Midterm rates top Arc prospect
Matt Brocklebank pores over the ante-post market for the Arc de Triomphe and emerges with a 33/1 selection for the big race at Chantilly.
Midterm: Worth chancing in the Arc at 33/1
The 2016 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe has a very different look to it for several reasons, not least because it's to be run at Chantilly while Longchamp is being given a major overhaul, but the most startling observation at this particular juncture is that we have a five-year-old at the top of the betting.
The Roger Varian-trained Postponed has won his last six starts, the three most recent of which have come in Group One company by an aggregate distance of seven and three-quarter lengths, and he is the best horse entered on all know form.
He's done it at 10 furlongs and over the Arc trip of a mile and a half. He's done it in France, he's done it in Meydan and he's done it on ground ranging from good to firm right through to soft.
He's been kept fresh for the race since shrugging off doubts surrounding his well-being with victory over Highland Reel in the Juddmonte International at York's Ebor Festival and the form figures of his last three runs following breaks of 60 days or more read 1-1-1, so the 46-day layoff shouldn't be considered a negative.
Postponed is 100/30 at best and could arguably be a shade shorter, but everything we know about this great race tells us that the Classic generation have a huge advantage.
Three-year-olds hold an outstanding record, no doubt down to the perfect concoction of the race being run near the end of the year when the younger brigade have fully grown into their frames, together with the considerable weight allowances they receive from their elders.
Postponed, Erupt, A Shin Hikari et al – set to carry 9-5 – must concede 8lb to the three-year-old colts and 11lb to the three-year-old fillies, and that has simply proved too much for so many classy horses down the years.
In spite of this, four-year-old mares have won two of the past four renewals (they get 3lb from their male counterparts) so Found has to be considered closely following her close second to Almanzor, who looks certain to take up his engagement in the Champion Stakes at Ascot instead of heading to Chantilly.
Found was only fifth to Golden Horn as a three-year-old filly in last year's Arc but was knocked sideways at a crucial stage in the straight and her ninth-placed finish can definitely be marked up.
Found has had a busy season and looks held by Postponed on their Coronation Cup running but she's prone to peaking at the end of the year and went on to beat Golden Horn in the Breeders' Cup Turf on her final 2015 start last October.
Aidan O'Brien could also saddle Minding, Seventh Heaven, Order Of St George, Deauville, Highland Reel, Ballydoyle and the mercurial US Army Ranger, but four-year-old Found is undoubtedly the number one hope as the master trainer bids for a second Arc success.
Though there's a temptation to get Found on side, the three-year-old statistics are impossible to ignore and it's no surprise support for La Cressonniere continues to snowball.
She has a lot going for her. Trainer Jean-Claude Rouget has enjoyed another stellar season and his unbeaten filly has maintained an extremely high level of form during 2016, the highlight being a seemingly comfortable victory over 50/1 chance Left Hand in the Prix De Diane back in June.
That was her second success at Chantilly having also recorded a Listed triumph at the track last November, while Left Hand has done the form no harm whatsoever with subsequent wins in Group Three and Group One company at Deaville and Chantilly respectively.
Stamina is the only issue and it's far from certain the first attempt at a mile and a half will bring about any improvement.
If she does stay, then her sparkling turn of foot will make her absolutely deadly around Chantilly, but there is no evidence yet that she'll get the new trip.
Her sire Le Havre, also trained by Rouget, won the Prix Du Jockey Club over the extended 10 furlongs at this venue in 2009 but most of his progeny are milers and a notable daughter, Avenir Certain, weakened dramatically from sitting in second place with a furlong to travel to end up 11th of 20 in Treve's 2014 Arc on her only career outing beyond a mile and a quarter.
The dam Absolute Lady was unraced but is sired by the all-conquering Galileo and her half-sister Gold Sands was successful over 12 furlongs, albeit in a Kempton maiden.
So the messages are mixed but on balance there appears enough of a doubt over her ability to see out the distance to oppose La Cressonniere and now she's 11/2 the decision to look for alternatives is not such a difficult one.
The third-favourite is Makahiki is a fascinating Japanese runner and it's not beyond the realms of possibility that he eventually goes off favourite – on the Parimutuel at least.
His sire Deep Impact was the subject of an almighty on-course gamble before finishing third in the Arc 10 years ago and Yasuo Tomomichi's colt has clearly captured the imagination of the Japanese public in a similar vein.
He scythed through the pack to win the Japanese Derby from an uncompromising position in Tokyo back in May and his only subsequent outing yielded a narrow win in the Prix Niel over the Arc course and distance on September 11.
That was just the fourth start of his career, his first public airing since May and his first taste of French racing, but all three sentiments also apply to the horse he edged out in a close finish in the Niel.
Step forward MIDTERM, Derby favourite during the winter and clearly still held in the highest regard by trainer Sir Michael Stoute, who sent out Workforce to win the Arc in the same Khalid Abdullah silks.
Granted, Workforce had already proven himself at the highest level having won the 2010 Derby but there are some similarities; both horses won their only starts at two and both suffered defeat in the Dante Stakes at York, after which Midterm returned having suffered a stress fracture of the pelvis.
That was a clearly major blow for Stoute, who ended up fast-tracking Ulysses to Epsom when he perhaps wasn't quite ready for the occasion.
Hopes were certainly high for Midterm prior to York after he won the Bet365 Classic Trial at Sandown on his seasonal return in April. Beating Algometer by a length and a half didn't look particularly strong form at the time but David Simcock's grey has taken Listed and Group Three glory since then having probably not handled the track when seventh in the Derby in between those victories.
However you approach it there's a definite touch of class to Midterm and he arguably put in a career-best when just missing out in the aforementioned tight, three-way finish in the Arc trial, a race that quite frequently threw up the winner around the turn of the millennium (Rail Link, Hurricane Run, Dalakhani, Sinndar and Sagamix all did the Niel-Arc double).
Midterm had the run of the race and was beaten fair and square, but he put up a real fight when headed and was battling back at the line to go down narrowly, after which Teddy Grimthorpe stated: "Midterm had a good blow and really needed that. He settled well and moved nicely during the race, and from that point of view you have to be pleased, apart from the result.
"He now has two options, either the Arc or the Champion Stakes."
Therein lies the conundrum and it would be wrong not to acknowledge at this point that the colt in question is a shorter price for Ascot than he is for Chantilly.
But that's bound to be the case based on the depth of quality in each event and considering how pleased connections were with his comeback, having taken the steps to send him to France to run in the Niel over the same course this year's Arc will be contested, I'm perfectly happy to chance the fact he goes back to France on October 2, certainly at 33/1 (general price).
Khalid Abdullah does have New Bay for the Arc as well, and he's a shorter price at 16/1, but connections are adamant they won't be kept apart for the sake of it and there's little doubt the Chantilly test over a mile-and-a-half looks more suitable for Midterm than Ascot.
The step up to a mile-and-a-half visibly suited the son of Galileo, who has always been considered a top middle-distance prospect, and a drop back to 10 furlongs on Champions Day doesn't make much sense, providing he's emerged from his prep in good shape with no recurrence of the injury.
If Makahiki is a genuine 5/1 shot then Midterm represents by far and away the best value on offer at this stage and his odds will shorten sharply if/when the Stoute camp makes its intentions clear.
Posted at 0805 BST on 20/09/16.
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