even horses to back. From a current betting perspective, the race is totally wide open, which means that there is value to be had, but bear in mind that the draw and ground can change and that could hinder your horses’ chances if you decide to place an ante-post wager. Good luck!