Arc de Triomphe: Horse by Horse
Our man Will Hayler goes through this year's field for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and selects his 1-2-3 for Sunday's big race.
New Bay battles it out for second with Flintshire last year – could he provide the each-way value on Sunday?
Unbeaten run now stretches back to last year's King George and it is impossible to crab his versatility, durability and sheer talent. Benefited from a tactical masterpiece to floor Found in the Coronation Cup at Epsom, but comfortably too good for Highland Reel despite drop back to 1m2f trip of Juddmonte International subsequently and hasn't been over-raced this year either, thanks in part to a bug in the stable forcing him out of planned King George defence bid. Possible to argue that there are concerns about the track and the shorter run-in at Chantilly, and he probably wouldn't want the race to turn into a sprint from the two-furlong pole, but otherwise seems to have almost every box ticked. To be frank, it's very hard to see how he won't be involved in the finish.
Sectional timing buffs in Japan speak highly of this three-year-old's achievements this year and his slightly hard-fought Prix Niel defeat of Midterm on European debut probably doesn't want to be judged too harshly – we still don't really know how good Midterm might turn out to be. Three-year-old compatriot Kizuna came here on the back of victory in the same races – the Japanese Derby and the Niel – and finished a perfectly-respectable fourth in 2013 and it''s possible to arguable this colt has a more progressive overall profile; he has certainly looked to be learning as he goes along at times this year. The booking of a jockey with experience of Chantilly will no doubt be welcomed by many European punters, even if Christophe Lemaire's many years riding in Japan effectively means he is just as much one of their own too. Bidding to end years of Japanese bad luck in the race and every chance he could be the one.
Easy to overlook her run in this 12 months ago, given ill fortune in-running, and her record is otherwise an astonishing model of consistency – furthermore, form against Golden Horn both in the Irish Champion and the Breeders' Cup confirms that she should surely have been right in the mix granted a clear run. Pedigree suggested she might improve again this year, which hasn't necessarily been the case, but so-so efforts at Epsom and Royal Ascot were improved upon with good second to Almanzor in Irish Champion (on the back of promising warm-up at York straight after midsummer break), where she showed all of her old acceleration and resolution to leave some very smart rivals toiling. Probably won't want things to get too tactical, but still carries the confidence of her stable and simply doesn't know how to run a bad race.
Injured during scrimmaging in the Irish Champion Stakes and now comes into this contest on the back of a clearly-less-than-ideal preparation – exactly the same as before running away with the Investec Derby! Hard to know exactly what to make of him now though, particularly given US Army Ranger's somewhat disappointing record since Epsom, and the limited evidence suggests that despite Hawkbill's victory in the Eclipse, this year's group of three-year-old middle-distance colts are not exceptional. Does have stamina in his armoury though, and will surely be ridden positively in a bid to stretch some of these rivals – if that's the case he might just be one to take advantage if the race gets messy.
Went down with all guns blazing in a three-way battle for second with Flintshire and Treve in last year's Arc, despite niggling doubts as to whether he truly sees out a mile and a half, and entitled to improve upon that effort here with another year on his back. Proved a total flop first time out in the Prix d'Ispahan, but since nursed back to health by his genius trainer and emerged with plenty of credit when third to Almanzor and Minding in the Irish Champion, striking on early in the straight from a prominent pitch and keeping on well on the inside as two conquerors threw down their late (and tellingly wide) challenges. Fabre's runners always to be respected in this race, and also interesting that the same connections withdrew Midterm at the start of the week. Lots to like and arguably still offers each-way value despite best of the prices having been gobbled up.
Highlighted by Ben Linfoot as an outsider worth following and takes the eye at an unusually backable price for one who took the Vermeille so readily on the way into this race. Fans of the absent La Cressoniere will have mixed feelings if she runs well, having chased home that rival in the French Oaks, and the argument that she is over-priced given how short La Cressoniere might have been here holds some water. That said, Godolphin's Endless Time chased her home at this track last time and it's hard to imagine that filly would have even an outside chance in this line-up. Likeable, but nowhere near likeable enough.
Order Of St George
First mentioned as a possible Arc contender both before and after his bloodless Gold Cup win and undoubtedly much the best in the stayers' division this season. It would not be unprecedented for a horse to step back so markedly in trip and prove up to the task, even at this level, but realistically in the modern era of horse-racing where speed is so much more sought-after in bloodlines, it simply seems too much to expect. Even on the very best of his form, for example his 11-length hammering of an in-form Agent Murphy in last year's Irish St Leger, victory looks a bridge too far. On the form of his latest laboured second to Wicklow Brave in this year's renewal of that same race, for which Ryan Moore was only partially culpable, it looks almost unimaginable.
Victory over Flintshire in Hong Kong last December reads well enough and lots to like about his overall profile. Unusually quick forecast ground in France gives him his best possible chance of getting involved in an Arc too. On the other hand, tough to find a concrete reason why he should reverse York form with Postponed, even over this longer trip, and ground to make up with New Bay on Irish Champion form. Presence in the field, along with fellow strong Ballydoyle stayer Order Of St George, should at least ensure a decent gallop, and a respectable run en-route to further international targets would not surprise, given his fairly straightforward nature.
Finished tenth at 100/1 12 months ago but entitled to do better this time, having seemingly stepped forward in last couple of starts. Impossible to crab the nature of his Prix Foy win, but little depth to that race and form of Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud success also looks questionable, with runner-up Erupt arguably not the same force as when fifth in this 12 months ago and limp in the King George behind Highland Reel. Held on quite so many formlines, it's impossible to construct a case for him.
German Derby runner-up who was given an enterprising ride to win Grand Prix de Deauville from a couple of the usual suspects. Stoutly bred and unexposed under these kind of conditions, but improvement required and likely to be outclassed.
Andre Fabre hardly upbeat about this one's prospects earlier in the week and this solid stayer looks a token dart from Godolphin, with no obvous British or Irish-trained representatives having made themselves known and Hawkbill and Racing History staying at 10 furlongs in the Champion.
The Grey Gatsby
Unconvincing explanations for unexpected jockey changes have been the highlight of the season so far for this horse and the sort of form which would see him in the shake-up is gradually slipping further down his page. Brilliant on his day, but sadly his day appears to have passed.
Beaten less than five lengths in this race last year having looked a shade unlucky in 2014 attempt behind Treve. Held by Silverware and Savoir Vivre on this season's form, but the bigger field and stiffer test of stamina in this race ought to give him a chance of reversing those placings, even if he still has no chance of winning.
Failed to go on from fair third in Niel last season and needed (another) drop to conditions level to finally get his head in front again at Saint-Cloud last time. Represents Qatari owner in Qatari-backed race. Could yet find his level and win races – although that might yet turn out to be the Supeme Novices' Hurdle rather than the Arc de Triomphe.
One Foot In Heaven
Winner at Group Three and Group Two level, but appears to have lost the plot behind Silverwave in last couple of starts. His admirable dam, Pride, was 13th, seventh and second in this in three attempts. Won't be improving upon that record.
Has some talent, but also appears to have temperament too – and at the moment, it's the latter quality that's winning.
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