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Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe preview

The Arc - generally regarded as the greatest horse race in Europe takes a different route this year with the glorious Chantilly racecourse hosting festivities while Longchamp upgrades spectator facilities. A distinct disadvantage for those drawn wide and that mini-straight separated from the finishing section by a dogleg to the right are no longer a concern, but the switchback over 2400m as horses turn to both the left and right delivers an intriguing test.

It's my turn to step forward and provide a preview, with depth, insight and lot of replay links. Please enjoy!

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Qatar Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe
Group 1, 2400m
€5m, WFA, 3yo+ no geldings.
Chantilly


New Bay - 4yo entire who started 5/1 last year and ran third. Has only won a weak Group 3 this campaign, bookended by a 15L flogging by A Shin Hikari here in May (3.25L behind Silverwave) and a 5.25L fourth in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown (behind Almanzor and Found) where he appeared to have every possible chance. No reason to believe he can turn that around, hadn't missed a place before this season. Did win the Prix du Jockey Club here last year and hasn't run 1m4f since last October. Sixth favourite in the market, that just says there's a long tail of horses who cannot win.

Postponed - the class act of the field. Has won six on the trot (4xG1, 2xG2) and five of them at 1m4f (record at this distance; 7 starts, 6 wins, 1 third). Wins on everything from Good-Firm down to Very Soft, and going left-handed, right-handed, on flat tracks and even goat tracks like Epsom. Has won his last eight when Andrea Atzeni has been aboard. He's been very costly for me, I have vastly underestimated his ability and laid him at Meydan and York this year, it's time to finally concede that he's pretty bloody good.

The only negative is the distinct lack of winners from his age group. In SEVENTY years since World War II, there have been just three winners older than four. Now, let's counter that bizarre stat a little. This is a breeders' race - no geldings allowed and the star colts & fillies normally go straight to the shagging shack after running in this race. Only 13 4yo winners in the past 40 years. Horses five years and over are vastly outnumbered in this race every year. Just 3/19 in 2016 is not uncommon so it's not a fair comparison. And as for how many of them started under 10/1, well, I'll leave that to someone with a better database.

This horse was decent at three (G2 winner), very good at four (won a weak King George VI & QE II Group I) and exceptional at five (three G1s). Perfect draw in seven, the logical choice. Risk him at your peril.

Migwar - has won £74k in comparison to Postponed's £4.36m. Ran third behind New Bay in the Prix Niel last September, but this year's form has been in races worth less than £20k. Like the nerdy kid asking out the prom queen, he is way out of his depth.

Highland Reel - hasn't made an impact as a 4yo, winning just one race, the King George VI & QE II at Ascot (which was as weak as the Postponed win in 2015). Beaten twice by Postponed (Dubai WC and Juddmonte International), beaten 6.5L behind Almanzor in the Irish Champion (hottest race of the season!) where he was only the third string from Ballydoyle. Will be in the front half of the field but can't see him in contention for the serious money.

One Foot In Heaven - one of three from the Royer-Dupre stable. Was still unraced this time last year, now he runs in G1s. Won the Grand Prix de Chantilly G2, before finishing behind Silverwave at his two most recent runs, although both times he was high in the market. Bit unlucky in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, restrained to the back then making his way along the inside rail, then ran last of four in the Prix Foy where he appeared to hit some loose ground as he was making his run, floundered and never went on. Probably the first Fastnet Rock progeny to line up in the Arc. Big price, not hopeless.

The Grey Gatsby - has been around the block many times, just four wins from 20 starts does not cut at the world's greatest flat race. Has not won since he had huge dose of luck on his side winning the Irish Champion Stakes over Australia back in 2014. Speaking of the wide brown land, he'd clean up if they sent him down there, huge money on offer for 10/12f Group races, and enough races to avoid Winx if required. Kidding themselves if they think there are G1s going cheap in this part of the world. Was rated 127 after running second to Solow in the 2015 Dubai Turf, now back to 115. Did win the Prix du Jockey Club here in 2014, his only run at Chantilly. Can't see him in the money.

Silverwave - went round at 100/1 last year in a high-class edition of the Arc, and gate 17 at Longchamp certainly didn't help. Pascal Bary took over from Alain Couteil this season and appears to have improved him. Apart from leading unexpectedly on his first run of the year and running seventh, he was close up in the Prix Ganay behind Dariyan, third behind A Shin Hikari in that wet track romp (close up behind Dariyan again), and then won the G1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud , followed by the G2 Prix Foy, both times with a bit left in the tank. Will have Soumillon aboard, you could do worse for a 20/1 shot with gate 4 this time around.

Order of St George - the Ascot Gold Cup winner dropping back to a distance shorter than he has run for almost two years. Yes he's a Group 1 winner but does anyone seriously think Sea Moon, Agent Murphy, Fact of Folklore, Mizzou, Twilight Payment or Wicklow Brave would get within 10L of the winner here? Turned over at 1/7 last time in the four-runner Irish St Leger. Better suited here by genuine pace but that defeat left a sour taste in the mouth. On a dry track against top class opposition, I can't see this being enough of a stamina test.

Siljan's Saga - third attempt at this race, starting prices of 100/1 and 150/1 summed up his chances - finished 12th and eighth respectively. Just beaten in the Prix de Deauville a month ago when the leader Savoir Vivre kicked six lengths on the home turn and he just failed to claw it back. Chances - none.

Found - outstanding record of 17 placings from 18 starts. The problem is that most of them (10) have been for second. Ran ninth here last year (drawn 15) then another second in the British Champion Stakes and then captured the lucrative Breeders Cup Turf ahead of Golden Horn. Could potentially make ac ase for her being better at this time of year. Her string of five second placings this campaign have all been in G1s, behind Fascinating Rock, Postponed, My Dream Boat, Seventh Heaven and Almanzor. She has to beat at least some of those to be classed as a strong winning chance surely? That defeat by Almanzor was a huge run, just pipped by the swooping high-class colt. Exceptional filly, but is it just another day for running second or third?

Harzand - dual Derby-winning colt who blotted his formbook with a well-beaten eighth in the Irish Champion Stakes, the hottest middle distance race of the season, when sent off 2/1 favourite. It just didn't happen for him that day but this horse has always been labelled a bit brittle, even ignoring the nail in the hoof on Derby Day at Epsom. If Dermot Weld has him right on the day, he's a massive chance. The going may be a little firm for him, but you can never tell with French track ratings until the first race. Don't rule him out.

Vedevani - one win from seven, owned by the Aga Khan, assume he's in there to be pacemaker because there ain't no other reason besides grand delusion that he's in this company.

Talismanic - ran fourth behind Almanzor in the Prix du Jockey Club but nothing else to suggest he has any chance here. Last start win was a £20k race.

Makahiki - the latest great hype horse from Japan. Beaten just once in six starts, in the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas). Won the Japanese Derby by a nose, seemingly a regular trait as his last three wins have been won by no more than half a length in total. Does that make him less of a star or just a sign he times his runs perfectly? The Derby looked like more of a struggle but the Satsuki Sho Trial (Hochi Hai Yayoi Sho) and Prix Niel looked like there was still plenty left in the tank. By Japan's answer to Frankel in Deep Impact, ridden by Christophe Lemaire who has ridden him in half his starts, including his acclimatisation run, the Prix Niel. Having raced here before will be a plus, he's still untapped.

Savoir Vivre - second in the German Derby on a heavy track, then won the Grand Prix de Deauville via a brilliant tactical ride from Maxime Guyon. Much harder here, there's no easy lead served up on a plate here.

Left Hand - the local smokey wearing saddlecloth #16. Since running a half-length second to La Cressonniere (who would have been single figure odds here) at 50/1 in the Prix Diane, she has won the Prix Psyche Morocco Cup and the Prix Vermeille. The 15 draw doesn't have to be a problem with the Chantilly switchback, it's all about positioning in the first 600m and few jockeys are going to be better at that than Guyon. Solid chance at odds.

VERDICT

The longer I look at this race, the more runners I find with a winning chance! Postponed has to be the one, but you can put numerous others in to challenge for prize money. As usual for me, I'll be looking to play the exotics rather than just the dull, old win bet.

1. Postponed
2. Harzand
3. Left Hand
4. Found
5. Silverwave
6. Makahiki

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