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Great Heavens

Great Heavens: expected to relish the underfoot conditions at Longchamp

  PICTURE: John Grossick (  

Arc contenders facing deteriorating conditions

THE QATAR Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe is set to be run in the most testing conditions for nine years after the going at Longchamp was changed from soft to very soft on Saturday.

Conditions eased after more rain fell at the track on Saturday with jockey Pat Smullen commenting: "It's soft ground but it's holding, that's when it's at its most tiring. It's hard work and slower to ride than to walk."

The ground was holding when Dalakhani won the race in 2003 and there is a possibility of further rain before Sunday's big race but France Galop could be no more specific than suggesting the amount at between one and 10mm during a day expected to be largely cloudy but with some sunny intervals.

While the deteriorating conditions look to be against favourite Camelot and far from certain to suit Japanese raider Orfevre, the Aga Khan's decision to supplement Bayrir at a cost of €100,000 was beginning to look a wise insurance policy.

Testing conditions will be against his number one hope Shareta, who registered back-to-back Group 1 wins on a sound surface in the Qatar Prix Vermeille last month.

"It's not good for Shareta," said the Aga. "It's very sticky. It's not deep, it's just sticky. Longchamp always gets like that. I think Bayrir has his chance and I think he'll be okay on the ground. For Shareta I'd prefer it kept raining, she'd get through it but she won't want the glue."

Alain de Royer-Dupre, who trains both Shareta and Bayrir, said: "Shareta looks well and I think she's stronger this year than last. It's good timing coming from her two Group 1 wins to the Arc so we'll see."

As for Bayrir, Royer-Dupre added: "I think Saonois (who beat Bayrir in the Niel) could be very dangerous. But I think Bayrir might have another five or six lengths improvement in him."

The €100,000 supplementary fee is also starting to look like money well spent for the connections of Irish Oaks heroine Great Heavens, who lifted the Classic on soft ground.  

She was last night vying for third-favouritism with Saonois at 7-1 with Ladbrokes, who make Camelot their 5-2 favourite, just half a point shorter than Orfevre at 3-1.

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