This weekend in Paris, Longchamp racecourse plays host to a jamboree of top drawer Group races, spearheaded by the World Middle Distance Championship that is the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
It’s always a fantastic race and is always won by a true champion. I expect this year to be no different as the combined winners of 29 Group 1 contests go head to head (to head to head to…) for a Â£2 million pot.
There are some really strong trends which point very clearly to three-year-olds having a significant advantage. Indeed, they’ve won seven of the last eight runnings, with only Dylan Thomas striking a blow for the older brigade in that time.
Moreover, fillies have a fairly weak record as well. Aside from the very special Zarkava in 2008, we have to go all the way back to 1993 and Urban Sea to find the last winning filly. Urban Sea, mummy of both Galileo and Sea The Stars, was a truly awesome beast – although we only discovered that with hindsight, as she won the Arc at odds of 37/1! – and it’s asking a lot for Sarafina to replicate that.
Moreover, she also had a single figure draw, something that sixteen of the last eighteen winners have had. Further bad news for fans of favourite, Sarafina, a four year old filly who has been given the ‘car park’ draw of 13. Unlucky for her, and her supporters?
Older horses, represented this term most notably by Sarafina, So You Think, Workforce and Snow Fairy, have that weight for age disadvantage to overcome. And, in the case of So You Think, second favourite for Sunday’s race, there is also another parking lot allocation, the Irish/Aussie (ex?) wonder horse coming from gate 14.
If you want to take 7/2 and 9/2 respectively about those two, good luck to you. You’ll need it. They’re on the slide already after news of the draw has filtered through, and I’m looking further down the lists.
Of course, I wrote off Workforce last year, and he proved me wrong in emphatic style. Obviously, he’s respected, but as he’s now a year older, it will be harder for him to prevail this time, despite a reasonable draw in eight.
Clearly, Workforce will have no problem with the pace and the size of the field, as he showed last year. Indeed it may be to his advantage, rather than the small field affairs he’s been turned over in on his last two starts. I’d fancy him to reverse form with So You Think, but winning is another question.
Snow Fairy is best at this time of year, but she’s gone and got lumbered with trap 11, which surely does for her chances.
Of the Japanese raiders, Hirano D’Amour was tipped up here when a 25/1 shot, after finishing second to Sarafina in the Prix Foy, beaten a short neck. He’s now a best priced 14/1, and has a low draw in one. Nakayama Festa is talented but a five year old drawn in the widest stall of all, sixteen, is not going to win here.
Side-stepping the Germans, that leaves us with the British and Irish, and French, three-year-olds. Let’s start with the home team.
Meandre beat Reliable Man in the Grand Prix de Paris, having got first run on him there. Reliable Man turned the tables emphatically in the Prix Niel, far and away the pick of the Arc trials, winning by two lengths, eased down, without recourse to the whip.
Meadre has drawn ten, with Reliable Man in the plum draw of seven. Reliable Man was over-priced when I had a nice bet at 14’s this morning, and he is still over-priced at the best odds of 12/1 now. Make sure you bet with a bookie offering ‘non runner no bet’ just in case his trainer withdraws him because of the ground. You’ll get your Â money back in that instance.
As for the ground, he’s won twice on good ground, once on soft and once on good to soft. His only defeat came on good to soft, but it wasn’t the ground that was to blame there. I’m quietly confident that the going description will not contain the word ‘firm’ and Reliable Man will run, and run well.
Masked Marvel has been supplemented here, in lieu of stable mate Nathaniel, and the easy St Leger winner is improving fast. This is a different story to the Leger, mind, and whilst connections are hugely respected, I believe there is better form in the book – with the prospect for improvement – elsewhere.
Treasure Beach would have been extremely interesting had he not been drawn in twelve. Available at 40/1, he’s the Irish Derby winner and showed he has tactical speed when winning the Secretariat Stakes in Arlington last month. He also showed he travels well. But the wide draw is a big negative (28 of the last 36 win and placed horses were drawn ten or lower).
Galikova deserves a mention, though I don’t believe she can win. She has a good draw, and all the allowances as a three year old filly. But this represents a very stiff test compared with the Prix Vermaille win last time, which was her best to date.
Overall, I think there is one horse who is massively over-priced, and he’s Reliable Man, who I take to be just that. Here’s the Racing Post comment after his Prix Niel win last time:
Jockey Club winnerÂ RELIABLE MAN, a touch disappointing when given plenty of ground to make up by Gerald Mosse in the Grand Prix de Paris, only finishing third to Meandre, was nicely positioned in third this time, ahead of his old rival, and picked up takingly to lead before staying on strongly for an impressive success, without his rider having to so much as tap him with the whip.
Alain De Royer-Dupre, also responsible for Sarafina, had predictably said beforehand he wouldnÂ´t be at a peak, so itÂ´s reasonable to expect further improvement, and the trainer is shaping up to have a very strong hand in the Arc.
The son of Dalakhani was having only his fifth race and still makes plenty of appeal at a general 8-1, compared to the likes of Workforce and So You Think, who are ahead of him in the market.
He’s available at 12/1 with Stan James, non-runner no bet, and they’ll also give you a stack of free bets if you’re opening a new account. Check out all the latest Arc odds here: latest Arc Betting.
I’ll be back with the full rundown tomorrow, but I wanted to get this out pronto in case you wanted to join me in cheering Reliable Man!