Arc Sunday Preview 2013

Seven Group 1’s comprise the almost unrivalled quality and depth of Arc Sunday, highlighted by the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe itself. That classic contest, despite the late defecting Novellist, is a true cracker. And the support is incroyable too.

Here are the first five of them, along with previews and tips.

[And do remember that racebets are paying 10% on top of the SP for any UK or Irish trained winners in Paris today.

Prix de l’Abbaye 2013 Preview / Tips

Can Jwala win the Abbaye?

Can Jwala win the Abbaye?

It’s the most subscribed race of the whole weekend in Paris, both from a number of runners perspective, and a number of British- and Irish-trained runners perspective too.

And within that is the problem: it’s very, very hard to find the winner, as odds of 6/1 the field imply. From a pure ratings perspective, it’s a two horse race: Jwala and Sole Power are the only two ‘proper’ Group 1 horses in the field. From a draw and ratings perspective, it’s a one horse race: Jwala has the rating and the draw, Sole Power is wide again in this event, having finished a really creditable fifth from stall 15 last year on heavy. He’s fared slightly better in 13 this time, and the ground will be slightly quicker than the heavy encountered in 2012, but still he has a bit to find with Jwala.

So, should I end the preview there? Well, I probably should, because digging deeper into the merits and de-merits (if it’s a word) of the remainder is like trying to justify the possibility of a horse that shouldn’t be able to win the race winning the race… if you see what I mean.

Last year, Wizz Kid, a local with a Group 2 win during the season, prevailed. In 2011, Tangerine Trees, with a Group 3 and a Listed win earlier in the season, won. In 2010, a Group 3 winner earlier in the year won. The same in 2009, a Listed winner earlier in the year; and in 2008, an actual previous Group 1 winner triumped – Marchant d’Or.

In essence, any horse that has won a Listed race, or preferably at least a Group 3, this year can win the weakish Group 1 that is the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp.

I’m also looking for a five furlong specialist, and a horse which acts on the soft side of good (won in Listed class or better under those conditions). And I want a low drawn horse. Incredibly, six of the twelve 1-2-3 positions in the last four years were achieved by horses drawn 1, 2, or 3!

Jwala has stall 4, and she has the early speed to take advantage of it. Although Hamza, in 2, is also very quick from the gate, Jwala has a much better overall profile, including that last time out Group 1 win (when I backed her at 80/1 on Betfair using the RAR reports, which were in private trial at time!).

She has a superb profile for the race, and must run well assuming she breaks on terms, a comment which applies to every runner in this licketty-split dash.

Of those at a price, Hamza could run into the frame from a beneficial draw, and I’d definitely want to back him with a bookie paying four places (bet365, though their offer of 16/1 is a bit on the skinny side).

Spirit Quartz has been overlooked a little for this, in my view. He ran poorly last time, for sure, but prior to that was beaten less than three lengths in a Group 2 on good. Here’s the thing with SQ though: he wants soft ground. It’s possible he didn’t let himself down properly (i.e. he was afraid of jarring himself) on the quicker ground in recent starts.

If I’m right about that, he’s a huge price at 25/1 with William Hill. He won a Group 2 at Chantilly earlier this season, over five good to soft furlongs, beating a horse called Catcall. She’s half his price, and that’s not right, especially given Spirit Quartz’ trap three berthing.

Rae Guest’s Mirza also likes soft – very much – and won over course and distance last time out in a Group 3 (dead heating in fact with re-opposing Dibajj). The one to back of that pair, though, is Dibajj, as she’s likely to be very popular with the French: she’s trained by top trainer, Alain de Royer-Dupre; she has a form string of 32131; she goes on soft and is versatile with regards trip, proving last time that she can live with the pace at the minimum.

The one issue with her is that she’s a hold up horse, drawn eight, and she might have trouble in running. But then so might plenty of others. I’m pretty sure she won’t be 14/1 on the day given her profile, so she’s a value bet on that basis alone.

Maarek loves genuine soft ground, and he’s a Group 2 performer under such conditions. He’s got an acceptable stall in seven, and is another with a squeak. Reckless Abandon, for all his toe, has a better record at six furlongs, though he is capable of winning a race like this, albeit perhaps not from box 16.

Catcall has run close to a good few of these, but ultimately been beaten by them, and she’d have to reverse several formlines to go in, and she’s not a price to be betting that.

Justineo has been hardlucked by the draw (15), and may well try to make all on the far side, most likely in vain; while Ladies Are Forever is a six furlong mare in my view.

And the rest probably aren’t good enough.

Most like Prix de l’Abbaye winner: Jwala 6/1 bet365 (1/4 odds 1-2-3-4)
Two value Prix de l’Abbaye alternatives: Spirit Quartz 25/1 Hills (1/4 1-2-3), Dibajj 14/1 (1/4 odds 1-2-3-4)

Prix Marcel Boussac 2013 Preview / Tips

Lesstalk for Jean-Claude in Paris Marcel Boussac?

Lesstalk for Jean-Claude inParis Marcel Boussac?

The Marcel Boussac is one of the pre-eminent juvenile filly races, a Group 1 run over a mile. All bar one of the the last twelve winners were either first or second in at least one Group 1 subsequently – the exception, Rumplestiltskin, only racing once after her Boussac victory.

A few unifying themes in this one, namely:

– All of the last eleven Marcel Boussac winners had won within their first two starts, and all had run within 45 days

– Nine of the last eleven Marcel Boussac winners won their prior start

– Four of the last eight Marcel Boussac winners were trained in UK (one) or Ireland (three)

It may or may not be significant then, that Sandiva, the leading overseas raider, has been off the track for fifty days. Charlie Appleby’s Majeyda, beaten in a Group 2 last time, also fails this profile test, as do Likelihood, Wonderfully, Queen Catrine, and Illuminating Dream. Put another way, not one of the raiding party passes these criteria.

Sandiva is the closest and five days may be neither here nor there if her form stacks up. We’ll see about that momentarily.

The home guard is not without its weaknesses either against the checklist, with Kenzadargent, Marbre Rose, Testina, Stormyra, Princess Bavaroise, Stellar Path and Indonesienne all failing one or more of these.

Clearly, it would have been easier to outline that just Veda, Lesstalkinparis, and Royalmania ticked the boxes!

Royalmania is favoured after two wins in two starts, the more recent a soft ground conditions stakes. That form doesn’t amount to a great deal and, while she is a filly of vast potential, she has yet to show pattern class ability, let alone Group 1 winning talent. That’s not to say she can’t, merely to highlight the absence of value in a price of 7/4.

Lesstalkinparis is a 4/1 shot, and she won a Group 3 last time – the second win in her two run career. She had a troubled passage there and it was testament to her ability that she was still able to win when the gap finally came. She has better form in the book, and is more obviously better than the bare level of that. The ground looks fine for her, and she’s a far better value proposition in my view than the favourite.

Hoku has been supplemented for this and, given the prohibitive cost of doing so, that may be a tip in itself. It’s certainly a pointer to the well-being of this young filly, who has improved throughout the season and was an unlucky second last time in a Group 3 at Ayr. That’s bold leap from there to here, up two grades and two furlongs. Ultimately, it may simply be that the owner, Sheikh Suhaim Al Thani, one of the Qatari money men, wants a horse running in one of the races sponsored by his nation.

Most likely winner: Royalmania 7/4 Paddy
Best value: Lesstalkinparis 4/1 Paddy

Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere 2013 Preview / Tips

Who's who in the Lagardere? No, Noozhoh!

Who’s who in the Lagardere? No, Noozhoh!

The richest race on the French juvenile circuit, closely matched with the Prix Morny, the Lagardere – run over seven furlongs – is a pot plundered by many a British and Irish raider. Indeed, eleven of the last seventeen renewals have been carted across la Manche. The main daylight robber has been Aidan O’Brien with a clutch of seven wins since 1997. Interestingly, perhaps, he’s failed to add to that tally since 2006.

Just nine remain engaged for this most prestigious of prizes, and O’Brien relies on Wilshire Boulevard to enhance his prominence on the Lagardere roll of honour. Wilshire Boulevard has yet to win above Group 3 level, though he was second in a Group 2 last time; and has yet to race beyond six furlongs, though he is bred for this longer trip.

Indeed, his dear old daddy, Holy Roman Emperor, was the last Ballydoyle boyo to score in this, as mentioned, in 2006. He is battle hardened, like many from his stable, having had six runs already – four of them resulting in a gold or silver medal – and he has scope to improve for the step up to seven-eighths. Whether he’s good enough is another question entirely, and I’ll be wagering he’s not quite up to this.

Your first 30 days for just £1

The favourite is another of the raiding party, Outstrip, representing Charlie Appleby and Godolphin. It’s been a very difficult year for the Godolphin team, and Appleby only finds himself here due to the disgrace of his former guv’nor Mahmood al Zarooni. Nevertheless, Charlie has started very well, and his horse has the best combination of proven form and projected improvement in the field.

After just three runs, Outstrip has finished second and then first in a brace of seven furlong Group 2’s, both of them on good to soft ground. That profile lends itself readily to comparison with Sunday’s race conditions, and the facile manner of his latest Doncaster success – by three lengths from yardstick, The Grey Gatsby – was eye-catching, cutting down the outside and drawing away.

The best of the French may well be Karakontie, a Bernstein colt who probably wants further in time. His US/Japanese breeding leads me to think he may prove best on faster ground too, though he did win his debut on very soft, beating a horse called Ectot. Ectot has since won three in a row, the last of which was a Group 3. If he acts on the ground, he will be the main danger.

Noozhoh Canarias is very hard to peg. He’s won his three starts, impressively each time, and the last of them in Listed company over six furlongs. However, all three runs were on good ground, which it is unlikely to be on Sunday, and he’s never run at the main Paris or Normandy tracks.

In fact, he had the first two of his three starts in Spain, at La Zarzuela near Madrid. Your guess is as good as mine as to how that form stacks up, so it is best to focus on his last day win at Bordeaux’s La Teste track. That was a Listed event, and he beat Elusive Pearl and Another Party, the latter of which has since run within a short neck of a Group 3 victory at Chantilly, having been nearly seven lengths behind Noozhoh Canarias. He re-opposes here, but it’s hard to see him reversing form.

This horse reminds me of 2011 Lagardere winner, Dabirsim, who started out at La Teste before bashing up the best of the Parisians in their own back jardin. Whether he’s good enough to replicate that one’s electric turn of pace – it really was a phenomenally charmed run Frankie got that day from a nigh on impossible position – remains to be seen. But the nature of his performances to date mean he could be up to it, and he’s a price so to do.

Most Likely Winner: Outstrip 6/4 Paddy
Most Interesting Runner: Noozhoh Canarias 6/1 Paddy

Prix de l’Opera 2013 Preview / Tips

Can Silasol win on Arc day again?

Can Silasol win on Arc day again?

The Opera is a Group 1 for fillies and mares run over a mile and a quarter, and generally won by a genuine Group 1 distaff. It’s another race the three- and four-year-olds have monopolized, with just Satwa Queen (2007) winning for the older nags since 1974. That doesn’t bode at all well for either of Pagera, re-routed here from the Prix de Royallieu on Saturday, or Roger Charlton’s  Thistle Bird, both of which are five.

Indeed, three-year-olds have something of a stranglehold on the race, having won all of the last five Operas, and thirty of the last forty.

British and Irish fillies have won nine of the last twenty instances of the Opera, though only Roger Varian’s Nahrain has conquered the locals in the last seven years.

With the Royallieu over a mile and a half seemingly at her mercy, this is an interesting slot for Ralph Beckett’s Secret Gesture to fill, given that she’s not run over such a short trip in four races this season. That said, she’s not short of pace, as she showed when winning the Listed Oaks trial over a mile and three by ten lengths. She was already well clear by the furlong pole, and ought not to be especially inconvenienced by the drop in range.

She has the class for a race like this, and she’s owned by the sponsor, who will be most keen to recoup a few of his Qatari riyals. The only time Secret Gesture was out of the first two in her six race career was the last day, in the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks. While she would have been no match for The Fugue that day on any turf, it’s possible that the first time she has encountered the word ‘firm’ in the going description was to blame for a slightly sub-par effort.

Prior to that, she was second in both the Epsom and German Oaks, and I like her.

Pick of the French will probably be Andre Fabre’s grey Godolphin filly, Tasaday. She was third in the French 1000 Guineas, and fourth in the French Oaks, and third last time out in the Prix Vermeille. Those were all Group 1 efforts, the last two when beaten roughly the same distance behind Treve, second favourite for the Arc.

In between those two Treve trumpings, Tasaday won twice herself, both at Deauville and both in less Group company over this mile and a quarter distance. She seems to be fine with some cut in the ground, and her level of public ability is broadly in line with Secret Gesture’s. Surprisingly, Andre Fabre hasn’t won the Opera since 1997, and he’s run thirteen in the intervening years, including an odds on favourite. Two of his, one of them that jolly, were second, so it’s hard to write him off… but Tasaday could very well be over-bet and offer value elsewhere.

Sparkling Beam finished behind Tasaday in second on both of those two Deauville runs, and it’s very hard to envisage how she can tournez les tables here under similar conditions. (Apologies for the Del Boy French interjections).

Thistle Bird, for all that she’s ostensibly ‘too old’, cannot be discounted on the merit of her Nassau Stakes run. She was a close second to Winsili in that ten furlong Group 1 and that ties in closely with the pick of this pack. She backed that up with a nine furlong win in Group 3 company at Epsom earlier in the year, on good to soft. The best of her form however is on quick ground, and I suspect the combination of the weight for age allowance she cedes to the younger lasses, and the sodden turf, will conspire against her.

Dalkala may be the most interesting of all. We’ve seen her in England this year. She won the Group 2 Middleton Stakes at York back in May. Since then she got whacked in a vintage renewal of the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (Novellist won, beating Dunaden and Cirrus Des Aigles, amongst others), before running a nice third in the Group 1 Prix Jean Romanet over Deauville’s equivalent circuit. She’s won over as far as a mile and five furlongs (in heavy ground!) so she’ll not want for stamina, and she does have a touch of class to go with it, as the G1 bronze last time illustrates.

I do feel she might just lack the zip to outrun some of these over ten furlongs, but if it comes up quaggy, she’d be a player.

And then there’s Silasol. Winner of the mile Group 1 Marcel Boussac on soft this day last year, she’s since won a course and distance Group 1 (Prix Saint-Alary) again on soft. This is her trip, this is her track, and she might well get her ground as well. As a daughter of Monsun, she’s a mudlark, and if it rains, keep Silasol onside.

The Prix de l’Opera is a fascinating race this year, and there are plenty with some sort of chance. Depending on the available odds, I’d be interested in the chances of Secret Gesture, Silasol and Dalkala.

Opera Suggestion: Secret Gesture 5/1 Paddy
Soft Ground Picks: Silasol 10/1 Paddy / Dalkala 10/1 Paddy

Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe 2013 Preview / Tips

Nice one, Treve! Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner?

Nice one, Treve! Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner?

It’s the big one of Longchamp’s big weekend, the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe 2013. Whilst not quite being the race that stops a nation (there isn’t actually any sporting event in modern Gaul that can claim such attention from the famously insouciant inhabitants of our near neighbours), it is certainly the most important horse race in Europe, and a crowd of somewhere close to 60,000 will file in before it starts, and out after it finishes… many of them within ten minutes either side.

Yes, such a prestigious race deserves such a long opening sentence, punctuated to within a semi colon of its life.

On with the Arc show, and what a show it promises to be this year. There is truly global representation, with much of Europe, and Japan, engaged. And it is a race with as much depth as it has international flavour. Naturellement, this fusion dish has a predominantly French base (Treve, Intello, Flintshire, et al), but it is thickened with German stodge (Novellist) and fiendishly spiced with Japanese wasabi (Orfevre, Kizuna).

For those who prefer meat and two veg, les rosbifs offer an alternative plate comprising Irish potatoes, Ruler Of The World and Leading Light (when was the last time two Classic winners were referred to as potatoes?), and English beef in the form of Al Kazeem and The Fugue (not in a Tesco burger sense, you understand).

OK, enough with the lame analogies, let’s get to the meat of the argument, starting with the trends.

Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe 2013 Trends

The first thing I want to touch on is the draw. For some reason, this seems to be a contentious issue. But, to my mind, it’s straightforward: you want to be drawn low to stand the best chance of winning the Arc. Here’s what the data tells us on this:

The last ten winners had an average post position of 6.0, with just one winner – the very talented Dalakhani – drawn in double figures. He was drawn 14 in a field of 13 (one non-runner), which is a smaller than average field. The average field size in the last ten years has been 15.4.

Second placed horses in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe had an average draw position of 6.5, with only Orfevre last year running up from a stall higher than ten.

Indeed, there has been just a single winner drawn higher than ten; a single runner up drawn higher than ten; and, five third placed horses drawn higher than ten. In the seven big field Arcs (15+ runners) of the last decade, the average winning stall has been 4.86. In other words, the bigger field, the bigger the low draw advantage.

In case you think that’s a fluke, the average for second placed finishers comes down slightly to 6.43, despite the presence of the biggest outlier on the board.

In the Arc, low draw is good, high draw is bad. Simple as that.

What about age? Winning the Arc is a young man’s game. Or a young lady’s game. Whilst gender seems unimportant in recent times – in fact, the girls have out-performed their numerical presence significantly – age is crucial.

Only six winners since 1990 were not three-year-olds. The Classic generation lead 17-6 in that time. Of the six older horses, five of them were four years old, and just Marienbard – a 16/1 shocker in 2002 – has scored for the older generations.

Orfevre, this year’s short priced favourite, is five. So is Al Kazeem. And so are three others. Joshua Tree is six. No thanks. Unless they get a very favourable draw.

Arc Trials day has thrown up seven Arc winners since 2000 – the clue is in the name! – and five of those exited the Prix Niel. However, nothing has come from that race to win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe since 2006.

More recently, both Zarkava (2008) and Solemia (2012) have exited the Vermeille to win the Arc. This year, Treve will attempt to replicate that feat.

Aside from the Niel, all other Arc winners since 2000 and before (Montjeu in 1999 won the Niel) ran in a Group 1 on their prior start. Ten of those thirteen 21st century Arc winners also won their previous race, with just Bago (3rd Prix Niel), Workforce (5th, injured, King George), and Solemia (3rd Prix Vermeille) bagging the big day spoils having fluffed their lines in rehearsal.

Look for Group 1 win or a recognised Arc trial win or place last time out.

After that, it becomes increasingly dangerous to conjure with the historical trends, especially in this annee des annees. There is such strength in depth in the 2013 Arc that to split the field on anything but the most robust and logical of trends is dicing with wagering disaster.

I will however, exclude horses older than four; those who failed to win in a Group 1 or at least place in an Arc trial (Vermeille or Foy); and those drawn in a double figure stall. True, on the last point, it could almost cut the field in half. But in such a competitive renewal, a low draw will be a sizeable advantage.

This leaves us with a pre-draw shortlist of Novellist, The Fugue, Leading Light, Ocovango, Kizuna, Ruler Of The World, and Treve.

Orfevre, no bigger than 5/2 anywhere, has a lot to do to overcome history. He is five years old, which is older than all bar Marienbard since 1998, and an age at which only three horses since 1948 have won. He is bidding to win after running in the race before, which has never been done before. And he won a very slowly run Prix Foy.

Now, let me be clear. I am not saying Orfevre cannot win. I am saying he is terrible value in a race as open as this, with so many historical impediments to overcome. Oh yes, and don’t forget that he should have won last year, but dogged it in! He’s an awful price, win or not. A truly awful price.

If you’ve never seen the video of Orfevre dogging it last year, you will see what I mean from watching this video of Orfevre fans. Let it warm up, or move it on, to about the two minute mark. I tell you, this is pure comedy gold. 🙂


OK, so that’s the trends and the frivolity out of the way, now let’s get down to business. Which horses have the form to win the 2013 Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe? The answer, sadly (from a betting perspective at least), is most of them!

When you keep in mind that the last two winners of the Arc were 33/1 and 20/1, it may be unwise to pile into a ‘shortie’ for the big race. Quite simply, it’s not that, erm, simple. The field is deep with talent, and there will be hard luck stories galore.

The horse which is favoured, and whose chance I’ve already lampooned above, is Orfevre. He has a tidal wave of history against him. That’s not to say he can’t win: he can. But he’s rank value at 2/1 or 5/2. On the bright side, he was second in the Arc last year, and should have won. Moreover, he’s done nothing wrong this term, winning the Group 2 Prix Foy, the weakest of the Arc trials, granted, without turning a hair.

Prior to that he won a Grade 2 in Japan over ten furlongs. Those have been his only runs this year, neither of them in top class company. That, for me, is another negative.

And here’s another thing. After coming to win the Arc, and then dogging it in… he did the exact same thing in Japan on his final start last term, getting beaten a nose by Gentildonna (a top class Japanese horse). He’s a heart breaker all right, and has cost romantic punters plenty. He looks set to do the same again this weekend, as the Japanese cram the betting windows to hurl yen and euros in his direction.

Next in the betting, and a far more credible alternative to my eye is Treve. She’s a French filly from the Classic crop, and she’s unbeaten in her four career starts. They include a sumptuous stroll in the Prix de Diane (the French Oaks), and an equally leisurely larruping of her opposition in the Prix Vermeille, also a Group 1, and a strong Arc trial.

Treve looks to go on any ground – her Diane win was on good and her Vermeille win on soft – and she stays this trip readily. She does lack a little experience after just that quartet of races, and my only reservation – granted a decent draw – would be how she’ll handle such a big field. Aside from that, she looks very good.

And I have to concede my slight bias: so taken was I with her French Oaks win in June that I lobbed fifty quid in her direction for this at 14/1, win only. So she’ll pay for my Parisian weekend if she can do the bizzo Sunday afternoon. Allez Treve!

[Alas, she has drawn 15 which is pretty awful, despite some judges suggesting this will suit her].

Novellist is a horse I love: it’s very hard not to. He’s tough. Really, really tough. He’s classy. Very classy. And he’s able. Top drawer. We’ve seen him duff up our best middle distance nags this year in the King George, which he romped by the small matter of five lengths from the best British and Irish Classic form yardstick, Trading Leather. And then he won the Group 1 Grosser Preis von Baden back in the fatherland.

That latest win was far more workmanlike than the King George, but Team Novellist (Andreas Wohler) almost certainly left a bit to work on. Expect a fitter hoss on Sunday. The Grosser Preis von Baden has been a good trial, too, with both Marienbard and Danedream winning that before winning this. And, if the French back Treve, and the Japanese back Orfevre (and to a lesser extent, Kizuna), Novellist is going to be a lovely, lovely price. That’s what I’m hoping anyway, as he’s the one I want to take alongside the pretty little French filly, Treve.

Market-wise, we’re then into the realms of global Classic form, with Kizuna, the Japanese Derby, and Prix Niel, winner; Intello, the French Derby winner; Flintshire, the ‘other French Derby’ (Grand Prix de Paris) winner; Ruler Of The World, the Epsom Derby winner; and, Leading Light, the St Leger winner. Yes, this is a strong renewal of the Arc!

Kizuna beat Ruler Of The World and Ocovango in the Niel, and rumour has it he was only around 80% fit there. The way he traveled into that race, and the way he battled on when fitness gave out, marks him down as a horse of serious talent. The question, though, is what did he beat? He beat the winner and third from the Epsom Derby, a race the form of which has – as it often does – worked out poorly.

Ruler Of The World was also ‘under-cooked’ in the Niel, but I wouldn’t expect him to improve as much as Kizuna, and so I wouldn’t expect him to beat Kizuna. That Niel win was on soft ground, answering a question about Kizuna’s ability to handle such conditions, and he looks a reasonable prospect (though some judges are put off by the fact that Yutaka Take takes the ride).

Ocovango shouldn’t be good enough, though he does stay on well, albeit at the one pace. I’d be astonished if he could beat the two Derby winners that beat him last time out.

Intello is the potential wolf in sheep’s clothing. He’s a horse I’m happy enough to field against, but I’m mindful that he can beat me. His win in the French Derby – the proper one, the Prix du Jockey Club – was impressive. That race, run over a furlong shorter than this one, contained nineteen runners and he won by clear daylight. But. But… I’m just not convinced about a horse that ran in a Group 3 over a mile and a quarter as a prep for the Arc.

And I’m not convinced about a horse that has sufficient speed to run third in the French Guineas and the Prix Jacques le Marois, both over a mile. If he can win this strong Arc, over a mile and a half, he will be some tool. And, trained by Andre Fabre – a master of his craft, it is certainly possible. But, as they say in France, il est pas pour moi.

Flintshire was actually favourite for the Arc just a month ago, prior to disappointing immensely in the Prix Niel, where he trailed in a two length fourth to Kizuna and co. It’s possible – indeed, likely – that he was unfit there, and he’s sure to improve. But so were, and so are, at least two of the three horses in front of him there. It’s less than two lengths of a turn around required, and that can happen with a quick break or a good draw. He’ll probably be a bit shorter than 16/1 on the day, and it wouldn’t be the biggest shock to see him win.

Another that I’m struggling to get a handle on is Leading Light, the St Leger winner. St Leger winners are often well bet in the Arc market (I remember Masked Marvel getting smashed into a couple of years ago), but their record is… poor. Nevertheless, Leading Light has a string of 1’s to his name, which include the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot as well as the Leger. He’s clearly stoutly bred, and stays much further than these twelve furlongs. But he also had the speed to win over ten furlongs twice prior to stepping up in trip. Bottom line, a St Leger and Queen’s Vase winner shouldn’t have the zip and the nip required to beat the best middle distance horses on the planet. It might happen, but I couldn’t wager it.

Lurking midway down the betting lists are a couple of seriously good middle distance horses, Al Kazeem and The Fugue. The former has won the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup, the Group 1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes, and the Group 1 Coral Eclipse this term. He was also third in the Group 1 Juddmonte International and second in the Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes, all this term. It’s fair to say Al Kazeem is a legitimate Group 1 horse.

Those last two defeats may take a little excusing, and he has the additional burden of history in that he is a five year old trying to win the Arc, and he was beaten in a non-French Arc trial last time. But he’s a bloody good horse, and he gets this trip. Softer ground would be a worry, and that is the final nick against him. Oh, and then there’s the fact he’s in the car park, with the highest draw of all in 18. If my bets on Treve and Novellist fail to register I’d love to see Al Kazeem win…

…or else I’d love to see The Fugue win. She’s a wonder mare, probably the best we’ve had since Ouija Board, accepting that others will argue the merits of Snow Fairy. She has scooted up on her two most recent starts, in the Yorkshire Oaks (Group 1) and when beating Al Kazeem in the Irish Champion the last day. Good ground seems important to her, and we ought to keep in mind that she’ll probably have a bit left to work on ahead of a tilt at either the Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Turf or, more likely, the Breeders Cup Turf itself. On balance then, not this time, lady. Especially since she’s been withdrawn due to the ground.

Despite a couple of big-priced recent winners, it’s hard to make a case for anything else. Both those big-priced winners either won or ran close up in a recognised trial. Meandre did win a soft ground German Group 1 over a mile and a half, and he has some back class as well. He’s five though, which doesn’t help. Perhaps he can run into a place at a whopping price: the fact that he’s been supplemented at a cost of €100,000 suggests connections feel he’s come out of his last win well enough. Moreover, he was only a length and a half behind Novellist in the Grosser Preis von Baden the time before, and there will be worse 50/1 shots this weekend.

Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe Selection: Treve 5/1 bet365 (paying e/w FOUR places)
Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe Next Best: Kizuna 8/1 PP (paying e/w FOUR places)
Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe Best Outsider: Meandre 50/1 (paying e/w FOUR places) / 66/1 Coral (3 places)

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