(Published 12 September, 2018) – Europe’s greatest all-age middle-distance contest, the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe returns home on October 7 to the renamed ParisLongchamp having been successfully staged at Chantilly for the last two years during the construction of a new grandstand at its longstanding home in the Parisian suburbs.
A race that brings together the best three year olds and the best older horses in Europe and beyond over a mile-and-a-half, this superb Group 1 event has a rich history of producing winners of the very highest class, and races that stay long in the memory. First run in 1920, the ‘Arc’, as it is most commonly known, never fails to produce a great story, and this year will see John Gosden’s Enable bid to follow-up her hugely impressive victory in the race 12 months ago. Since World War Two only three horses have retained their crown; the mighty Italian star Ribot in 1956; Vincent O’Brien’s superb Alleged in 1978; and most recently French darling Treve, trained by Criquette Maarek-Head, in 2014.
Can Enable Do The Double?
The debonair Newmarket-based trainer John Gosden has been very much at the top of his game this decade and has sent out two of the last three winners of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe – Golden Horn in 2015, and Enable last year. Twelve months ago Frankie Dettori guided the Prince Khalid Abdullah-owned star filly to a comfortable success in the race over Cloth of Stars and Ulysses, completing five successive Group 1 successes in a stellar season that also saw the daughter of Nathaniel capture the Investec Oaks, The Irish Oaks, the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes, and the Yorkshire Oaks on her way to glory at Chantilly.
It hasn’t been plain sailing this season though for the four-year-old who sustained a knee injury and was frustratingly confined to base until reappearing last weekend in the Group 3 September Stakes on the Polytrack at Kempton Park. Facing this year’s Hardwicke Stakes winner and King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes runner-up Crystal Ocean, Enable was favoured by the conditions of the race and received 8lb from her main rival in the four-runner affair, but the authority with which she easily defeated Sir Michael Stoute’s star colt suggested that she would have won at level weights without too much trouble.
Now confirmed fit and well following what was an excellent comeback effort, Enable will be fresher than most of her rivals heading to Longchamp and it comes as no surprise to see her dominating the ante-post market, currently offered at a best priced 7/4 with Leo Vegas. It will take an unlucky run through the race, or a very good one indeed to deny this superb filly her second ‘Arc’ success.
The Other Star Fillies
A glance at the current ante-post market for the ‘Arc’ quickly reveals two notable facts; 1) three of the first four in the betting are fillies, and 2) the top seven in the betting are all trained in Britain, with no French or Irish contenders featuring on the list until France’s 25/1 shot Study of Man, and Ireland’s Capri, available at 33/1 in a place.
They’re more or less betting close to odds-on that a British-trained filly will win the race, with Enable possibly being set to be accompanied to the start by William Haggas’ tremendous three-year-old Sea Of Class, and John Gosden’s unbeaten filly of the same age, Lah Ti Dar, a possible runner in the St Leger at Doncaster this weekend.
Sea Of Class, unraced as a juvenile, has made rapid progress through the middle-distance ranks this term, following two listed successes over 10 furlongs with a cheeky hands and heels success in the Darley Irish Oaks at the Curragh in July where she was perfectly produced by James Doyle to beat the Investec Oaks heroine Forever Together by a neck. She went on to win in even more impressive fashion at York’s Ebor Festival last month in the Group 1 Darley Yorkshire Oaks, taking on older fillies for the first time but easily brushing aside Coronet and Eziyra to win in the manner of a very smart performer.
The ‘Arc’ will see this imposing daughter of Sea The Stars take on the colts for the first time, but there’s no reason at all to believe she won’t give a very good account of herself, assuming she isn’t feeling the effects of her two Group 1 successes, and at 5/1 with 888sport plenty will see that as a solid each-way opportunity.
Lah Ti Dar, despite winning all three races so far, is still unexposed. We simply don’t know how good this daughter of Dubawi could be. She’s out of the great racemare Dah Re Mi, making her a full sister to Group 2 winner So Mi Dar and to the current ante-post Derby favourite Too Darn Hot. This exciting prospect followed her impressive maiden win at Newbury in April with an equally convincing success over the same 10 furlongs in listed company at the Berkshire track the following month. On the strength of those visually eye-catching victories she was made a front-runner for Oaks honours, but connections chose not to set her that task after just two, relatively minor events, and a niggling low blood count.
The Lord and Lady Lloyd Webber-owned filly returned from a summer break to rout her rivals by 10 lengths in tremendous fashion in the listed Galtres Stakes at York three weeks ago over 12 furlongs, and if she goes for the St Leger she would have a serious chance.
Whatever you can do…
One-time Oaks favourite Lah Ti Dar powers clear in the British EBF & Sir Henry Cecil Galtres Stakes to justify 4-6 favouritism. pic.twitter.com/2X429VOxsx
— York Racecourse (@yorkracecourse) August 23, 2018
If she does or doesn’t go for the Doncaster Classic there would still remain a concern in my mind that Lah Ti Dar hasn’t had enough top level experience for a rough and tumble race like the ‘Arc’. My gut feeling would be to wait until next year, and it might well be that connections feel the same. If they do choose to tackle the Paris showcase event, then the 12/1 currently on offer with 10bet is unlikely to be available on the day of the big race, assuming she would only go there if running a big race at Doncaster, or as a fresh, unbeaten filly arriving off a six-week break following her York romp.
Star Older Colts Ready To Do Battle Again
Cracksman, Poet’s Word and Crystal Ocean are the big three older colts who could well face off in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at the end of a season that has seen all three enjoy sparkling successes as well as the occasional setback.
Cracksman (7/1 with Bet365) bypassed this race last year in favour of the Qipco Champion Stakes a fortnight later, and duly slammed Poet’s Word by seven lengths, confirming himself the highest rated three-year-old colt in Europe. His wins at the start of this campaign in the Group 1 Prix Ganay, and last-gasp success in the Group 1 Coronation Cup against the much lower rated Salouen, were followed by a comprehensive defeat at the hands of Poet’s Word in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot in June where he clearly found the fast ground just too quick for him.
The Gosden-trained four-year-old hasn’t raced since but is a colt who goes well fresh, and if there is give in the ground – as is so often the case – he could be a real force to reckon with if back anywhere near the form of his Champion Stakes win last October.
Poet’s Word, trained by Sir Michael Stoute, has improved leaps and bounds this term. The five-year-old easily won the Group 3 Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown in the spring before inflicting that crushing odds-on defeat on Cracksman at Ascot over 10 furlongs. He went on to prove that no fluke whatsoever when staying on bravely to deny Crystal Ocean by a neck in the Group 1 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot a month later, and was anything but disgraced dropping back in trip when runner-up to Roaring Lion in the Group 1 Juddmonte International Stakes at York three weeks ago. He was caught in a pocket at York before staying-on well when in the clear, but wouldn’t have beaten the highly impressive winner even with a clear run.
Although he handles soft ground, Poet’s Word’s best efforts have come on a decent or even fast surface so there has to be some doubt whether conditions at Longchamp will ideally suit this fine horse who is currently available at a standout 16/1 with William Hill. A number of other major firms go half those odds.
Crystal Ocean, also trained by Stoute, won a possibly sub-standard Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot in June in fine style before giving Poet’s Word one hell of a race in the ’King George’. He came out of that event with great credit and a rating raised 7lb to 129, just a pound behind his illustrious stable companion. In being beaten three-and-a-half lengths by Enable in the September Stakes at Kempton last week he was anything but disgraced in trying to give 8lb to the star filly. Never out of the first three in his life, he looks sure to command each-way interest at odds of 12/1 with Betfred, although it would be a surprise if he is good enough to land the spoils.
Eclipse and Juddmonte International winner Roaring Lion holds an entry for this race but is surely a very unlikely runner having shown himself to be top class at 10 furlongs after struggling over further.
Best Of The Rest
We’ve not mentioned Aidan O’Brien yet! There’s a good reason, as the master of Ballydoyle doesn’t appear to have a top class middle-distance performer on his hands at the moment. Capri, winner of last year’s St Leger, is the shortest price of his many entries at 33/1 with William Hill, (although many other firms are much shorter), but after beating only one home in a field of 18 in last year’s ‘Arc’ he hasn’t been seen since winning at Naas in April over 10 furlongs so would do very well to get involved in the finish after a more than six month absence.
Investec Oaks winner Forever Together is also 33/1 with William Hill, but while on bare Irish Oaks form she only has a neck to find with Sea Of Class, few would suggest that the winner wasn’t value for a good deal more than that, and she has improved considerably since then. If Kew Gardens (33/1 with SportPesa) easily justifies favouritism in the St Leger on Saturday, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility he may take his chance in France three weeks later. He’s a progressive three-year-old colt, and wouldn’t be no-hoper by any means.
KEW GARDENSومن مضمار لونج شامب الفرنسي ريان مور وايدن باتريك ينتقلون من بريطانيا الى فرنسا ويخطفون شوط Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris (Group 1) pic.twitter.com/TKCv00aMh7
— صحيفة الفروسية (@horsesnewsnet) July 14, 2018
Study Of Man (25/1 with Paddy Power) looks to be the best of the home contingent on recent evidence. Pascal Bary’s colt easily won the French Derby at Chantilly in June and wasn’t given by any means a hard time when third to Knight To Behold at Deauville last month, where connections clearly had at least one eye on the ‘Arc’. The Deep Impact colt is unproven over the 12 furlongs though so he has to step his game up if he is to give the locals something to shout about.
Cloth Of Stars ran a wonderful race to be second to Enable in last year’s renewal but hasn’t looked to be in the same form so far this campaign. The five-year-old Andre Fabre-trained son of Sea The Stars has failed to score in five starts and has looked to lack the finishing kick that served him so well in previous seasons. The biggest thing going for him is that placed horses in the ‘Arc’ have a fine record of coming back and repeating the feat, so anyone looking for a juicy priced each-way bet could do worse than consider the 66/1 available with Sportingbet.
Written by Paul Alster
Paul Alster has been part of the British and international racing media for more than three decades working as a race commentator, TV/radio presenter, journalist, betting correspondent, SP returner, and form analyst. He’s always sought out overpriced runners in handicap races, a quest that excites him as much now as it did at the start of his career.