Perhaps not an Arc for the ages but that probably makes it more competitive than usual.
Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe
Group 1, no geldings, 2400m
16.05 local time, 15.05 UK, 01.05 Monday Melb/Sydney
1. Sisfahan - German-trained runner who will be happy to finish in the front half. Not won since last October. Last in the Preis von Baden recently, only piece of notable form was a second to Simca Mille in the Preis von Berlin at Hoppegarten. Not a pacemaker, will just sit back and pick off any tired ones. NFH.
2. Haya Zark - wins Group 3 races in bottomless swamps. Has neither of those criteria here. Beaten 40L by Simca Mille in the Grand Prix de Chantilly, but apparently it’s important to let camels like this run in the race rather than a gelding which might interfere with the gene pool. Has anybody that staying blood is worth FA these days?
3. Onesto - ran tenth, beaten 9L (very soft), in the race last year as a 3yo. Got closer in the Japan Cup on firmer ground, less than five lengths from the winner in seventh. Just two runs this season, a nice fourth in the Jacques Le Marois (1m) but only seventh of eight in the Irish Champion (1m2f), a race he was runner-up in the year before. Not up to them this year.
4. Simca Mille - a winner of six races from only 10 starts, he brings winning form to the table (3/4 this season). The trouble is, that form looks quite a bit weaker than the top rung here. He won the Preis von Berlin last start, ahead of the aforementioned Sisfahan and the Godolphin-runner New London, who couldn’t win a Listed race at Newmarket on Friday. Will keep picking off weaker G1s and other G2s, but there’s a notable step up to this level which I can’t see him making.
5. Bay Bridge - winner of the QIPCO Champion Stakes at Ascot last year which entitles him to have a crack at this. The step up to 1m4f had been a concern, his previous 11 starts before winning recently at Kempton were at or around 1m2f. He won the September Stakes over this trip comfortably, but had a cosy run against weaker class. Will probably be the biggest price of his career (>10/1) and don’t think he’s quite up to this, but I said the same last year at Ascot. Some hope with an ideal draw in six.
6. Westover - Irish Derby winner who was sixth here last year as a 3yo, and has improved again this season, claiming the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (G1 in name only) and then the narrow defeat to Hukum in a vintage King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in late July. Regularly sweats up pre-race which may get worse with warm weather and a big crowd in Paris, but can’t affect him too much if he’s run no worse than second in four runs this year. Also ran 3.5L second to Japanese wonderhorse Equinox in Dubai back in March. Definite chance with the inside draw.
7. Hukum - huge fan of this horse and just keeps on improving. Beat Westover in a strong edition of the KG & QE Stakes, that pair clearing out well ahead of multiple G1 winners. Successful in 10 of 15 starts, he’s lightly raced for a 6yo, an age group with a rotten record here - no winners for over 100 years. But, in days gone by, staying blood meant something in the breeding sheds. These days its value is greatly diminished and this horse may still be yet to peak, so there’s fair reason for him to still be running. Drawn the car park, will take a great ride from Crowley to claim the prize.
8. Place Du Carrousel - exceptional French filly who has won five from nine. However all the defeats as a three or four year old have been in G1s - Prix Saint-Alary (second to Above The Curve), Prix Diane (tenth behind Nashwa) and the Prix Ganay (fifth behind Iresine and Simca Mille). She returned the favour against Iresine, beating three weeks ago in the Prix Foy. Andre Fabre has declared her as his Arc horse all season. Perhaps that’s because the rest of the cupboard was bare. Place chance only.
9. Through Seven Seas - on most of her form you wouldn’t look twice until her most recent run, second (neck, 55/1) to Equinox in the Takarazuka Kinem in late June. She was unlucky on that occasion, being blocked in the straight but in reality, Equinox barely got out of first gear, despite being about seven-wide on the home turn. Behind them in the field was Deep Bond (tailed off in the last two Arcs) and Vela Azul, last year’s Japan Cup winner, so this was no easy field. This makes her very hard to line up - how excited can you get over one run, which appears to be considerably better than the rest of her form. Drawn perfectly in five (historically a massive advantage to be drawn inside six) and Christophe Lemaire (regular rider of Equinox) has returned from Japan to ride her. Very interesting…
10. Free Wind - probably Frankie’s last Arc ride. Winner of six from ten, but just one of four this season. Shouldn’t be getting beaten by Warm Heart or Sumo Sam if she wants to be competitive here.
11. Mr Hollywood - an omen bet with the Great British Bake Off starting again this week? A German colt with just five starts under his belt, all this season, with two wins on heavy tracks and three seconds on good or good-to-soft. His two most recent defeats have been in the German Derby (clearly beating the rest of the field but claimed by Fantastic Moon coming solo down the grandstand rail), and a narrow defeat to Zagrey in the Grosser Preis von Baden. Don’t dismiss German form lightly, this colt is still improving and won’t be out of place here. Worth a look each-way.
12. Feed The Flame - local colt who ran fourth (SP 5/2) in the Prix Du Jockey Club, 6.75L behind Ace Impact, won the Grand Prix de Paris (SP 11/4) ahead of Irish Derby runner-up Adelaide River and (Epsom) Oaks winner Soul Sister, and most recently ran second (SP 1/2) to Fantastic Moon in the Prix Niel, beaten a similar distance to Mr Hollywood in the German Derby. So on a price angle, I don’t see why he is the same odds as Fantastic Moon and significantly shorter than Mr Hollywood. The barrier shouldn’t make that much of a difference.
13. Ace Impact - probably the best horse ever to start his career on the Polytrack at Cagnes-sur-Mer. A winner of five from five, all this season, he has progressed from a conditions race on debut through to Group 1s, but all his races have been around the 1m2f mark. He won the Prix Du Jockey Club at Chantilly with ease. This son of Cracksman is favourite for a reason but the last Arc winner to be successful at their first try at a mile and a half was back in 1990, that’s a tough stat to break but bear in mind for more than half that period, the French Derby equivalent was still at 2400m.
14. Fantastic Moon - German colt by Sea The Moon who has won four from six. His two defeats have been to Mr Hollywood on heavy ground in the G3 Bavarian Classic in May and the G1 Grosser Dalimayr-Preis behind Godolphin colt Nations Pride (soft ground), second on both occasions. Every time the going has had ‘good’ in the description, he has won. Gate 12 no help but he is very talented.
15. Continuous - no St.Leger winner has ever gone on to win the Arc in the same season. This Japanese-bred colt stays all day and might just be better than your average Leger winner, after all the race has really dropped in quality over recent decades. If Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore think he is up to this, you should heed the advice. Gate 7 suits, it gives him options and he might just end up going forward and trying to run them into the ground, as there is no obvious pace in the field.
Killer Stats (thanks to various podcasts I’ve listened to in recent days)
⁃ no 6yo has won in over 100yrs of the race (although a 7yo won in the 1930s, after winning before as a 5yo)
⁃ The last horse to win at their first attempt at 2400m with Saumarez in 1990.
⁃ Inside gates dominate - 16 of the last 21 winners have been drawn eight or lower, the notable exceptions being Torquator Tasso (heavy track) and Golden Horn crossing to lead all the way from wide barriers.
⁃ No (English) St Leger has ever won the Arc in the same year.
⁃ They say this isn’t the strongest edition of the Arc, which often means anything can happen as the bar for success is set lower. They probably all need to improve to win, but it’s not as big a reach as it might be in other years. And that could mean certain stats get thrown out the window. The top two still have no frigging hope though.
⁃ Hard to hone in on any runner. Ace Impact could just blow them away but I have to take him on in an open race. Toss-up for me between Hukum, Through Seven Seas, Mr Hollywood and Fantastic Moon.
⁃ Mr Hollywood ew at 40/1
⁃ Through Seven Seas ew at 11/1
⁃ Box the four above in the exacta.