Marcel Weiss’ German raider Torquator Tasso has caused a huge shock in 2021 and is back for more glory at the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, live on Sky Sports Racing on Sunday.
The five-year-old was virtually unknown last year when he created a major upset in the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe where he beat leaders Tarnawa and Hurricane Lane at odds of 80/1.
This year, the son of Adlerflug and Tijuana returns to ParisLongchamp to defend his title, and his chances dwindle as the Arc approaches and the rain that accompanies it, even if a draw in box 18 Thursday tempers the enthusiasm.
It’s no secret that he likes soft ground and that he, more than any other horse, with the possible exception of fellow German Mendocino, who is also a son of Adlerflug, will be able to handle heavy ground.
“Yes, a soft ground, that’s what he wants,” says his coach Marcel Weiss, who admits to being much more nervous than in 2021.
“Last year we entered the Arc completely relaxed. We always thought he was a good horse and would have been happy with a place, but that he continues to win has us a bit surprised. The problem this year is that if he is not in the top three, we will be disappointed.”
This season things haven’t gone as well as he’d hoped either, as during the summer it became clear that Tasso’s regular jockey Rene Piechulek would not be available.
Piechulek is actually contracted to ride Mendocino, who had the same goals as Tasso, as he is affectionately nicknamed by everyone in the yard, starting with the Grosser Preis von Baden and then the Arc.
Not that he had to worry about finding a replacement, as every jockey in Europe was keen to partner with the Arc winner, especially after another impressive performance in the Qipco King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot. , where on terrain it was far too fast for him, he finished second to Pyledriver.
As the winner in Arc history seemed available, the choice quickly fell on Frankie Dettori, who met Tasso in the Grosser Preis von Baden.
There, unfortunately, everything conspired against him and in the end he was beaten by a head by none other than Menocino.
“It was obviously very disappointing,” said Weiss, who currently has around 50 horses in his stable in Mühlheim, where he took over Stall Diana at the end of the 2019 season.
“However, the race went completely against him. There was absolutely no rhythm and the horse couldn’t take cover because there were only four runners. Frankie did his best. better and pushed the pace early because Tasso needs some time to ride, but that just didn’t happen.”
The symbiosis between horse and jockey seemed off that day and Weiss continues: “I’ve always said that Tasso is a different horse on a track on the right. Yes, he has already won in Baden, but really he is different when he goes on the right. -handed and that’s what I told Frankie.
“Therefore, it was really important to me that Frankie sat on him again before the Arc. It was a deal breaker for me.
“I wanted him to know that the horse is a different animal and when Frankie came to ride him on Tuesday in his last job before the Arc, it was a whole different story.
“The horse worked very well and there was a real harmony between the jockey and the horse and when Frankie left him he agreed with me, saying he was a different horse from Baden-Baden.
“In fact, he then also said that if he had a choice of a horse in the Arc, his choice would always be Tasso.”
Marcel Weiss, who says life hasn’t really changed since last year, although he can no longer go unnoticed at the races, looked much happier now that Dettori and Torquator Tasso seemed to have found their mojo .
And he is also very happy with the continuous rain.
“I looked at the forecast and like last year it shows rain and rain,” he smiles.
“Obviously it’s great because we all know what he can do on this type of ground. Obviously it’s a big field this year and I have huge respect for the opponent. We all know that we we also need a bit of luck. In fact, sometimes I think we should have stopped when we were on a high, but then again, you want to win again, don’t you?”
At the moment he’s not thinking too much about the pressure that comes with getting the title defender in the saddle, as he has a lot of other things to do and organize between now and Sunday, but he admits: “The race is very short-lived.
“You win today, but if you don’t win again, you are quickly forgotten. And you could win ten small races and nobody talks about it, but you win a big one and everything changes.
“I know I’ll never have a horse like Tasso again. He’s quite a character. In fact, you have to work on him a lot, otherwise he gets the better of you. Obviously I would like him to win again , who wouldn’t? So even though I’m calm now, I know I’ll be nervous on Sunday.”
Weiss, who loves to cook and would have worked as a chef if he hadn’t discovered his love for thoroughbreds at the age of 12 when a friend took him to Hoppegarten, will go through his usual ritual during of his trip to Paris.
He says: “I’m a bit superstitious. I always wear the same aftershave and the same shoes. In Baden-Baden I wore brown shoes, whereas I usually wear black shoes when Tasso runs. I don’t have to not make that mistake again.”
“I’m definitely going back to this bistro in St Cloud that my wife and I discovered last year the day before the Arc. I had the best meal of my life there, so I’m definitely going back this year, for their steak, but also because I’m a bit superstitious.”
Follow all the races from the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe weekend at ParisLongchamp on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd October.