Battaash Longchamp mission set to star on ITV's Arc undercard
ITV viewers are highly likely to be treated to Battaash's attempt to record back-to-back wins in the Prix de l’Abbaye a week on Sunday, after France Galop revealed provisional plans to place the Group 1 sprint third in the running order at Longchamp, right in the middle of the channel’s two-and-a-half-hour coverage of Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe day.
A traditional highlight on Arc day for many British and Irish punters, the Abbaye has not been shown to a mainstream UK audience since Goldream’s success in 2015.
Channel 4 declined to show the meeting at all as their contract wound down in 2016, while last year the Abbaye was the penultimate race on the card and was run an hour after ITV coverage had finished.
ITV is planning to broadcast from the redeveloped Longchamp between 1pm and 3.30pm, a window that should allow the broadcaster to show the Abbaye as its second live race, followed by the Group 1 for purebred Arabians and culminating in the €5 million Arc.
France Galop's preferred running order for Arc day (UK times)
12.50 Prix Marcel Boussac
1.00 ITV ON AIR
1.20 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere
1.55 Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp
2.25 Qatar Arabian World Cup
3.05 PRIX DE L'ARC DE TRIOMPHE
3.30 ITV OFF AIR
3.50 Prix de l'Opera
4.25 Prix de la Foret
5.00 Grand Handicap des Flyers
Timings will not be locked down until the middle of next week, when the number of runners for the Arc becomes clear.
While the time of Europe's richest race is fixed, it will need to attract a minimum of 14 runners to support the lucrative Quinte bet, which accounts for 20 per cent of turnover on the PMU.
Only three of the last 20 Arcs have featured fewer than 14 runners but, in the event the race does cut up, France Galop's second choice for the Quinte would be the Prix de l'Opera, a plan that does not require the Abbaye to be moved.
Only if the third-choice sprint handicap becomes the Quinte race would the Abbaye potentially be relegated to a slot outside of ITV's broadcast window.
Coral welcomed the likely boost in betting turnover that the Abbaye's return to mainstream coverage would herald.
"The Prix de l’Abbaye is a race traditionally dominated by – and often won by – British and Irish runners, and therefore would be one of the most popular races on Arc day for the audience here, given their familiarity with the contenders," said the firm's David Stevens. "A return to the terrestrial TV schedule is something we would very much welcome."
Stevens also believes that a high-profile favourite for the race in Battaash will be a further turn-on for customers.
He said: "Twelve months ago Battaash was one of the most impressive winners of the day, and Sheikh Hamdan’s gelding – already hot favourite for the race – will be seen as banker material by many punters next month, another reason why ITV’s coverage of the sprint is a positive move in terms of boosting betting turnover."
William Hill do not share their rival's confidence in Battaash and are a best-priced 7-4 about Charlie Hills's stable star winning the Abbaye for a second year.
"It might turn out to be an above-average renewal, so at this stage we're happy to be top price Battaash, who again comes here off the back of a below-par effort in the Nunthorpe," said Hills spokesman Rupert Adams. "Harry Angel would be a fascinating contender if tried back at five furlongs, there is also the impressive trial winner Tantheem and a two-year-old receiving lots of weight, Soldier’s Call."
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