Japanese star Makahiki faces key Arc rehearsal
Makahiki (far side): makes his European debut in the Prix Niel
PICTURE: Masakazu Takahashi Japanese star Makahiki faces key Arc rehearsal By Scott Burton 8:00AM 11 SEP 2016
Chantilly: Qatar Prix Niel (Group 2) 1m4f, 3y0 colts & filles
THE absence of France's leading Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe hope La Cressonniere and fields of five, six and four runners mean that Japanese Derby winner Makahiki will be the key horse on show at the Arc Trials, live on RUK and ATR.
The son of Deep Impact makes his European debut in the Qatar Prix Niel (2.00) and holds an 11lb advantage on Racing Post Ratings over the next best of his four rivals.
"It is a race he needs to win even though it is not the main objective," said trainer Yasuo Tomomichi. "But the main reason for running is that it will be his first race in France and he needs to have that experience under his belt."
Christophe Lemaire partnered Makahiki in a workout over a mile and a furlong on Wednesday in preparation for this important test.
"I'd like to win on Sunday while at the same time running in the spirit of a comeback for the horse," said Lemaire.
"It's a new environment and the idea is to have him at 100 per cent on Arc day. It's a step on the road."
While Makahiki is coming in here off a planned break, one-time Derby favourite Midterm will be having his first start since suffering a hairline fracture to his pelvis in the Dante Stakes in May.
Vermeille a key indicator
The Prix Vermeille (3.10) has produced four of the last eight winners of the Arc, although two were beaten in this trial.
Left Hand, who tops the French handicapper's ratings, backed up her second place to La Cressonniere in the Prix de Diane with a solid if unspectacular win over 1m2f in the Group 3 Prix Psyche, after which trainer Carlos Laffon-Parias was adamant going up to a mile and a half would play to her strengths.
Currently 33-1 for the Arc, she is one of the few horses apart from Makahiki with the potential to shorten significantly after the trials.
Highlands Queen also won at Deauville and is preferred to The Juliet Rose by jockey Stephane Pasquier.
A third Group winner from the Normandy summer is Golden Valentine, who is not entered in the Arc and has been prepared with this Group 1 in mind.
"She's very well and I think she has improved again," said trainer Freddy Head. "This is always the best race of the year for fillies in France and there will be strong opposition from Left Hand and others. What she has in her favour is that she knows the track well."
Candarliya was a distant second to the mighty Treve in this race 12 months ago and was not given a hard time by Christophe Soumillon when second to Nearly Caught over 1m7f in her prep run.
"Given the weight the four-year-olds must concede she'll need to be at her best but she's very well and the quick ground won't be a problem," said Alain de Royer-Dupre.
Godolphin's Endless Time looked a progressive filly when landing the Lancashire Oaks before running no sort of race in the Yorkshire equivalent last month.
Closely matched in Foy
As is often the case, the Prix Foy (4.25) has attracted the smallest field among the three trials and there is little to choose between the four runners on ratings.
Silverwave eased doubts about his stamina when winning the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud in July and warmed up for this assignment with a racecourse gallop 12 days ago.
Pascal Bary's four-year-old could be given most to do by One Foot In Heaven, who was a disappointing sixth in the Grand Prix.
"He might be in need of the run but he seems well and I hope he can make a decent comeback," said Royer-Dupre, who also saddles likely favourite Vazirabad in the Group 3 Prix Gladiateur (5.05).
British raiders in sprint
Last year's Prix de l'Abbaye hero Goldream heads four British-trained runners in the Prix du Petit Couvert (12.55).
"The quickest ground is at Chantilly, which is why he has gone there," said trainer Robert Cowell. "I'm a little concerned about the form of our stable – we're not quite firing on all cylinders – but he's in good form at home."