STEVEN ARNOLD : The Gold Cup is the next target

Il a la réputation d’être un homme des grandes occasions. Steven Arnold l’a encore une fois démontré dimanche en s’adjugeant le Maiden, la plus prestigieuse épreuve du calendrier hippique mauricien. Après le Barbé, c’est donc un deuxième Groupe 1 qu’a remporté l’Australien, sous les yeux de son épouse et de son beau-père qui ont fait spécialement le déplacement de Melbourne pour le voir en action. Celui qui a remporté 14 courses de Groupe 1 avant de poser ses valises à Maurice a toujours faim et a désormais comme prochain objectif la Coupe d’Or. Ce qui tombe bien, puisque son bail a été prolongé jusqu’à la fin de la saison par Ramapatee Gujadhur. En attendant le 28 octobre, le grand bonhomme de cette 23e journée nous livre ses impressions.

Steven Arnold you bagged another memorable win Sunday last. How does it feel to win the biggest race on the island ?
As thrilling as it was when I won the Barbe, except that this time it was front of a much bigger crowd. Numerically speaking, I think it was a step up from the Barbe. From a personal point of view, it was nice to win the big race in the presence of my wife and father-in-law who had made the trip from Melbourne to be part of this big day.

How much confident were you to win aboard Enaad ?
I was quite confident. Enaad is a really good stayer, a well relaxed horse. He switches off in a race and relaxes well. The speed was nice. I was happy with the way the race was run and when I pressed the button he quickened beautifully. I was pretty gentle on him because when he quickened, he was going as fast as he could. So there was no need to hit him further.

Did the margin by which he won surprise you ?
No, not on how the race turned out because at the top of the straight I was a sort of losing my reins and I knew that when I would press the button he would accelerate. And he did just that.

Prior to his first run in Mauritius, your trainer had publicly revealed that Enaad was suffering from some back issues. Can we know how went his preparation for the big race ?
I think we should give a lot of credit to the Gujadhur stable who prepared Enaad beautifully. He did a lot of swimming and things like that. He does not train to hard on the track. We just kept him well in a good state and maintained his fitness. Credit to the stable who put a lot of time and energy in preparing the horse. They are just reaping the rewards.

Can we say that he is the horse that has got the best preparation for the Maiden in that he was gradually lengthened in distance ?
You are right. Enaad is a natural stayer. You don’t have to kill him at trackwork or in the races so to speak. Stayers, once they are fit, they can run the distance, there is absolutely no problem. Sunday was his great final. He was at his peak. There was nothing left in the lock.

Does it mean that in the Golden Trophy he was not fit ?
He was not at his peak in the Golden Trophy. He could still win the race though. He just got beaten on the line. It was only his second run in Mauritius on that day. He has improved from that race. He was fit enough to win the Golden Trophy, but he was not at his peak as he was on Sunday.

On what he showed, you’ll agree that it will be difficult for the other horses to match him at level weight on long distance races…
Yes, the way he won looks promising. He is a genuine stayer. As I said, he has a beautiful attitude. He relaxes nicely in a race and he has got a turn of foot that is very impressive. He definitely has the ability to bag more wins at the Champ de Mars.

Last year Parachute Man won the Gold Cup, which is run on a mile, after having won the Maiden Cup. Do you think that Enaad can follow in his footsteps ?
I’m not too sure about the mile. Enaad is more of a genuine stayer. It depends on how the race is run. He was great on the mile the other day, but that was his first outing and he was fresh. I’m not too sure if he can win a mile now, but I wouldn’t go pass him if ever he ran such a race as he is a very good horse.

You have won your second big race in Mauritius. You must surely be satisfied ?
How could I not be ? (smile). We have a good stable with some nice horses at the top, which means that we can aim at the classics. We are doing well so far and there is still more to do. We will be working even harder the next month to try to keep it up.

We understand that your departure has been rescheduled. Can you tell us a little bit more about it ?
As everyone knows, it was scheduled that I’ll go back home after the Maiden Cup. But a couple of days ago, Soon asked me to stay a little longer. I unhesitatingly accepted as we are getting in the spring season in Melbourne and it’s probably a little bit too late to go back home. That’s how it turned out and I’ll be there till the end of the season.

With two Group 1 wins in the bag for you, can we say that the next one is the Gold Cup ?
That’s the target (smile). But as I’ve always said, horse racing is such that you are never over the line before a race. Things can go wrong. There is a lot of pressure in such types of races and it’s not over since you have crossed the winning line.