Fran Berry: Weight can tell
Fran Berry looks forward to his ride on the Arc card at Chantilly and reckons this could be the year for Japan in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
Makahiki beats Satono Diamond to win the Japanese Derby – can he break new ground for Japan?
The Arc de Triomphe is shaping up to be a fantastic race and I think we may finally see the first Japanese winner of the race in Makahiki.
I've ridden in Japan between January and February for the last six years and a win in the Arc would be massive for them, absolutely massive. Their racegoers have a great affinity for the horses and they take it to another level – they call them fans and that's really what they are as they follow the fortunes of their favourites wherever they run and I'd expect there'll be a large contingent in Paris, just as there was when Deep Impact ran in the Arc.
Their Group One form is as good as ours and Makahiki is a Japanese Derby winner. He had his prep run – his first since the Derby – in the Prix Niel and the fractions for the last two furlongs were really good and he beat a good horse in Midterm.
I think it will be a big factor having a local jockey on him in Christophe Lemaire who not only knows the horse well but he knows the track well too and if they can pull it off it would be huge for Japan – bigger than anything that's happened before.
It looks a tight race, of course, and three-year-olds, especially the fillies, have a huge record in the race recently and they could be represented by Left Hand who won the Prix Vermeille so you'd have to respect her chance if she lines up, but Makahiki and Harzand are the two I'd be looking at with the weight-for-age allowance.
The vibes are very good about Harzand and I hear he's back working extremely well after his setback in the Irish Champion. Dermot Weld wouldn't be bringing him over if he wasn't 110%.
I think we will see a different horse stepping back up to 12 furlongs but this will be his first time tackling older horses over this trip and his form hasn't worked out quite as well as might have been expected at the start of the season.
Postponed is difficult to fault and he should also relish stepping back up in trip as he looked to be taken out of his comfort zone over 10 furlongs at York although he still won impressively.
They're all going to have to step up to beat him but the weight-for-age allowance that the three-year-olds get could be crucial.
I've not ridden at Chantilly before but I've spoken to some of the French jockeys and they tell me the draw isn't as important over this trip as it is in the Prix du Jockey-Club. There's a longer run to the first bend which should help and I'm told it can be better to be drawn in the middle than lower.
I've ridden at a few Arc days before and have finished in the money a few times and I'm hopeful of going even better this year on Take Cover.
It's a great day to be part of, especially having missed part of the year, and I'm delighted to have picked up the ride. I rode him to win a Listed race at Dundalk last November and have been asked to ride him once or twice this season but couldn't due to other commitments.
He's had a good season, winning the King George at Goodwood and he ran well at York in the Nunthorpe and I think there were excuses for his last run.
The ground would have been a negative that day and there was a strong headwind which suited the hold-up horses and was against him but he was right up there until the final furlong.
He used to have the odd problem in the stalls but he's better now and an uncomplicated ride, he can lead or take a lead and he finds plenty for pressure. If the forecast is right, the ground is going to be quick and it's a case of the quicker the better for him. You have to respect Mecca's Angel, but there's very little between the top sprinters and he definitely has a good chance.
On Friday I ride Alyssa in the Londonmetric Noel Murless Stakes at Newmarket over a mile six which is a drop in class from the Park Hill, in which she ran in last time.
She disappointed at Doncaster but she got very wound-up before the start, missed the break and never got into the race and never seemed to enjoy it.
She worked well on Tuesday and running back against her own age group in a smaller field should help. We've just got to try and keep her calm in the preliminaries so we'll probably bring her in late to the paddock and take her late down to the start and hopefully that will keep a lid on her and lead to a better run.
My best chance at Newmarket on Saturday has to be Crowning Glory who has done very well, winning three of her last four. I've always felt that she only does the minimum and never wins by too far as a result, so I'm hopeful that there's more to come and that she can step up.
A mile at Newmarket should suit her well and it's a nice, competitive race but I'm hopeful of a big run.
I start the day on Winkle Brown who is a half-brother to Air Pilot so was always likely to need time and he does seem slightly backward. It will be good to get him started and get a run into him.
Now the weights have gone up, I'm riding Emerald Loch in the British EBF Fillies' Series Sprint. The forecast is mixed and she could use a little rain. She worked well on Tuesday but this is her first run back from a break and wherever she finishes on Saturday, she'll improve from it.
I've picked up the ride on Mick Channon's Stringybark Creek in the sales race. He's got a bit to find but the form in these races doesn't always work out as you'd expect and you can get some funny results.
He was an early season two-year-old whose been given a break since the Windsor Castle and is stepping up to six furlongs for the first time and it's nice to get a ride on one that's already won.
Alice Springs was very impressive in the Matron Stakes last time and she's obviously the one to beat in the feature, the Sun Chariot Stakes but the French have a very strong record in this race.
They bring three over and I think Ervedya and Volta could provide a little value against Alice Springs.
Ervedya hasn't won since the Moulin last year but she's been running well in defeat. They've put cheekpieces on her which could help but her form is very strong anyway and she's a fairly fresh horse who's back against her own sex and she could give Alice Springs something to think about.