Racing Post’s guide to finding the Arc winner
Golden Horn: won last year's Arc at Longchamp
THE Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe is Europe's richest, and most prestigious, race. It has attracted runners from Britain, Ireland, Germany, France and as far afield as Japan. But with so many champions turning up from so many different countries, how exactly does one go about finding the winner?
Like in any race, ability counts for a lot. But how does Makahiki's Japanese Derby success compare to Postponed's victory in the International at York over 1m2½f and Order Of St George's win in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot over almost double that distance?
Luckily, Racing Post Ratings rank every single individual performance to give each horse in each race a form rating. These are then adjusted to the race conditions, in this case a 1m4f Group 1 at Chantilly, to give an idea of just how all this international form compares.
As such we have Postponed, the 2-1 favourite, rated 135 for the Arc, with dual Derby winner Harzand and the runner-up in just about every Group 1 in Britain and Ireland, Found, on 134. Makahiki (133), Highland Reel (132), New Bay (131) and Order Of St George (130) are others that on raw ability should go close.
Of course, in racing all things are not equal. Races are not run in lanes and things like tactics, position, pace and level of form all have an impact.
Historical pointers can be useful in highlighting key angles, but with this year's race being run at a completely different venue those relating to the track and the draw are less relevant.
Postponed: comes out top on adjusted Racing Post Ratings
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PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
However, that nine of the last ten winners were already Group 1 winners and eight of the ten had an adjusted RPR of at least 133 shows the class needed to win such a competitive race. All the horses with an adjusted RPR above 127 are mentioned above.
The fact that seven of the last ten winners were three-year-olds falls in line with the BHA's research released last month that highlighted the advantage held by the Classic generation under the current weight-for-age scale.
The Arc is usually run at Longchamp, where the race has a familiar pattern of a slow early pace, with the field winding it up on the false straight and fanning wide into the straight. Chantilly rides very differently.
For a start, an early left-hand turn means a wide draw is nowhere near as terminal to a horse's chances, which is a bonus for the likes of Found, Makahiki and Left Hand.
The long, sweeping home turn also changes the dynamic of the race, as does the presence of super stayer Order Of St George. The two factors combined suggest Frankie Dettori will make a bold early bid for home when ground will be hard to make up on the turn, in an attempt to steal a march on his rivals.
Six of the last ten Arc winners have come from midfield but that may be too far back in this year's renewal as only those well placed will have any hope of being able to follow Dettori.
Those further back may see the race get away from them, while there is also scope for any amount of traffic problems coming off the bend – as seen in this year's Prix du Jockey Club. The flipside is that, with an uphill finish, those that attack too hard and too early may struggle to get home.
As much as class and an ability to handle the course are important, so too is current form. The Grey Gatsby is a case in point. He is a dual Group 1 winner, including a Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly, but his last win came more than two years ago and he was beaten ten and a half lengths by Postponed last time out in the International. At his best he is clearly capable of featuring, but the chances of him being at his best look limited.
There are nine other Group 1 winners among the 16 that go to post, with Left Hand, Makahiki, Postponed and Silverwave the last time out winners among them. Indeed that quartet have won each of their last two starts.
Makahiki (far side) winning the Japanese Derby
PICTURE: Masakazu Takahashi
Left Hand won the Group 1 Prix Vermeille, the race both Zarkava and Treve claimed en route to Arc glory, in ready fashion last time, while Makahiki also won a shade cosily over course and distance on trials day in the Prix Niel – a race that last threw up the Arc winner when Rail Link completed the double in 2006, following the same path as Hurricane Run the year before. Silverwave won the other major race on trials day, the Prix Foy, in comfortable fashion – by a length.
The best race of the year so far has easily been the Irish Champion Stakes. While winner Almanzor does not run, the second, Found, fourth, New Bay, seventh, Highland Reel, and eighth, Harzand, all line up.
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