Trip To Paris’ hugely successful 2015 may not technically have begun at Ripon Racecourse, but you could well argue that his meteoric rise through the staying ranks can be traced back to his win there on April 25 of last year.
That day he waltzed to a near four-length victory in the competitive At The Races Sky 415 Handicap over 3218m, one of the feature staying handicaps at the track affectionately known as ‘Yorkshire’s Garden Racecourse’.
His win at Ripon impressed many, but few witnesses would have tipped him to go on to achieve what he did over the course of the next six months or so. Nor should they have…
This son of Champs Elysees (out of La Grande Zoa) was only a £20,000 purchase from a ready-to-run sale. His trainer, Ed Dunlop, admitted to having limited expectations of the horse, initially hoping they could just win a few races with him.
But after his success at Ripon, Dunlop must have quickly reassessed his estimation of the horse’s ability as his next assignment would be the Chester Cup over 3755m, a highly respected staying race in that region.
And as with Ripon he comfortably rose to the challenge, surging home at Chester to score by nearly a length. Two starts later he would go on to claim the Group One Ascot Gold Cup over 4023m, cementing his place in the top-tier of England’s staying ranks.
At that point it was abundantly clear to all involved that the horse had good ability and may even be worth sending out to Australia for the Melbourne Cup (3200m); and not just as a travelling companion for the great, and sadly late, Red Cadeaux.
Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. But as well as targeting the Melbourne Cup, Dunlop heeded the advice of others and gave him a lead-up run in the Caulfield Cup, a trip most thought would be short of his best.
Despite starting as an unpopular $31 chance, the horse ran out of his skin to finish second behind race-favourite Mongolian Khan, only half a length in arrears.
As a result, his Melbourne Cup quote shortened significantly. By the time the gates flew open Trip To Paris had been backed into second-favouritism ($6) for ‘the race that stops a nation’.
Disappointingly, he wouldn’t go one better in the Melbourne Cup, instead finishing fourth some two lengths off the winner – and despised outsider at $126 – Prince of Penzance. It can’t have helped that the horse got badly galloped on in the run. But these things can happen, especially in a race as fiercely contested and taxing as the Melbourne Cup.
Still, it was an incredible effort by this talented and gutsy stayer. His progression from a two-mile handicap at Ripon to the world’s most famous two-mile handicap, the Melbourne Cup, is one of the more impressive ascents we’ve witnessed and his connections must have been pinching themselves all the way from Ripon to Flemington.
That he went on to finish down the field in the Japan Cup at his next start proved an ill-fitting end to his remarkable year; this was made worse by the discovery that he sustained a tendon injury in the run.
Had he taken out either of the staying features in Melbourne – or the Japan Cup, for that matter – it would have made for a far grander story, but with earnings of AUD$1.4 million (and counting…), he has accomplished more than most thought possible.
And the good news is Trip To Paris has recovered from his injury and is back in work. His trainer has earmarked the Goodwood Cup on 28 July as a possible first-up assignment.
It’s too early to know if he’ll return to Australia for a crack at the 2016 Melbourne Cup, but if he is sound and racing well then connections will surely entertain the thought.
And while it’s unlikely that a horse of his calibre will return to Yorkshire Gardens Racecourse, it’s a great tribute to the track that such a quality animal was able to stamp his arrival in one of their feature races.
And if nothing else, people may now pay even closer attention to the horses that go through the winner’s stall at Ripon…
Guest post by Punters.com.au