The early pace had been so telling that none of the leaders to the stretch except Hallez were in the first 10 at the finish. Ramsin, Ossian, Sharapour, Miss Dan and Ortis all faded and dropped back, while the positions behind the first three were taken by Caro, Hallez, Royalty, Bourbon, Arlequino, One for All and Irish Ball.
Mill Reef, now being acclaimed as the Horse of the World, returns to England to await a 4-year-old European campaign in which his toughest competitor may well be his conqueror last May in the 2,000 Guineas, Brigadier Gerard. This colt has won four straight races since but has not met as stiff competition as Mill Reef.
The victory by Mellon's horse rekindles the controversy over which nation is breeding the best horses these days. Why, for example, are U.S. sires who never won at a mile and a half (and some who never even won at a mile and a quarter) producing the winners of Europe's classic events? Northern Dancer, Never Bend, Gun Bow, Traffic, Bold Lad and Sir Gaylord have sired champions in England, Ireland and France in the last few years. "The reason that nonclassic horses in the U.S. can produce classic horses abroad is solely a matter of training," says one French horseman. "In the U.S. it seems to me you break down more than a quarter of your 2-year-olds before they turn 3, mostly from working them those fast four and five furlongs at 2, or just plain overracing them. Here we start a 2-year-old twice or three times at most, with no emphasis on speed. The result is that we have good 3-year-olds, and at 4 we still have some horses around who can stand up with clean legs."
International Owner Raymond Guest has another opinion, which he puts bluntly: "Why the American success? We've got the best horses now, and why shouldn't we have the best after buying—or stealing—the best European blood for the last 100 years.
"Any good mile-and-a-quarter horse in the States should be able to win at a mile and a half in Europe because he's not being asked for the kind of speed we demand of our horses. If this is true, and I personally believe it to be, then a good American mile-and-a-quarter horse should be expected to be just as good a sire of mile-and-a-half European horses as French-and English-bred classic winners."
What amazes Arc victor Paul Mellon about all this is that horsemen spend so much time emphasizing the role of the stallion. "In the first place," says Mellon, "how can we discuss mile-and-a-half races in the States when we have so few of them? Then I hear all this talk about Never Bend. They could just as well be talking about Mill Reef's maternal side with its Princequillo, Count Fleet and Hyperion blood. I have to think that the mare has something to do with it!"
And, as the bubbly was being poured liberally in Paris Sunday night, Mellon probably was recalling another remark he made just the evening before. "My idea of international racing," he told the group at Maxim's, tongue in cheek, "would be for President Pompidou to win the Kentucky Derby, President Nixon to win the Arc de Triomphe, Queen Elizabeth to win the Laurel International and Chairman Mao to win the Russian St. Leger."
It's 3 to 5 that Emperor Hirohito would ask for a seat to that one.