Youmzain: second-best but not second-rate

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According to Mick Channon this horse “has seen it all” but the problem has been that too often what he has seen is another horse in front of him.

Six wins from 27 starts hardly reads like the career statistics of a stable star and a losing streak of eight starts suggests that his best days may be some way back in the distance and that he’s not ready to mix it with the best at Meydan on Dubai World Cup night.

Try telling that to Mick Channon about Youmzain – but keep your distance if you say it because the statistics only tell half the story.

In the case of Youmzain the margin between being hailed as a champion and one of the also-rans has never been that great. Four-and-a-quarter lengths separate him from being the only triple winner of the Prix de l’Arc Triomphe in the race’s history – rather than a three-time runner-up - and throw in another length and he would also be a dual winner of the Coronation Cup as opposed to finishing second both times.

There have, it has to be said, been a few other runs that do not seem anywhere near good enough – such as when he finished 10th of 13 in a group One race in Hong Kong last December -but Channon has long since accepted the overall package of a horse who does seem to take life on his own terms and who regards his box at Channon’s West Ilsely yard as very much his personal fiefdom. But criticise Youmzain and Channon will stiffen his sinew and defend the horse like a friend who has been slighted behind his back. “How many horses do you know which have finished three times in second place in the Arc?” he said. “I tell you what, a lot of winners of the Arc wouldn’t finish second three times.”

The point may be slightly lost in the delivery but the last time that Youmzain really delivered he beat a good field in the Group One Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud in June 2008; but his three attempts at the Dubai Sheema Classic have been less fruitful, with a close third to Vengeance of Rain in 2007 his best performance. Then he was ridden by Richard Hughes but it is Kieren Fallon who is the jockey charged with the mission of coaxing this seemingly impossible character to swap near-misses for direct hits on the bulls-eye at Meydan.

Through all this Channon remains philosophical partly because, with earnings of over £3million and an original price tag of 30,000gns, Youmzain is paying his way in a manner that only a fraction of the 90 juveniles that Channon will run this Flat season are likely to do in their careers. Youmzain may have quirks but they are profitable ones nonetheless.

Channon is an ambitious man but he enters his sixth season with this nearly horse preferring to think of the glass as half full rather than half empty and believing that there is always another bottle ready to be poured in celebration.  

“He’s a seven-year-old now and has seen it all,” Channon said.  “Youmzain is Youmzain, there’s not much that I can say. Leslie, who has been here with him from the start, is pleased with him and I think he’s ok. Kieren’s ridden him in the past and has won on him. He knows him inside out and sat on him in Dubai. He did a couple of bits of work here. In fact he breezed him 10 days ago and was pleased with him.

“You know he only ran a bad race in Hong Kong. It just didn’t work out for him, but you wouldn’t mind having 10 of the Youmzains in your yard now, would you? I mean he hasn’t done anything wrong. He just needs the race to go his way. He has been good to us, no doubt. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he puts up a good performance in this year’s Arc.”

“Look, you can’t teach him new tricks. He’s what he is and that is a very good horse. Let’s just see what happens on Saturday.”

Channon just hopes that this time Youmzain can go the distance.



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