PRIX DE L’ARC DE TRIOMPHE 2019
No horse has won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe – the Turf’s pre-eminent weight-for-age event and Europe’s richest race – three times in its 98-year history. The closest that any previous participant has managed in recent decades is Treve, winner in 2013 and 2014 but only a tame fourth at odds-on in 2015. That admirable racemare had been in top form earlier that year, being unbeaten in three starts, yet could not pull out the little extra that was needed for the win on the day that counted.
Attempting the hat-trick in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at ParisLongchamp this year is Prince Khalid Abdullah’s top class five-year-old racemare Enable (by Nathaniel), seeking her 13th consecutive win during a journey that has also seen her successfully traverse a variety of Oaks events, a couple of King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes, an Eclipse and a Breeders Cup Turf. Not surprisingly, the strongly-made mare is the hot favourite for the October 6th feature (4:05 p.m. local, 7:35 p.m. in India). The going is expected to be on the soft side, with a sprinkling of showers about, and a high of 16 degrees Celsius. The track is in pristine condition, with a fresh 11 metre-wide strip being made available to race on the Sunday.
Although it is the smallest field for the “Arc” since 2007, with just a dozen runners, interference is still a possibility, as is a slow start. What’s more, no horse has won from draw # 9 since Prince Royal in 1964, other than Urban Sea in 1993. Given this scenario, one can hardly recommend a heavy wager on Enable at the cramped odds of 4 to 6, although she will probably still win! John Gosden has her schooled to the minute, while Frankie Dettori knows exactly when to press the button on the rangy mare who has “been there, done that”.
So who can lay claim to the throne? The home team has an exciting three-year-old in Sottsass (by Siyouni), who lived up to his hefty purchase price (€340,000) as a yearling by landing the Prix du Jockey-Club-French Derby earlier this year. From his Southern base, the highly-experienced Jean-Claude Rouget has developed Peter Brant’s half-brother to Sistercharlie into a formidable contender. Allowed a lengthy summer break, the chestnut returned with a fine effort in the “Arc” trial, the Prix Niel, last month by getting up to score despite being hampered. Named after an Italian designer, and to be ridden by a rider of that nationality in Cristian Demuro, Sottsass is available at 7 to 1 and should be well worth an each-way play.
From Rosegreen House at Ballydoyle in Cashel, County Tipperary in Ireland comes the improving Japan (by Galileo), the mount of Ryan Moore. An Aidan O’Brien-trainee in a major Group 1 has necessarily to be on one’s short list and Japan brings high class credentials. Barring his modest fourth in the Dante Stakes back in May, he has been in great form this year, narrowly missing the Investec Derby honours that went instead to his stablemate before unreeling a sequence of three wins – one over course and distance – that culminated in his defeat of the utterly consistent Crystal Ocean in the Juddmonte International at York in August.
Accompanying him is stablemate Magical (also by Galileo), in the same mould as the trainer’s 2016 “Arc” winner Found, who spent a mostly frustrating season in England following home the likes of Enable and Crystal Ocean. In her native land, Magical remained unbeaten from four tries in 2019. Once Moore shifted allegiance away from her to Japan, she was quoted at around 20 to 1, but recent support sees her at 12 to 1 at the time of writing. The trainer’s son, Donnacha, has been pencilled in for the ride.
Seven Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winners – though none since 2006 – is the splendid record of the doyen of French trainers, Andre Fabre. While the odds of 18 to 1 against his ward Waldgeist (by Galileo) suggest that the vastly-experienced handler might just have to wait a bit longer for his next “Arc” winner, a closer examination shows the five-year-old has won 6 of his last 7 on French soil. Travelling does not seem to suit him as he has never won outside France. Incidentally, he has had ample opportunity to topple Enable but has come up short on every occasion.
Much of the racing season in Europe in 2019 has seen the usual clashes between the Coolmore representatives and those sporting the Royal Blue of Godolphin and it is no different here. Taking an unconventional route is Ghaiyyath (by Dubawi), who warmed up for this race with an outing in Germany, where he trounced his hapless rivals by 14 lengths and more in the 2400 m. Grosser Preis von Baden! A reproduction of that effort could well see Charlie Appleby and William Buick record their first ever “Arc” success. A lot will depend on how he takes to the ground conditions as purely on form Waldgeist has his measure.
Japan – the country, not the horse – has been trying to win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe for several years. Numerically, they are well represented this year with a trio of runners. Champion jockey in France, the Belgian ace Christophe Soumillon, joins forces with Kiseki (by Rulership), whom he had tried out in the Qatar Prix Foy on September 15th on the five-year-old’s first European start. Although he could do no better than third behind Waldgeist, he ought to come on for that run and 80 to 1 seems almost contemptuous for Katsuhiko Sumii’s student. A fast pace will suit him.
On ratings, Kiseki is nowhere near the top in the rankings of horses in the “Land of the Rising Sun”. Ahead of him is the interestingly-named Blast Onepiece (by Harbinger), who shares his sire with that excellent racemare, Deirdre. Effective over 2000m. to 2500 m., if not further, he won the prestigious Arima Kinen last year and comes off a win in the Sapporo Kinen in August. However, he may not care for the ground conditions and Yuga Kawada will have his work cut out on Masahiro Otake’s 50 to 1 runner.
The shortest priced of the three from the East is the 25 to 1 Fierement (by Deep Impact), with Christophe-Patrick Lemaire at the controls. In the winner’s enclosure on four of his seven starts, the lightly-raced inmate of Takahisa Tezuka’s barn stays very well. He is clearly popular as he has been favourite more often than not. And what could be more appropriate than an “Arc” winner by Deep Impact?
Finally, the value of allowing supplementary entries in an early-closing race was emphasized by the “Arc” victories of four such runners: Saumarez (in 1990), Danedream (in 2011), Treve (in 2013) and Enable (in 2017), none of which was entered at the original closing date of May 15th. This year too there is a supplementary entry, Soft Light (by Authorized), who has not troubled the scorer since his maiden win last season.
Therefore, one would have to aver that owner Claudio Marzocco is an optimist, as he has coughed up €120,000 – thrice his colt’s purchase price – to enjoy the privilege of seeing his colours in action on the Jean-Claude Rouget-schooled three-year-old. The services of Japanese ace Yutaka Take have been secured to guide the bay, who appreciates some cut in the ground. British bookmakers remain unimpressed and offer 100 to 1. Some may wonder whether Soft Light might just be in it to make the pace for his stablemate, Sottsass. Only time will tell….