Great Arc memories – Dancing Brave 1986

The biggest race in Europe, the Prix De L’Arc de Triomphe is upon us again this weekend. The best middle-distance horses from Britain, Ireland, France and beyond meet up to effectively decide the 12f champion of the world. This year’s edition looks potentially above average, but whether the winner will be of the calibre of the 1986 race is doubtful.

The race itself featured French Derby winner Bering, the victor at Epsom and the Curragh, Shahrastani, Champion Stakes victor Triptych, Coronation Cup winner Saint Estephe and multiple Group 1 winner Acatenango. However the one to beat was Dancing Brave, who had enjoyed a stellar season. Winner of the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, he suffered that dramatic defeat at Epsom when jockey Greville Starkey came from too far back in the huge field, and Dancing Brave just failed to catch Shahrastani. Subsequent wins in the Eclipse and King George had cemented Guy Harwood’s charge as favourite.

A wide draw could have been an issue, but jockey Pat Eddery was happy to drop the colt in once more and got him beautifully settled four from the rear of the fifteen strong field. Outsider Baby Turk set the pace, but he was a sitting duck once they turned for home. The Aga Khan had four horses running for him and they seemed to have a go at hitting the front one by one – Walter Swinburn sending Shahrastani to the front over a furlong out.

However Australian jockey Gary Moore had been tracking that horse on Bering and now it was Criquette Head’s charge that took the lead. However inexorably, but almost out of shot on the tv pictures, Eddery was bringing Dancing Brave widest and fastest of all and he swept to the front 100 yards out to storm 1 1/2l clear by the winning post. The time of 2:27.7 was a course record and the manner of Dancing Brave’s win was as thrilling a flat race as I can recall.

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