Workforce, the record-breaking Epsom Derby winner, has had a topsy-turvy career within a span of only five lifetime starts, but two of his wins have come in world-renowned races: the Epsom Derby and today’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (see the video below). The Juddmonte-bred and-owned son of King’s Best won his lone start at 2 impressively enough to be considered Derby material, but lost his season debut at 3 in the Group 2 Dante to subsequent Irish Derby winner and Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes winner Cape Blanco. The reason for the loss, widely reported in the press: the bit slipped (and perhaps the colt got his tongue over it).
For the Derby, Workforce was fitted with a leather Figure-8, which keeps the mouth closed, and won the classic in record time. Next up in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes, Workforce ran poorly behind the runaway Harbinger, and his record stood at 2 wins from 4 starts. He wasn’t seen in a race again until today, when he won the Arc by a head from the Japanese invader Nakayama Festa.
Sir Michael Stoute tipped his hand that another equipment change was in store for the Arc when Workforce was given a mile trial with a stablemate this week at Sandown and appeared wearing a Sure-Win bridle and the Figure-8, a combination that trainer Jessica Harrington has used on the 2-year-old Distorted Humor Group 1 winner Pathfork. The Sure-Win has been ubiquitous in Europe lately—notably on the runners in the Richard Hannon stable–but the combo isn’t as common. Ms. Harrington, who also trained the top jumper Moscow Flyer, probably used the combination on Pathfork for control and air, and Sir Michael most probably used it for the same reasons on the new Arc winner.
Photos below show Workforce from the Dante, the Epsom Derby, and at Sandown last week in a workout. Note the progressive additions of the Figure-8 in the Derby and the Sure-Win (orange) at Sandown. Workforce wore it in the Arc as well. The last photo is of Pathfork, shown winning the Group 1 National Stakes wearing the same combo.