by Steven Bonnick
Following his victory on Valia in the Prix Chaudenay, leading French rider Christophe Soumillon described the going at Longchamp as “the heaviest he has ever ridden on at the track” and the visual impression and times certainly seem to suggest that the ground is, indeed, very testing. We have a five ‘Win & You’re In’ races to analyse although quite what relevance slogs run on heavy ground at a right-handed track will bear to the races at Keeneland in a months time is questionable. Ironically, despite ensuring a guaranteed berth, the winners of these races are probably less likely to run at the Breeders’ Cup – and be less interesting from a betting perspective – than those that may not win but outrun themselves under suboptimal conditions and anything that can hit the frame having previously shown a preference for a decent surface should be of serious wagering interest on November 6th and 7th.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Aidan, Donnacha and Joseph O’Brien have withdrawn all of their runners today due to issues with contaminated feed. Although this makes many of the races less competitive, this will very likely make horses like Serpentine and Japan fairly certain to run at the Breeders’ Cup.
Jean Luc Lagadere
First up is the Jean Luc Lagadere, the winner of which is guaranteed a spot in the Juvenile Turf. As ever, the field for this is small but select.
Following the withdrawal of Aidan O’Brien’s ST MARK’S BASILICA – who would look good in the Juvenile Turf – NANDO PARADO looks tough to beat. He steps up from sprinting having finished runner-up to Wesley Ward’s Campanelle and has also got better with his racing. He runs over 7f for the first time here but shapes like he’ll stay and crucially could get an easy lead and might be hard to catch.
LIBERTINE is the only filly in the line-up but ran better than it looked last time and could run well at bigger odds.
Unlikely any of these with run at The Breeders’ Cup at this stage.
Prix Marcel Boussac
The Prix Marcel Boussac winner books a place in the Juvenile Fillies’ Turf and this race is far more competitive than the Lagadere, at least in terms on numbers.
Standout PRETTY GORGEOUS is a non-runner but might make the journey over as she is hardy and takes her racing well.
FEV ROVER has been a revelation this year and continues to improve with her racing. She won a Group 2 on bad ground last time and conditions will hold no fears for her, including the trip, over which she is untried but should relish. Her sporting connections may well fancy a tilt at the Breeders’ Cup if she was to win here and she is versatile in terms of going.
THUNDER BEAUTY, a debut winner who was a few lengths behind the withdrawn chalk Pretty Gorgeous in the Moyglare. She shaped well that day and looked as though a mile would be well within her compass, coming from further back that the first two and running the fastest final 3f in the race. She has plenty of stamina in her pedigree but looks an unlikely runner in the Breeders’ Cup, even if she wins here, based off her trainer’s comments.
An interesting runner is TASMANIA, who comes here off a quick turnaround for a trainer who normally takes his time. She should handle the ground and although she is drawn wide her trainer has spoken pretty positively about her in recent days and should could go well, although will likely be put away after this.
Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe
With Serpentine out there is a distinct lack of pace in this race now and an unpredictable pace scenario further tempers enthusiasm for this race as a betting contest.
The Arc clearly revolves around 2018 Breeders’s Cup Turf winner ENABLE who seeks to gain a ticket for the Turf by winning her third Arc at the fourth attempt. She is a short price to do so but the ground would have to be considered a negative, with her trainer saying there is a “strong likelihood” she will be beaten due to the conditions. She is unlikely to take up a Turf assignment if she wins and doesn’t make much betting appeal here at around even money.
Her stablemate STRADIVAIRUS is a champion stayer and, while the ground might not be ideal for him either, he should be well served if this turns into a slog. He is not without speed but will need a career best to land a race of this nature at twelve furlongs.
Last year’s third SOTTSASS comes into contention following a good prep in the Irish Champion Stakes last but the suspicion is that this trip on testing ground might just stretch his stamina beyond its limits. The Turf would appear a suitable target for connections who have had plenty of succes Stateside.
German Derby winner IN SWOOP will definitely stay and he prepped nicely for this behind MOGUL (now a non-runner) last time out. He should relish the ground, is well drawn and looks to have strong claims. There haven’t been too many German contenders at the Breeders’ Cup over the years but he would seem a suitable Turf candidate at this stage.
The three-year olds colts do not look a vintage bunch but the three-year-old fillies look a fair crop and although Love is out on account of the ground – and looks a perfect type for the Turf or Filly & Mare Turf – RAABIHAH may take up her mantle. She shapes like a stayer and ran really well in the Prix De Diane before romping home in the Prix de Psyche. She was probably a bit caught out in a slowly run race last time out but it’s likely the winner is very good. She could go well at a big price if suited by the ground – she looks to have big feet but a low action.
PERSIAN KING is a very smart horse but conditions have surely gone against him – he would be interesting should he rock up in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.
Prix de l’Opera
The Prix de l’Opera represents one of the better Filly & Mare Turf trials and this year’s renewal looks typically competitive.
The race appeared to centre around FANCY BLUE (non-runner) and ALPINE STAR who finished one-two in the Prix de Diane earlier in the season. They have both been lightly-raced since with autumn targets – including those at the Breeders’ Cup – evidently in mind. You’d think Fancy Blue would be a pretty certain runner in the F&M Turf now following her scratching here. She won the Nassau at Goodwood on one of her only two subsequent starts and shaped really well over an inadequate mile off a break last time out.
ALPINE STAR has improved her form since defeat by Fancy Blue, having pushed the top class colt Palace Pier all the way over a mile in the Jacques Le Marois last time. The pair were well clear of some very good yardsticks that day and that represents extremely strong mile form. She should be as good back over ten furlongs and the ground will pose no problem.
TARNAWA showed a dazzling turn of foot to win the Vermeille last time and would appear to be a perfect type for the Filly & Mare Turf so it appears to be a bit disappointing that they would run her here on ground that does not appear her optimum. In fairness, her owner has never been a big fan of the Breeders’ Cup, but she would be of serious interest if she does make the journey over.
AMBITION and AUDARYA are both improving sorts who will run their races, and the same applies to the unbeaten TAWKEEL. She romped home in the Group 1 Alary before scrambling home under at 2/5 on the Prix de la Nonette. She may not have liked the ground there and will face worse conditions here, but looks like she could be a Filly & Mare Turf contender back on decent going.
Prix de l’Abbaye
This “Win & You’re In” contest for the Turf Sprint is typically a minefield and isn’t helped by being run on soft ground this time. It’s unlikely the winner will turn up at the Breeders’ Cup and if they do they are likely to face Battaash who is far superior to this field on decent ground.
Last year’s winner GLASS SLIPPERS hasn’t managed to lay a glove on Charlie Hills’ star gelding but she comes to hand at this time of the year, will love the ground and looked back to her best last time at the Curragh.
Crack Irish sprinter MAKE A CHALLENGE was behind Glass Slippers there but will be much happier on this slower ground and should make more of a race of it this time.