Some top class racing yesterday leads us into one of the biggest races of the season today. The Prix De L’arc De Triomphe is the highlight of the French flat season and takes centre stage today as domestic racing only has 2 jumps cards from Kelso and Uttoxeter.
Enable bids to be the first horse to win “The Arc” for the third time. She’s been devastating this season and all roads have led to Paris. A chance to retain her Arc crown, sustain her Group 1 winning streak and make history.
Kicking things off in the French capital with a 1 mile 2 year old group 1. Betting is currently headed by domestically trained Victor Ludorum. A short price of 6/4 for a 2 time winner of today’s trip. Both of those efforts came on good ground and were quite impressive. Both times he’s won by a wide margin of 3.25 lengths and was still going away at the line.
The form looks impressive but I’m keen to take on this lightly raced French colt with A P O’Brien’s ARMORY. Not many horses from this side of the channel are making the trip to France for this 2 day meeting. So it’s logical to follow what ever raiders the English and Irish are sending over to combat the French horses. It’s no secret that this colt was one of Aidan’s highest regarded prospects at Ballydoyle. A good debut was followed up by 3 successive wins at Leopardstown and the Curragh. Last time out he bumped into superstar and all round speed freak Pinatubo. Beaten 9 lengths by the scopey rival is no disgrace and Armory battled to finish ahead of stablemate Arizona.
Bare form of that race looks incredibly strong. Pinatubo is an outright monster but beating Arizona for the silver medal is encouraging. Arizona was the first favourite to win at Royal Ascot this season. Beating Threat into second who’s since won two class 1’s and contested the Middle Park Stakes.
The kick up in trip to a mile will suit the Gallileo sire’d colt as one of the best sire’s of 1 milers, he’s bred for stamina. Best bare form on offer and he should handle the cut in the ground in Paris at a tidy price of 7/2.
Sticking in Paris for the big one. The Arc. Enable’s date with destiny. History is calling one of the modern greats. But she’s got one last rival to overcome and this boy won’t go down without a fight. JAPAN has been a revelation since his 3rd in the Derby. He was unreal at Royal Ascot and blew away an easy winner by 4.5 lengths being eased down. He’s tested over today’s course and distance when winning a group 1 back in July. Not the most convincing looking performances as he got up by half a length but the time he posted was eye watering. 2m27s on good to soft ground. In comparison that’s 2 seconds faster than Enable’s Arc winning time last season and she was on faster ground.
Due to weight for age allowances Enable is going to have to give Japan 3lbs. It’s a large concession of weight to give a colt, even for a filly as good as she is. Japan showed his bags of class when posting a career best to see off strong bench mark Crystal Ocean in the Juddmonte. Gritty. Game. He dug in deep and won it on the nod against the top rated flat horse. Arguably the 10 furlongs that day was a bit sharp for both of them. So it could read even more impressive that he’s ground down such a game opponent in the last furlong.
Never before has a horse won 3 Arcs, let alone 3 consecutive renewals. Enable is good enough but an improving 3 year old in Japan will mean she will have to work for it every step of the way.
A quick trip over to England for the next selection as there’s a competitive 2 mile 4 furlong beginners chase. Highly consistent over hurdles last season, ERICK LE ROUGE gets the nod here.
Competing in handicap hurdles last season, the Jane Willaim’s trained 5 year old won 4 races in a row. Sky rocketing 22lbs up the handicap weights, he just kept cranking out wins over 19 to 21 furlongs. Ideal for todays trip. Long time partner Chester Williams is jocked up again and takes a handy 5lbs off. The favourite will carry the lowest weight in the field and only has to show his sparkle from hurdles to get off the mark over fences.
Although a crack at Group 3 company didn’t quite go to plan as he didn’t finish in the Coral Cup Handicap at the Cheltenham Festival. This may have been due to his huge hike in the weights. Main competitors here are Django Django and Not That Fuisse. The latter is probably most interesting of the contenders as the Skelton yard have a great strike rate here. It’s encouraging though to see that Erick Le Rouge has already chalked up a win over the Skelton runner. Django Django has yet to win over 2 and a half miles. On paper he may have the best form but he seems to be more competitive over 3 miles.
Putting a line through the run at Cheltenham, Erick Le Rouge is going to be hard to beat here if he takes too chasing as well as he took to hurdles.
Rounding out the day in Paris, the 3.55 has a personal favourite runner of mine in MEHDAAYIH. The filly really caught the eye back in May at Chester. Contesting the Cheshire Oakes she had an obliterating turn of foot in the home straight. The ground had a decent amount of juice in it that day as the rain was coming down hard. This daughter of Frankel was unfazed by the underfoot conditions and put the race to bed early under Robert Havlin. She bolted up by 4.5 lengths.
She was then sent to the Oakes at Epsom and backed into favourite, but ran below par and finished 7th behind Annapurna. The form stacks nicely as Annapurna won on yesterdays Longchamp card and Mehdaayih bounced back immediately with a group 2 win at Saint-Cloud under high class jockey Frankie Dettori. A close defeat at Goodwood was her last outing, she was nabbed late on by Japanese raider Deirdre. Dettori turned the screw from the front at Goodwood, playing to the tracks sharp finish and his mount’s bags of stamina. She had them in trouble a way out as Mehdaayih looked to follow in her sire’s footsteps and extend from the front. Frankie kicked, she responded and looked the outright winner until inside the last furlong.
In a class 1 race here there’s no jockey I’d rather have on board than Dettori. Even in the twilight of his career he’s the most tactically aware jockey on the globe. She’s been waited with in the back, she’s tried to make all, she’s come from midfield to win. It’s hard to say how she’ll be brought tactically into the race. She’s by some way the likeliest winner, it just depends on how Dettori decides to get her there. Watch Me is the main highlighted danger, but the domestic runner is untested over 1 mile 2 furlongs, although her pedigree does suggest she’ll stay the trip.