Arc insight: key contenders and trainer views as Enable bids to reign again
Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe | Group 1 | 3yo+ no geldings | 1m4f | ITV/ATR
We have seen her only once this year but what Enable showed that day at Kempton, combined with the power-packed performance she produced on this day 12 day months ago, means she goes into the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe as red-hot favourite to repeat her sensational 2017 tour de force.
After pulverising the opposition in Chantilly's final Arc, Enable now attempts to deliver a famous success on the contest's return to Longchamp, with her jockey Frankie Dettori looking to increase his own Arc record to six wins.
A knee problem denied connections the chance to campaign Enable through spring and summer, but the manner of her reappearance rout of top-class rival Crystal Ocean on Kempton's all-weather track suggests Khalid Abdullah's four-year-old retains all her ability.
With the draw having also been kind – stall six leaves her close to the inside rail – there are plenty of reasons to be excited.
"The positive for us is she is coming into the Arc fresh," said Abdullah's racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe.
"From July onwards she has been very straightforward. Would we have preferred to have won the Juddmonte International on the way? Of course we would. However, if that had happened you might be saying she'd had a long season. If she had gone through a hard race at Kempton and taken some time to get over it you would also be more worried about the so-called bounce factor.
"The timing of the Kempton race was good, she enjoyed it and, most importantly, she was pleased to be back on the track. She has come out of it well and goes to the Arc in good shape both mentally and physically."
On the benefit of what history shows to be a helpful draw, Grimthorpe added: "It's no good having a so-called good draw if you're not able to make use of it. If you miss the break you're going to be in a scrum, so from that point of view it's important how you handle yourself coming out of the gate, no matter where you're drawn."
Grimthorpe stressed Abdullah – who is expected to be present at Longchamp – will decide if Enable goes on to the Breeders' Cup or even races next year.
Those possibilities would excite trainer John Gosden, who said: "On her form of last year Enable deserves to be at the head of the market but the Arc is not the kind of race where you can have a short-priced favourite and be totally confident about the outcome.
"She made the running last time and is versatile as regards tactics, but I'll leave that to her and the jockey."
Pros Undoubtedly the best horse in the race and created a great impression on her Kempton return
Cons This will be very different to a small-field all-weather race and no horse has ever won the Arc off the back of one outing that season
Sea has the class but can draw be overcome?
Sea Of Class has come a long way from finishing second in a maiden at the Craven meeting. Four subsequent runs have yielded four wins, two of them at the highest level, but her draw in stall 15 has put an air of despondency in the camp ahead of her tilt at Arc glory.
Both of the Tsui family's previous Arc runners have won, but Sea Of Class seeks to follow in the footsteps of her father, Sea The Stars, and grandmother, Urban Sea, from the sort of wide starting point that ought to be hard to overcome.
What is not in doubt is her ability, as seen in her striking Irish and Yorkshire Oaks victories under James Doyle, who has been gradually shedding weight to ensure Sea Of Class runs off her allotted 8st 9lb.
"We're very happy with our filly but we have a bad draw," admitted trainer William Haggas.
"As James Doyle has said, it puts us on the back foot straight away. We're going to need a hell of a lot of luck, especially if he decides to ride her how she has always been ridden. We have to think about what we do.
"There are very few races left for this filly. We decided not to run in the Vermeille and to come here. This was a no-brainer really."
Sea Of Class has posted her four wins on good to firm ground. Asked how she will fare if rain brings a much easier surface, Haggas said: "The answer is, I don't know. I've always said she won't enjoy soft ground as much as she enjoys the firm, but I don't know that."
On his weight reduction, Doyle said: "I've been able to take it off gradually in the gym by just pushing myself a little bit harder and having an extra sweat."
Pros Riding an upward curve, possesses a super turn of foot and three-year-old fillies have a great Arc record
Cons The draw makes James Doyle's life very difficult, while rain could lessen her chance as well
Fabre trio lead home defence
For all that Andre Fabre's storied career has featured a record seven winners of the Arc, you have to go back to 1992 and Subotica for the only time he has triumphed with an older horse.
Fabre's three pretenders to Enable's crown all contested the Prix Foy on trials day, a race that developed into something of a private gallop.
Waldgeist came out much the best on that occasion and overall has the best recent form on offer, having captured an elusive Group 1 at the narrow expense of Coronet in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud.
Fabre sees Waldgeist's progress this summer as a continuation of his efforts at three when, having been touched off in the Prix du Jockey Club and finished a close fourth in the Irish Derby, the wheels somewhat came off.
"Since the spring Waldgeist has been running up to the same good level as his best runs at three," said Fabre. "He had a few little problems after the Irish Derby last year but he's just repeating his good form. Is it good enough to win the Arc? We’ll have the answer on Sunday."
The Godolphin pair of Talismanic and Cloth Of Stars finished alongside in the Foy having taken very different routes since their peak performances at the end of last year.
Talismanic caused something of a shock in landing the Breeders' Cup Turf, while Cloth Of Stars proved just how adept his trainer is at peaking horses for the big day when turning defeat in the Foy into a wonderful second place in the Arc.
Cloth Of Stars has enjoyed no luck this year, pulling for his life in Dubai after being upset by Hawkbill and then having the saddle slip during the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud.
Talismanic booked his chance to run in the Arc with a smooth comeback success at Deauville before being tenderly handled by Mickael Barzalona behind Waldgeist last time.
"Talismanic is a genuine and consistent horse who acts on good ground," said Fabre. "The distance is a bit of a concern. I thought he might be better around a mile and a quarter but it's just a feeling and he has every right to run. Mickael was proved right in picking him over Cloth Of Stars last time and Talismanic is a horse that everybody loves."
He added: "I think Cloth Of Stars is well, though softer ground would help him. He got a bit jaded after Dubai for some reason I don’t understand. Now he's back in good form."
Waldgeist pros Impressive sequence of four wins means he arrives here in fine form
Waldgeist cons Stall 13 is not ideal and his trainer does not appear convinced he is an Arc winner in waiting.
Leger hero heads big Ballydoyle team
Can Kew Gardens overcome his high draw and produce a career best back in trip in his bid to win Aidan O'Brien a third Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe?
That is the big question as the St Leger winner leads a team of five from Ballydoyle into battle.
O'Brien, who followed Dylan Thomas's 2007 success when Found led an unprecedented one-two-three for the trainer at Chantilly two years ago, said: "Kew Gardens being drawn 14 probably isn't ideal but we'll just have to wait and see.
"Coming back to a mile and a half isn't really a concern. He has won a Group 1 over the course and distance and we had planned to run him in the King George until so many of our horses went down with a bug.
"We haven't asked him to do a lot since his Doncaster win but he came out of the race well and we're very happy with him."
Like O'Brien, Ryan Moore will be seeking a third win in a race he won aboard Workforce in 2010 and Found in 2016.
Capri, who completed a Classic double last year when landing the Irish Derby and St Leger, beat only one home at Chantilly 12 months ago and has raced just twice this season.
"He had the whole summer off and we knew he would probably need the run when he returned in the Prix Foy," said O'Brien. "It turned out that way and we think he has come on well since. He'll improve again before the end of the season."
Hunting Horn lost out by only a short head in the Prix Niel on his most recent start last month.
O'Brien said: "We were very pleased with his run in the Niel and he has been placed at Grade 1 level in the US. He's been in good form since the Niel and we're very happy with him."
Magical will be tackling the Arc distance for the first time.
"We always thought she would get a mile and a half and were planning to run her in the Oaks until she met with a setback," said O'Brien. "We're happy with her and she's going there in good form."
Completing the quintet is Nelson, who has fulfilled a pacemaking role many times in the past.
His trainer said: "He has been ridden forward in his races and doesn't mind bowling along, although he doesn't have to be ridden that way."
Kew Gardens pros Has won a Group 1 over the course and trip and capable of a big run back down in distance following his St Leger win
Kew Gardens cons Has high draw and needs to show he has the necessary pace to go with his stamina for such a big test at the distance
Capri cons A dual Classic winner last year and has had a light campaign
Capri cons Finished in rear a year ago when in better form and a lot of improvement required from Prix Foy effort last month
Study Of Man out to defy stats
It is surely only a matter of time before a winner of the 'new' Prix du Jockey Club over an extended mile and a quarter goes on to Arc glory in the same season but Study Of Man must defy a couple of long-running trends if he is to become the first.
Dalakhani in 2003 – two years before the change in trip for the Chantilly Classic – was the last colt to double up, while no horse has won the race on his first attempt at a mile and a half since Saumarez in 1990.
Add to that a nightmare draw in stall 19 and the Niarchos family's homebred looks up against it, though quotes of 33-1 seriously underestimate his talent.
"To finish fifth in the Irish Champion Stakes was disappointing but his performance was not so bad," said trainer Pascal Bary, whose best effort in the Arc was Sulamani's second place behind Marienbard in 2002. "They didn’t go that fast and then the leaders sprinted, which slightly dispirited him. But he moved well at the finish and he has been in good form since.
"As far as the step up from 2,000 metres [a mile and a quarter] goes, now we’ve moved from spring to autumn I don’t see it as a problem and we’re putting a small pair of blinkers on to help him concentrate."
Well-drawn Patascoy under the radar
Another tackling a mile and a half for the first time is Patascoy, who finished half a length behind Study Of Man in the Jockey Club and reversed that form when running a fair comeback in the Prix Guillaume d'Ornano at Deauville in August.
"It was a conscious decision to miss the Prix Niel and come here fresh," said trainer Xavier Thomas-Demeaulte. "On his mother’s side he should stay the trip because the dam was by Winged Love. His temperament and his way of running should also help and I think he will stay 2,400 metres [a mile and a half].
Postponed team return with Defoe
Two years ago Roger Varian, Andrea Atzeni and Sheikh Mohammed Obaid approached the Arc with the horse to beat, but although Postponed was sent off favourite he could manage only fifth. This time bookmakers offer less hope about their claims.
Their 2018 candidate is Defoe, twice a Group-race winner this season but yet to strike in a Group 1, having most recently been touched off by Best Solution in the Grosser Preis von Baden.
Varian, whose candidate has been drawn wide in stall 18, said: "He was probably a bit unlucky not to win in Germany last time after a break and it was a very good run. He'll come forward for that and will run very well.
"It would have been better to have a lower draw but Kingston Hill was in 20 when he ran very well to be fourth to Treve four years ago."
Brandt relishing first Arc with Neufbosc
While the Prix du Jockey Club form is well represented thanks to the first three home, Neufbsoc represents a different strand among the French three-year-olds, having completed four consecutive races over the full Arc course and distance at Longchamp.
Upwardly mobile trainer Pia Brandt has plenty of faith in the grey son of Mastercraftsman, who chased Kew Gardens home in the Grand Prix de Paris and then was not overly extended in finishing a never-nearer third in the Prix Niel.
"He shows very little in the mornings and after an eight-week break after the Grand Prix de Paris I think he was still a little heavy in the Prix Niel," said Brandt. "He has returned to his correct weight and we’ve had no problems with him since the Niel. I think he has improved since his last race."
Japanese praying for rain for Clincher
The latest horse to circle the globe in search of an elusive first Japanese victory in the Arc boasts less obvious credentials than most and was soundly beaten in his European bow behind Waldgeist three weeks ago.
But Clincher merits respect, while legendary jockey Yutaka Take will have been delighted by his draw in stall one and the potential arrival of rain in Paris.
"He's always better for a run and even before today I felt he has been in much better condition than for the Prix Foy," said trainer Hiroshi Miyamoto. "I would say Wednesday's work was almost ideal and I'm very happy with the way we’ve prepared him for Sunday. He prefers soft ground and I've been praying for some rain ahead of the race."
Salouen chasing huge shock for Kirk
Earlier this year Salouen almost completed a massive giant-killing act when coming so close to thwarting Cracksman in the Coronation Cup. That run, combined with other honourable efforts, means he merits his place in the field, but Oisin Murphy's mount tackles the Arc having not won a race since scoring at Salisbury in September 2016.
"This has been the plan for Salouen," said trainer Sylvester Kirk.
"We're all aware of the massive challenge but it's just nice to be in the race. He's the outsider of the whole lot but I don't mind that. He's run consistently and probably deserves to be a little bit shorter.
"If he runs up to his best form he might nick a place. He was a big price at Epsom and another performance like the one he put up there would give him a shout."
Couetil turns to in-form Buick for Tiberian
Trainer Alain Couetil freely admits Tiberian has failed to match the form of a stellar 2017 that earned him trips to the Melbourne Cup and the Hong Kong Vase.
But Couetil believes he has got to the bottom of one or two physical issues, while an ideal draw in stall five will give William Buick options aboard his tactically versatile mount.
"We're not among the leading contenders but we'll try," said Couetil. "He's easy in that he can be ridden forward or waited with and so he can profit from stall five by slotting in just behind the leaders. With 19 runners it's very open and everyone will need a bit of luck."
Marcialis plots Way To Paris for Italian connection
Way To Paris is another of the older brigade who has good French Group form without suggesting he is up to winning an Arc.
Yet Italian-born trainer Andrea Marcialis believes his five-year-old is peaking at the right time and is primed for a big run.
Marcialis said: "He's 100 per cent coming into the race. His comeback at Deauville wasn't a great run but he's a complex horse and he needed the run. By the time of the Prix Foy he had made good progress and he finished the race very strongly. He's not among the favourites but I think, after Enable, Sea Of Class and Waldgeist, every other horse is in there fighting for the best placing possible."
Castanheira retains faith in Louis D'Or
A surprise third in the Prix du Jockey Club, Louis D'Or has failed to build on that performance in two subsequent starts, though trainer Tony Castanheira believes a problem with the Intello colt's horseshoes has been hindering him through the summer.
"His foot issues are behind him and he now seems in good form," said Castanheira. "For me the only real question is whether he will stay the 2,400 metres [mile and a half], knowing he may be slightly below the level of some others but who knows? If everything goes well he can be there at the finish."
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