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Preview de la Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe 2020

The European flat racing season comes to its natural conclusion in this messed up hell of a year. The queen of the turf, Enable, goes for an historic third win but it has been wet and cold all week in Paris, making it a tough old slog in deep ground. There won't be much of a crowd there to 'bring the house down' if she wins, in front of no more than 1000 paying spectators, but the racing world will be tuning in across the globe.

Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe 
ParisLongchamp, 1605 local, 1505 BST, 0005 Monday Sydney time. 
2400m, Group 1 Weight-for-Age, (no geldings) 
Approx €3m. 
Expected Going - Heavy. 
1.Persian King - 4yo, Kingman/Pretty Please - Andre Fabre - Pierre Charles Boudot 
Star French colt stepping up to a mile and a half for the first time. Won the French 2000 Guineas (Poulains) on heavy ground but ran fourth (only time in his career finishing worse than second) in the Jacques Le Marois, almost nine lengths behind Palace Pier. Just two runs beyond a mile - runner-up (beaten 2L) to Sottsass in last year's Prix du Jockey Club (10.5f) and an easy win the Prix d'Ispahan (weak G1 over 9f) in July. 3/3 at Longchamp, exceptional colt but this seems to be a 'free shot at the stumps' before he goes to stud, rather than a task genuinely within his range. Beat Pinatubo in the Prix du Moulin last time out but all the post-race coverage was about how unlucky the British colt was rather than the smart ride by Boudot. First try at the trip, bottomless ground that he struggled on the last time he saw it - not for me.

2. Royal Julius - 7yo, Royal Applause/Hflah - J.Reynier - Shane Foley 
Must have a wealthy French owner hoping for a miracle. It has been 25 starts since he was won in France, the two victories in that stretch have been in Bahrain and Italy. Started 66/1 in the 2018 Prince of Wales, over 15L behind Poet's Word and Cracksman. Some form on wet ground early in his career but well beaten last few tries on it. Beaten at Vichy and Milan in his last three starts. Should be a million to one. 

3.Way To Paris - 7yo, Champs Elysees/Grey Way - A. Marcialis - Ioritz Mendizabal 
 Gallant grey stallion easy to spot in a big field. Had strong form through May/June between 10-12f, finishing 2121 in smaller fields, but last time out, three weeks ago, finished 3L behind Anthony Van Dyck and Stradivarius in the Prix Foy, shown above. Campaigned last season over longer trips with similar success until results went against him later in the year, perhaps due to softer going. Was beaten a long way in the Prix Royal-Oak on similar ground last October. Lined up in the 2018 edition of this race, finishing 11th behind Enable at 150/1. Has never been beaten by ten lengths or more in his career, so he doesn't shirk the task. Might be able to sneak a place if the cards fall his way. 

4. Japan - 4yo, Galileo/Shastye, AP O'Brien - Yutaka Take 
Seems slightly cheesy to appoint a jockey from the Land of the Rising Sun on this horse, but c'est la vie. Has never quite lived up to his breeding/price tag but isn't far off the best either. Won the Grand Prix de Paris and Juddmonte International last season before running fourth in this race (very soft), beaten 4L, perhaps making his run a furlong too soon. This season though, each-way punters haven't even had a collect. Fourth in the Prince of Wales, third of seven in the Eclipse, third and last (beaten 16L) in the King George VI and fifth in the Irish Champion. The wet won't scare him but needs to lift significantly on this season's performances.

5.Sovereign - 4, Galileo/Devoted to You - AP O'Brien - Mickael Barzalona 
Fluked the Irish Derby last year at 33/1, minimal stud value uless he proves himself with other wins but yet to do that in three subsequent runs. Third to Twilight Payment in the Vintage Crop, second to Enable in the King George VI (of three, beaten 5.5L) and most recently sixth of eight in the Irish St Leger. Won his maiden by 14L on a heavy track, but against four plodders with a total of two career wins. Assume they send him to the front and either set it up for the brothers, or try to pinch it. Would be as big a shock as winning that Derby if they pulled it off.

6.Stradivarius - 6yo, Sea The Stars/Private Life - John Gosden - Oliver Peslier 
Staying superstar rolling the dice in the world's best race. Why not? They said the ground was against him in the Gold Cup at Ascot, he won by 10 lengths. Was outsprinted by Anthony Van Dyck last time in the Prix Foy, so does he make this more of a staying test or take a bit of cover in the biggest field he has faced since his 3yo days? With Frankie on Enable, four-time winner Olivier Peslier takes the ride. Looking to become the first progeny of Sea The Stars to follow in his sire's footsteps by winning the Ac, after Cloth Of Stars (twice) and Sea Of Class have been placed. Possible but perhaps a bit short in the betting considering he's not won over anything shorter than 1m6f since his early 3yo days.

7.Sottsass - 4yo, Siyouni/Starlet's Sister - Jean Claude Rouget - Cristian Demuro 
Best of the locals, third last year behind Enable and ahead of Japan. Has only won once from four starts since, a narrow win over Way To Paris in the Prix Ganay in June. Given a brief break to target this race, he then resumed on heavy going at Deauville, beaten a neck by Skalleti in a G3 conceding 6lbs. Had every chance in the Irish Champion behind Magical and Ghaiyyath but probably would have had everything timed to peak for this weekend. Needs to find a couple of lengths to be in the finish.

8.Enable - 6m, Nathaniel/Concentric - John Gosden - Frankie Dettori 
The wonder mare who undoubtedly starts favourite with Love waiting for less swamp-like ground. Chasing history after winning in 2017 and 2018, and runner-up in 2019, a third win would be a marvellous swansong to her career. The case for - she's simply a superstar, winner of 83% of her races including 11 Group 1s over four seasons. The case against simply comes down to statistics - the last horse aged older than five to win the Arc was Motrico as a 7yo in 1932 (after also winning in 1930) and the last mare (aged five or older) to win was Corrida in 1937. However, it's unlikely there is a huge weight of numbers against her. Being such a breeders' race (no geldings allowed), the best ones have one, maybe two shots at winning, then head off to the breeding barn. The five, six and seven-year olds that have lined up in the majority of years will be the 50,66 & 150/1 shots we see here, rather than the 6/1 of Stradivarius and 5/4 of Enable. Eight horses have won twice, none has gone closer to a third win. Frankie Dettori is already the most successful jockey with six wins, and another win for Khalid Abdullah would make him the most successful owner in the history of the race, breaking the current tie on six wins with Marcel Boussac. I'm normally the party-pooper on occasions like this, but this year, the world really needs Enable to be the story.

9.Deirdre - 6m, Harbinger/Reizend - M.Hashida - Jamie Spencer 
Japanese mare who hasn't won since surprising at 20/1 in the G1 Nassau last summer at Goodwood. Ran third in soft going in the British Champion Stakes last October, as wet as she has encountered and we are purely guessing from her breeding how she will cope with anything worse. Hasn't shown a lot this season, beaten clearly in the Eclipse and Nassau. Here more due to the Japanese obsession with this race rather than as a genuine chance.

10.Gold Trip - 3yo, Outstrip/Sarvana - Fabrice Chappet - Stephane Pasquier 
A winner of one race, the Prix Greffulhe, a Group 2 at Lyon-Parilly in June with In Swoop just over a length behind in third, on soft going. That came after a first-up second in a conditions race to Melbourne Cup-bound Port Guillaume. More recently when upped in class, he finished 11th in the Prix du Jockey Club before running third behind Mogul and In Swoop in the Grand Prix de Paris. The distance seems to be no issue for him despite not having a great deal of stamina in his breeding. Gets 3lb off Enable and six off the older males but think the gap in ability is even wider.

11.Chachnak - 3yo, Kingman/Tamzirte - F.Vermuelen - Tony Piccone Won his first two starts as a 2yo and a pair of G3s this season. Has lined up twice againt the best of his age group, the Jean-Luc Lagardere at this meeting last year and the Prix du Jockey Club in July, and finished well back at big odds both times. No hope.

12. In Swoop - 3, Adferflug/Iota - FH Graffard - Ronan Thomas 
Lightly-raced colt with just four starts under his belt. Began his career with a soft win at Lyon-Parilly followed by an unlucky third in a G2 behind Gold Trip, who had a couple more runs under his belt. He then travelled to Hamburg to win the German Derby (worst racecall in history, commentator doesn't even see the horse until the last 20m!) coming from the back half of the field. Onto the Grand Prix de Paris three weeks ago and he finished second behind Mogul, and just ahead of Gold Trip. He still appeared a little immature in that race, Mogul got the dream run along the fence while In Swoop had more traffic to deal with and should have finished closer. Strongly supported during the week as punters have looked for alternatives to the favourites with the ability to handle the wet. Can't be too certain about his performance if it gets deep but certainly worth his place near the top of the betting.

13.Mogul - 3, Galileo/Shastye - AP O'Brien - Ryan Moore 
Probably the best of the AP O'Brien quartet, he arrives as a last start winner in the Grand Prix de Paris. After being stunned by stablemate Serpentine in the Derby, he bounced back with a victory at Goodwood in the G3 Gordon Stakes. That win over Highland Chief was reversed in his next start in the Great Voltigeur at York, when he finished third behind the impressive Pyledriver. Suspect there might still be a bit of improvement left in the tank. Should be the stable's no.1 seed.

14.Serpentine - 3, Galileo/Remember When - AP O'Brien - Christophe Soumillon Shock winner of the Derby after backing up quickly from a front-running, nine-length maiden win and applying the same tactics. But now that he's a genuine seed rather than a rank outsider, do the tactics change completely and nullify his best asset? Elected not to lead in the Grand Prix de Paris (with a stablemate as the bunny) and only finished fourth behind Mogul, In Swoop and Gold Trip. Did have 10 weeks between runs so there might be an improvement in fitness since then, and they have supplemented him this week which is usually a strong endorsement. Beaten a long way on debut in soft going, but siblings seem to be no better or worse for it. Drawn the extreme outside, unless he goes forward and is left alone, I can't see him in the finish.

15.Raabihah - 3f, Sea The Stars/Garmoosha - Jean Claude Rouget - Maxime Guyon 
The best of the local fillies who hasn't quite lived up to the early hype, winning three of her five career starts, all this season. In her two 'failures', she has drawn wide and been stuck out in no man's land (Prix Diane) or ridden negatively dropping out the back (Prix Vermeille). Fillies have a tremendous recent record in the race and drawn gate two, she should get the perfect sit close to the pace and Enable. No evidence for or against her in the wet, other than her sire winning in it early in his career. Right in the mix.

Sovereign and Serpentine to push forward and set the pace, with the likes of In Swoop, Raabihah, Mogul, Sottsass, Enable and Persian King all trying to park close to the speed. If the pacemakers string them out enough, then being caught wide shouldn't be an issue, but likely to mean there's a lot of ground for those to make up from the tail. Still, if it's verging on bottomless heavy, who knows where the bias/lanes/running pattern will be. 

Cheering for Enable but will be taking the bigger prices each-way around Raabihah and Mogul. 

In Swoop


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