This year’s Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is back at the newly renovated Longchamp, now known as ParisLongchamp, for the first time since 2015.
The Arc is Europe’s richest and most prestigious race with its roll of honour featuring the sport’s most decorated thoroughbreds but, in recent years, the race has been dominated by fillies and mares which highlights a potential flaw in the race conditions.
A 4yo mare receives 3lbs from a colt of the same age, which is in line with most of the Group races in the UK & Ireland. However, a 3yo filly receives a whopping 10lbs from an older colt. In 2017 for example, Enable, who was the highest rated horse in the field on both official ratings and Racing Post ratings, carried just 8st 9lb and won comfortably by 2 1/2L. Indeed, the issue isn’t just with the Arc, as John Gosden’s superstar filly received 14lbs from 4yo+ colts in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes earlier in the season, a race she won by 4 1/2L from two-time Group 1 winner, Ulysses. By the time the Arc comes around in early October, the public usually have a good idea what the dominant sex of the 3yo crop is, and, within that sex, who the dominant force is. Since 2008, seven renewals of the Arc have been won by fillies, and a case can be made that some of them were so brilliant that they should have been conceding weight to the colts. Golden Horn is the only colt to win the race since Workforce’s Arc in 2010, indeed, the 2011 renewal was won by Danedream who led home a 1-2-3 for the girls.
Last year’s heroine hasn’t seen the racecourse since her most famous day but still heads the betting with Coral at 9/2. While there’s no doubting John Gosden’s ability to have her cherry ripe in an attempt to retain her crown, she’ll have to carry 7lbs more than she did last year, which, coupled with the fact we haven’t seen her this season, makes her opposable. The favourable conditions for 3yo fillies is a huge positive for the chances of SEA OF CLASS, who oozed class in the Irish Oaks under a perfectly timed ride from James Doyle. A case can be made that Magic Wand (10/11f) didn’t run her race, but the Epsom Oaks winner, Forever Together, was in second which gives the form a solid look. The question is, I guess, how good are the crop of 3yo fillies this year? That I can’t answer with much confidence at the moment, but I don’t think there’s any doubt surrounding who the best of them is. She’s by Sea The Stars who was a brilliant winner of the Arc in 2009 and in receipt of 10lbs, you’d be hard pressed to say she won’t at least be involved at the latter stages of the race. All things considered, she looks a clever play at 14/1.
Sir Michael Stoute is likely to be double handed with Poets Word (8/1) and Crystal Ocean (10/1) who filled the first two spots in a cracking renewal of this year’s King George VI. There’s not much between them and it could come down to factors such as the draw to decide which of the two comes out on top in this race. My guy feeling is that Poets Word is the better animal, considering he wasn’t best positioned in the King George, conceded first run to his stablemate but still managed to nab him on the line. At this moment in time, I’d prefer them both to Cracksman (7/1) who hasn’t looked the most straightforward in his two most recent starts and has to prove he’s in the same frame of mind as he was last year. Granted, if he came back to the form that saw him beat Poet’s Word by 7L in the Champion Stakes, that’s a different proposition altogether.
It’s taken us a while but we’ve finally come to the second horse of interest. The legendary Pascal Bary is still chasing that elusive Arc and in STUDY OF MAN he looks to have his best chance of winning the race since he came agonisingly close with Sulamani in 2002. Study Of Man is a son of Deep Impact, who gained his first British Classic success as a sire when Saxon Warrior won the 2000 Guineas, and he without doubt will be carrying the hopes of the French on October 7th. To the naked eye, his win in the Prix du Jockey Club wasn’t overly impressive and one can’t say it was a stellar renewal of the race. However, I have no doubt in my mind that this horse has been a work in progress and we won’t see the best of him until he’s stepped up to 1m 4f. His pedigree doesn’t scream 1m 4f but when you watch him race he looks to be crying out for a step up in trip. He has a fantastic way of going and an even better attitude, one where he really sticks his neck out and wants to win. The Prix du Jockey Club is without doubt one of the roughest races of the season so the typical hustle and bustle of an Arc won’t phase him and it’s clear how highly Mr Bary rates him. The Prix Guillaume d’Ornano on 15th August seems to be the plan, before a tilt at the Irish Champion Stakes, both over 1m 2f. I hope he comes through both races with flying colours, although defeat at Leopardstown to a speedier type wouldn’t exactly be the end of the world. He’s likely to attract a lot more attention in the coming weeks than he currently is and if he wins his next two starts, he’ll be vying for favourtism for the Arc. With all this in mind, the 10/1 currently available might not be around for much longer.