kevin shea and archipenkoKevin Shea begins Archipenko’s charge at Ioritz Mendizabal’s Spirit One

Top turf writer David Thiselton adjudges that Archipenko was unlucky not to have won the Arlington Million Gr1 over  2 000m at Arlington Park in Chicago on Saturday when he was kept in a pocket in the straight by the Aidan O’Brien-trained Mount Nelson, who was ridden by Johnny Murtagh.

“The Mike de Kock-trained stalwart  was eventually extracted by Kevin Shea after Mount Nelson began fading, but it was too late and he could only fly up  for a 0,75 length second behind the  French horse, Spirit One, trained by Kamel Chehboub and ridden by Ioritz Mendizabal.

Archipenko broke well and Johnny Murtagh immediately locked on to him on his outside. Spirit One meanwhile took up the running.  Kevin Shea eventually dropped his mount a length behind Spirit One in a probable attempt to shake him off.

However, Johnny Murtagh didn’t relinquish  his position one wide of the rail and  another horse had moved up behind his mount.  Kevin Shea, therefore, had little choice but to remain on the rail.

“Johnny had me in all the way around,” said Kevin Shea. “When it was time to go, I begged him to let me go and he wouldn’t let me through.”

As usual Archipenko appeared to be moving no better than any of his rivals as they moved into the final turn but once again he found that gear he is now known for and was all over the back of the leader as they straightened. Kevin Shea had to stop riding him and there is little doubt that he would have won had it not been for the race riding tactics of Johnny Murtagh.

Johnny Murtagh
told the Racing Post, “I secured a pocket on the rail [running second] and I was where I wanted to be. At the half-mile pole, I thought we were going to get there. We just couldn’t get there.”

Mike de Kock was upset by the result according to Racing Post’s Nicholas Godfrey.

“That’s the most ungentlemanly piece of riding I’ve seen in a long time,” said an angry Mike de Kock. “It was as if he was looking for our horse all the way round.  I’m very disappointed in Johnny. In my opinion, he rode his horse to keep us in rather than to actually win the race. There was no need for Johnny to keep us in like that.”

Mount Nelson is owned by Coolmore, former owners of Archipenko.  Archipenko, a four-year-old son of Kingmambo, has been transformed as a racehorse since being sold out of Aidan O’Brien’s yard and moving to Mike de Kock.  He now has real stallion potential and Coolmore, who have over the last three decades assembled the probable best stock of stallions in racing history, are likely not too happy to have lost him.  Dr Ashley Parker, who together with his mother Rose of Ascot Stud own a 40% share of Archipenko, watched the race with a party of 40 people in his hometown of Port Elizabeth. 

Although disappointed and confirming that Mike de Kock had been upset, he was philosophical about the result.  He said that Archipenko’s next target is still open to discussion.”