Circus Maximus (left) and Romanised battle up the straight in the Prix du Moulin
Circus Maximus and Romanised served up a thrilling climax to the Prix du Moulin when forging clear of their eight rivals and battling all the way to the line.
Their clear superiority and undoubted courage will play second fiddle to an unfolding drama that began shortly after the judge called Circus Maximus and Ryan Moore the winner by a nose.
Longchamp officials opened an inquiry into possible interference inside the final furlong, with those nervously waiting in the parade ring quickly treated to head-on pictures from the stewards’ room that showed the pair edging right.
After less than ten minutes deliberation the result was left unaltered but, having let owner Robert Ng view the same images at home in Hong Kong, the Romanised team announced they would appeal the decision at France Galop in the coming days.
Trainer Ken Condon said: “Mr Ng has reviewed the head-on of the video. He’s spoken to myself and to Rupert [Pritchard-Gordon, racing manager] and they’re going to lodge an appeal to the result, based on visual evidence and what he’s seen.
“He’s in Hong Kong but has taken his time to view it. He’s a great sportsman but thinks it’s a pretty cut and dried case. To be fair to the horse, to his record and career, that’s what’s going to happen.”
Speaking straight after the original result was upheld, Moore was of the opinion that Circus Maximus had the measure of his rival.
“He was the best horse on the day and was always holding off the second,” said Moore. “He had a bit more left in the tank.
“He’s obviously well suited to a mile. There were six Group 1 winners in the field and you have to be very happy with what he’s done. He’s won a St James’s Palace and run well in the Sussex.
“We had a nice slot and I was probably in front long enough with him but he battled on well enough.”
Circus Maximus has been a revelation since failing to stay in the Derby and, though co-owned with the Coolmore Partners, is a sixth Moulin winner to carry the two-tone blue of the Niarchos family, while Aidan O’Brien adds this success to that of Rock Of Gibraltar in 2002.
Speaking from Kentucky the family’s racing manager Alan Cooper said: “He’s a really good, tough horse who enjoys his racing. Today underlined that ten furlongs at York [in the International Stakes] was too far and it sets him up to be one of the top milers of his generation, if not the top.
“The original plan was to go to the QEII but let’s let Aidan get home, see the horse and then advise us what to do.”
Paddy Power cut Circus Maximus from 8-1 into 6-1 for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot.
The oft-expressed view that the mile division in Europe lacks a real star at the moment should not detract from two really taking horses.
Condon was full of pride at the performance of Romanised, who has returned to his 2018 Irish Guineas-winning form, which culminated in a second top-level success in the Niarchos-sponsored Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville last month.
“We’re very proud,’ said Condon. “The round track presented a different test but he’s come here in very good shape and run a super race. It looked like he was coming back again in the last couple of strides which is very pleasing.
“He doesn’t really know he’s been beaten and Billy [Lee] was delighted with him. From a difficult draw he’s got a position, travelled smoothly and if anything he’s probably landed in front a shade early. We could have done with something to take him a bit further but that’s just racing.
“He’ll be put away for the season and hopefully we can look forward to a fruitful campaign next year when he’ll probably follow a similar programme including all those top Group 1 races.”
How the French rules on interference have changed
There are still plenty of racing people who fear the sound of the stewards’ klaxon at Longchamp and elsewhere in France, which until March 2018 had radically different interference rules to Britain and Ireland.
However the fact is that, since moving to a philosophy more in keeping with those Category 1 countries – Hong Kong and Dubai also favour the first past the post unless an incident is deemed to have cost the horse interfered with a winning chance – the instances of horses losing a race after a stewards’ inquiry have declined.
The only way in which French stewards have reserved themselves the right to disqualify a horse that is clearly on top at the line is when a manoeuvre is carried out that is deemed to be dangerous.
That was clear not the case with the Moulin finish and may have lessened the chances of the Longchamp stewards taking action.
As far as the appeal goes, the same factors are at play as would be the case in the UK or Ireland. It will depend on the extent to which officials feel Circus Maximus took Romanised off a straight line in a race that was decided by a nose.
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