This was looking like a fairly straightforward preview until it rained, and rained, and rained in Paris today. So now we have to go even deeper than the bare form and determine which horse has flippers in its hooves! This race baffles me - geldings aren't allowed to run, but several runners which will only cause traffic problems and will be fighting it out for last are welcome to run? What a stupid rule!
Sea Moon (16) - started favourite in the King George and was beaten 2.25L by Danedream into fifth, the first time he'd ever missed a place. Ran 2nd in the Breeders Cup Turf to St Nicholas Abbey last year and won the G2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot (beating five horses aiming at the Melbourne Cup). Can he swim? He has two wins and a second on Good-Soft and his maiden on Heavy from five wet starts. The draw won't help but by the end of the day if the track is wet, I doubt it will be a factor. Into 10/1 fourth favourite now.
St Nicholas Abbey (10) - Ballydoyle's older hope who ran fifth here last year in a very hot field. Consistent this year in high grade, best run was probably his third behind Danedream in the King George at Ascot. Has JP O'Brien aboard which will annoy some punters, is there any reason to believe he will go better than last year? Only win this season has been the weak Coronation Cup, five placings in other races suggests he'll be around the money but probably not for the major prize. In the dry at 12/1, I'd have been having a lot more on for the place than the win, but now it's wet, he's out the gate - hasn't won on a wet track since his 2yo days despite being by Montjeu. Two starts on genuine Soft since then have resulted in defeats at 2/5 and 4/11.
Meandre (13) - sixth in this race last year. Has he improved since then, or is this year's edition that much weaker? Has won twice in small fields in 2012, the Grand Prix de Saint Cloud in June over Shareta, Galikova and last year's winner Danedream, who later reported to be off-colour, then won the Grosser Preis von Berlin (G1) at Hoppegarten. Form is solid out of those races, but was beaten by Orfevre in the Prix Foy three weeks ago and we know he was underdone. Genuine pace here, something rarely seen in those small fields he has been contesting. Ridden by Guyon, trained by Fabre, he looked a decent chance at 20/1 on the dry, but his wet track record is rubbish - four starts on soft or worse, and have only heard of the winner of one of those races.
Mikhail Glinka (9) - former handy Ballydoyle colt now owned by Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov. Most recently won the Group 3 Preis der Sparkassen at Baden Baden at his last start, before that won a G2 2400m race in Dubai against stayers, not this class. 100/1 for a reason, likely to beat the pacemakers and maybe a couple more.
Robin Hood (12) - Ballydoyle pacemaker who has been beaten a total of 189 lengths in his last four starts. SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO TAKE HIS PLACE IN THIS CALIBRE OF RACE, will just cause traffic problems in the straight. 500/1 is unders.
Orfevre (18) - the Japanese superstar who won the 3yo Triple Crown last year, but showed some quirks in his first two runs for 2012. Then he came out and brained them in the Takarazuka Kinen, and did enough to show he had settled in and there was more to come in the Prix Foy three weeks ago. I have no doubt he is the best horse in the field, but can he handle the wet and what happens from barrier 18? Wet tracks are rare in Japan but he did win the Japanese Derby last year on a Soft track and the Prix Foy was run on Good-Soft. From the outside gate, he will need to do some work but has shown tactical speed and the ability to make long sustained runs in his best wins. Soumillon takes the ride and there's no better jockey at Longchamp.
Aventino (8) - pacemaker for Orfevre. Not sure if his record is quite as bad as the Racing Post says (i.e. have they got all his data?) - if so, then see comment for Robin Hood.
Shareta (11) - star filly who ran second to Danedream last year at 66/1, but has shown that was no fluke, winning the Yorkshire Oaks and the Prix Vermeille at her last two starts. Drawn midfield which should be fine, but the rain? Three runs on VerySoft or Heavy for three placings, no wins. Lemaire rides, big chance.
Haya Landa (1) - started 16/1 in a Group 3 race at Kempton last month and finished way back, even behind Mijhaar the money-muncher, so no idea why she is here. Ran fourth in the Prix Diane (French Oaks) earlier in the year, but rest of her form is ordinary. Just one win from 14, Drawn the inside rail, hopefully drops out the back and stays out of the way.
Solemia (6) - local filly without much experience at the top level. Beaten into third behind Shareta in the Prix Vermeille, but beat the same horse before that in the Prix Corrida in May. Good but not outstanding form in the wet, and drawn well. Peslier is a very good jockey, you could do worse than back her at 50s.
Bayrir (14) - a late entry supplemented during the week by the super-rich Aga Khan. By Medicean which usually means any significant rain is a negative on his chances. Won the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington two starts back, ran second to Saonois in the Prix Niel recently. Wide draw, Mosse takes over from Lemaire, his first ride on the horse.
Kesampour (15) - won his first four starts, then beaten by Saonois in his past two (Prix Du Jockey Club and Prix Niel, where he led - not his usual pattern). Two starts on wet tracks (Heavy and Very Soft) for two wins, one of them over Saonois, means he will have support tomorrow, even at 40s, especially with pacemakers letting him settle back. Benoist to ride, has won on him twice.
Camelot (5) - the star Irish 3yo in what is commonly believed to be a poor crop. Won the 2000 Guineas, the English and Irish Derby, and then could only run second in the St Leger as he went for the rarely-achieved English Triple Crown. A poor ride, victim of circumstances or not good enough? Speak to three different punters and you are likely to get three different answers. He might be a Montjeu but I didn't think he enjoyed the wet at The Curragh. It has been a long season for him, he's had one ordinary run where he looked a bit flat - I cannot have him as favourite despite the prime draw.
Masterstroke (17) - talented colt with four wins and two seconds from six starts. Beat Gatewood in the Prix de Deauville recently, really knuckled down close to the line. The runner-up is a good horse, but he's not a WFA star. Not raced on a surface worse than soft, but is by Monsun. 12.5 on Betfair seems pretty short to me.
Ernest Hemingway (4) - looked like a potential superstar when winning his debut at Dundalk by a minute but then something went wrong in the Dante when favourite. I hope he's not being sacrificed as a pacemaker for the rest of his career - he could have turned out to be a very, very good horse. Hasn't seen a wet track, but by Galileo, expected to handle it.
Saonois (2) - French Derby (Prix du Jockey Club at 33/1) and Prix Niel winner who has been supplemented this week at a cost of €100k. Burst through tight gaps to win the Derby (very rough race) and in the Niel - he's battle-hardened, drawn well and don't be afraid of his relatively inexperienced jockey, he has a great relationship with this horse.
Yellow And Green (3) - one win from five starts, beaten by Shareta last start in the Vermeille, previous form weaker than it needs to be - she has been avoiding the big 3yo races, so running here has to be regarded as ambitious.
Great Heavens (7) - supplemented this week by the not-struggling-for-a-penny Lady Rothschild, in response to her brother Nathaniel being withdrawn, and the steady rain. Three runs on soft to heavy tracks for three easy wins. In fact all her wins (four from five starts) have been easy. But the Irish Oaks and Lancashire Oaks are a long way from the Arc - she hasn't run against the boys before, and this is a stiff class rise. Now trading at 8.2 on Betfair..... really? William Buick to ride, to say he has been flying this season in big races is a huge understatement.
So who do I like? I don't actually know. Let's see how this ground turns out. I've been on Orfevre since January (at 10s) and I'm not dropping off now, but the combination of the gate and the rain means I will be looking to back at least one rival - maybe Saonois and Kesampour, but let's see what happens in the early races and how it is affecting the pattern.