We have two days of top notch and fiercely competitive racing to look forward to in France this weekend. The ground is currently soft, but could we be heavy for the Arc with plenty of rain forecast.
Prix du Cadran – 2 miles 4 furlongs
This looks a strong renewal of what is typically one of the weaker Group 1 races run in Europe, and with soft ground fairly certain this is bound to be an extreme test of stamina.
The obvious place to start here is STRADIVARIUS and TRUESHAN, and the long-awaited match up that probably won’t happen once again. These guys have been signed on to face each other several times this season but, with the former wanting firm ground and the latter wanting soft, the ideal good ground scenario has never materialised. Nor has it here, and with the narrative spun all season by the connections of STRADIVARIUS that he now wants a fast surface, it’s hard to see how he runs. He did run on bad ground at this meeting last year, in the Arc itself, and performed creditably, so they could roll the dice here. The ground was soft when he bolted up in the Gold Cup last season, but he ran deplorably when beating only one home in the Champions Long Distance cup, so it’s hard to know what to expect here. At odds of 5/2, he’s an easy leave.
No such concerns for TRUESHAN, who sluiced home in the aforementioned Long Distance cup and broke through at Group 1 level last time out with a comfortable win in the Goodwood Cup, dispatching a field of inferiors. He stays 2 miles well but can be keen so will need to settle if he is to get this extra distance. Hollie Doyle, who usually rides, is suspended for this meeting, and the inferior James Doyle (no relation) takes over, which is a small negative. He is nearly the chalk at the moment but doesn’t make much appeal to me at the current prices.
PRINCESS ZOE took this last year, completing a fairytale rise through the grades with as game a display as you could wish to see. That was a weak renewal and the horse she collared close home – Alkuin, who runs again here – has generally come up well short of even Listed class, but she was given plenty to do in the conditions there and probably did well to win. Subsequently, she has run a blinder when second in the Gold Cup this year and has clearly been aimed at this race since then. She looked to need the run last time out in the Irish St Leger trial, but was running on well after travelling smoothly and that should put her spot on for this. She is currently favourite, but again doesn’t make much appeal at the prices.
CALL THE WIND finished runner up in this in 2019 but couldn’t match strides with Princess Zoe last year, but he shaped nicely behind BUBBLE SMART and KARLSTAD last time out. BUBBLE SMART herself looks hugely progressive, winning all three starts since the application of cheekpieces and a tongue-tie. She graduated from handicaps with that Group 3 win and looks as though she could improve plenty more for this extreme stamina test, so looks overpriced at double-figure odds.
SKAZINO is another horse who has improved this season and he remains unexposed over staying distances – he is another who could outrun his odds.
Prix de Royallieu – 1 mile 6 furlongs
This race looks to revolve around VALIA, who loves it here and has some really solid form. She was unlucky not to win a Group 1 last October when given a horrible ride, but ran a blinder given she was trying to chase down subsequent Ascot Gold Cup hero Subjectivist against the flow. She has ticked along nicely this season and ran really well last time behind Arc-candidate Raabihah given how much ground she gave away at the break, briefly going second before her earlier exertions took their toll. That should set her up nicely for this and she looks the most likely winner, but is priced up accordingly.
VALIA finished behind JOIE DE SOIR last time in the Prix de Pomone but would have fair prospects of reversing the form if she can break with the field. That was only Joie De Soir’s fourth career run, however, and she has made some pretty rapid strides this season, having looked impressive when landing a Listed race prior. She can step forward again and should be suited by these extra two furlongs.
There is little strength in depth in this race with PASSION running very poorly last time out and LOVING DREAM looking to have plenty to prove on the ground. At bigger prices, YESYES could go well. She only made her debut in May and has improved with each run since. She was beaten eight lengths in the Park Hill last time but the ground was likely way too fast for her there and she had previously won a Listed race at Chester despite doing plenty wrong.
Elsewhere, THUNDER DRUM is bred to be a superstar and ran a fair bit better than her finishing position last time, having little hope held up off a slow pace. She was carrying a penalty there for a win in a Group 3 in June and should thrive on this return to soft ground.
Prix Marcel Boussac – 1 mile
This should be quite a test for these young fillies given the distance and the likely ground.
RACLETTE is the obvious place to begin, as she is unbeaten and represents top connections, with Andre Fabre describing her as “probably one of the best fillies I have ever trained” – praise, indeed! It was hard not to be impressed with the way she strode clear under a hand ride last time out and she is bred to be very good indeed, being by Frankel out of the multiple Grade 1 winner – and American Oaks heroine – Emollient. She probably didn’t beat too much last time out, for all that she was visually impressive, and there isn’t much juice in her price. She was a winner on soft last time but her trainer has said she will not run if the ground is really bad, which is a possibility.
Should she not run, Fabre still has a strong hand as he has another two contenders in the shape of FLEUR D’IRIS, who beat ZELLIE last time out. They were ridden very differently that day but both impressed in different ways. FLEUR D’IRIS quickened away impressively from the front, while ZELLIE made up a stack of ground from a bad position.
AGARTHA probably has the best form here, romping home in a Group 2 before following that up with a fine front-running effort in the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes. I was impressed with how dominant she was on soft ground two back and she looks the type of horse who will relish a testing mile. She sets a good standard but is more exposed than these and could be vulnerable to an improver.
The one I will be backing is ACER ALLEY. She was keen when held up off a crawl last time out but showed a dazzling turn of foot to sprint past two colts who have since gone on to frank the form. Nothing else really changed position in that race, so for her to quicken up so impressively looks hugely meritorious. She should get a much better pace to run at here, faces her own sex now and looks a massive price.
Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere – 7 furlongs
This looks an incredibly trappy renewal and a case can be made for most of the runners with nothing really standing out as a bet. The tentative suggestion is ACCAKABA, a filly taking on the boys but one who beat two other talented distaffers last time time out and represents a trainer who has a good record in this race.
Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe – 1 mile 4 furlongs
This looks a vintage renewal with almost all of the key players present, the race only really missing a top class French three-year-old.
The Japanese challenge is two-pronged. DEEP BOND impressed in a trial last time out, while CHRONO GENESIS has some top form back home and in the Middle East, although I think it would have been preferable if a Japanese horse had managed to take this before, particularly as neither of the pair are emphatically proven on the ground. That said, CHRONO GENESIS is arguably a big price now, with runners from Japan invariably trained to the minute.
ADAYAR looks tailor-made for this test and his form could have have worked out better. However, he had a slight setback that ruled him out of his prep race in the Prix Niel and that can’t be ideal for a horse taking on a field this stacked . Furthermore, his worst run of the season came on soft ground, showing form that’s about 20lbs shy of his best that day. Far too many negatives for a horse that is vying for favouritism.
No such issues for HURRICANE LANE, who and comes here proven under the conditions and on top form, and bolted up over C&D in the Grand Prix de Paris. He’s since won the St Leger with a bit to spare from MOJO STAR, who reopposes. The oldest Classic isn’t usually the best prep for this historically and there’s a suspicion he had a hardish race there. MOJO STAR looked a horse of similar ability of most of that race and the Derby runner-up is 50s at the time of writing – he is fresher than most and could outrun those odds.
I doubt I will be playing heavily in this race but overall I like the females in here as most likely winners. RAABIHAH returned to form last season but was well and truly put in her place by TARNAWA last year. Dermot Weld’s filly looks to have returned this season as good as ever and was pretty unlucky to go down to St Mark’s Basilica in the Irish Champion last time. She is unbeaten here, handles the going and has the ability to make the most of the weight she gets from the colts.
SNOWFALL was not given the best of rides last time out but in reality probably ran a perfectly good prep race against the flow. She hasn’t really beaten anything of note, but you can’t really argue with the manner of her victories, winning her four starts prior by an aggregate distance of over 32 lengths, including the Epsom Oaks by a remarkable 16 lengths under hands and heels riding. Her timefigure and performance in that contest, on soft, give her a huge chance here.
Prix de l’Opera Longines – 1 mile 2 furlongs
This is another devilishly difficult race to try and pick apart.
AUDARYA is a reliable yardstick having finished a close third to Tarnawa last year. She comes here in good form, having run GRAND GLORY close last time out, and the pair should go well on ground they handle.
THUNDERING HEIGHTS was third that day having got the better of the ill-fated Santa Barbara in the Pretty Polly Stakes (Group 1) prior. She ran well last time under a penalty behind two very good horses, including Love, at the Curragh most recently but might not want the ground this soft when facing opposition of this quality.
JOAN OF ARC and SIBILA SPAIN bring French Oaks form into the race, although the former was disappointing last time out. SIBILA SPAIN prepped nicely for this with an odds-on win in a Listed race on her most recent start and is fresher than most here.
PALMAS was incredibly impressive when winning the German Oaks and could well be anything. She spreadeagled her field that day but has something to prove on this ground.
Perhaps the most interesting runner at the odds is BURGARITA. She was third in the French Oaks despite a brutal trip and chased home a very good filly in Free Wind next time out. She travelled as well as anything in the Vermeille last time and the suspicion is that this grinding type might improve again given a proper slog. She is far too big if the ground turns really bad and I will look to back her to hit the board at 11/1+.
Prix de l’Abbaye – 5 furlongs
Yet another really hard race to decipher, with the fancied runners all draw high, which is traditionally a significant negative. SUESA might be good enough anyway but has to break from stall 12 and her hold up style could be another barrier to overcome here.
Perhaps the answer is WINTER POWER, who is drawn low enough in 8, and has enough early speed, to get across to the rail. There’s not much pace in this anyway for a 5 furlong sprint and she could dominate, having looked so good and fast in the Nunthorpe. She was too keen into a headwind at the Curragh last time and didn’t get home, but this test of speed should be more suitable.
Prix de la Foret – 7 furlongs
It doesn’t get any easier in the last and anyone looking to smash their way out of trouble here is up against it.
SPACE BLUE is a leading contender. He proved himself on soft when running really well in the Lennox Stakes and returned to winning form last time – his form from last season looks the best on offer here but he is priced accordingly.
He was behind KINROSS in the Lennox but he proved a tad disappointing in the Prix Maurice de Gheest next time out. That might have come a bit soon for him, but he has a really solid record off a break and could be a danger to all now freshened up, as his form stacks up very well.
The best of the home team could well be SAGAMIYRA, who represents a leading trainer and owner combo and has made rapid progress this season, having contested handicaps last year. Remarkably, she started out over 12 furlongs, but has steadily dropped in distance is unbeaten in three starts at shorter than a mile. She was only beaten a head in the Group 1 Prix Rothschild on her penultimate run and has strong claims despite a poor draw.
The price play in the race looks to be NJORD. He looked unlucky not to give KINROSS a proper race at Haydock (strong speedfigure), having to wait while that rival got first run but closing strongly at the line, and goes extremely well with plenty of ease in the ground. This is time of year – three of his five wins have been in October – and he has been running really well of late on ground that is probably a little lively for him, so looks worth a small each-way play.