While Arrogate may have been the most photographed horse at Del Mar last month in the build up to his Breeders’ Cup Classic defence, there can be little doubt that he was run a close second by Talismanic.
A double-figure price for the Turf, Godolphin’s four-year-old son of Medaglia D’Oro wasn’t generating too many column inches from the assembled racing writers, despite the storied international record of his trainer Andre Fabre.
With his striking white face and four matching socks, the world’s turf photographers were belatedly catching on to what their French confreres had long known: Talismanic is one stunning racehorse.
What had previously been a low level of fandom among a small number of devotees is now threatening to break out into full-blown cult status, with plenty of itchy Twitter trigger-fingers anxiously awaiting his appearance for trackwork this week for #TalismanicTuesday.
Fabre himself was early to point out what a popular horse he was in the yard, not only for his markings but his sympathetic nature.
Ahead of the 2016 Prix du Jockey Club, in which he ran a fine fourth behind European Champion three-year-old colt Almanzor, Fabre told the Racing Post: “He has a fantastic personality and everyone loves him, so it would have been hard for Mickael [Barzalona] to desert him.”
Fast forward 18 months and Talismanic will be making only a second racecourse venture without Barzalona, with Maxime Guyon taking over for the suspended rider in Sunday’s G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m).
A mile and a half has long looked his ideal trip and Fabre has been planning overseas adventures for some time, despite having dabbled with going up further in trip for the 2,800m Prix Maurice de Nieuil (G2) back in July.
What that Saint-Cloud success demonstrated above all else was that fast ground could prove an asset, if and when Sheikh Mohammed and his trainer decided to send Talismanic on his travels.
The gamble of attempting the LONGINES Breeders’ Cup Turf around the tight turns of Del Mar paid off spectacularly, with Barzalona utilising his rail draw, cutting every corner and powering clear of Beach Patrol and Highland Reel to announce a true international breakthrough.
Talismanic was now more than just a pretty face.
“He has taken the racing and travelling really well,” said Fabre after arriving in Hong Kong on Friday. “He was looking good and happy when he came back from Del Mar and although I haven’t seen him here yet – I will see him tomorrow – the people looking after him are delighted with him. He is a relaxed quiet horse who takes things very well.”
Plenty of connections were playing down the importance of an inside berth in the Vase after Thursday’s draw but Fabre was unable to conceal his pleasure at the number one stall picked out by Godolphin representative, Lisa-Jane Graffard.