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Monday, 10 December, 2018

Now we're willing Enable to be crowned Longchamp's homecoming queen

Enable is an impressive winner of last year's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Chantilly under Frankie Dettori
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The sojourn to Chantilly was a triumph, but after two years of bulldozers and building work the most prestigious of all turf races comes home to an iconic venue that bid au revoir following a famous triumph for a double act returning with the highest hopes of glory.

On the day Longchamp closed in October 2015, many had yearned to see Treve claim an unprecedented third success in the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, card, form and betting

A great racing queen was on that occasion unable to follow the script. Now Paris welcomes another queen, as England's equine monarch Enable attempts to emulate Treve by stamping her name for the second time on a celebrated roll of honour.

While Longchamp's new grandstand is much smaller than that which stood before, the boulevard-like home straight, racing's very own Champs-Elysees, remains as wonderfully wide as ever, exactly as it was when Golden Horn produced a moment of magic for Frankie Dettori and John Gosden.

Just as magical and even more stunning was the performance achieved 12 months ago by Enable, who on this Sunday morning will depart for Paris from her old haunt Chantilly, where Gosden decided she should spend the night before what connections hope – and bookmakers believe – will be an afternoon of celebration.

Yet while last season's runaway winner is poised to start an odds-on favourite, let nobody tell you the mission she takes on is a fait accompli.

While she leaves the stalls off the back of an easy win, helped by a favourable draw and in the hands of the most successful jockey in the race's history, she must still defeat 18 opponents.

On top of the world: a jubilant Frankie Dettori savours every second after winning the Arc on extraordinary filly Enable

Moreover, if Enable is to cause the band to strike up England's national anthem she will have to do something never done before by becoming the first horse in nearly a century of Arcs to win having raced only once that season.

When Khalid Abdullah's latest marvel won at Kempton last month she was making her first appearance of 2018. In her absence a new leading lady has emerged in Sea Of Class, who tries to maintain the Tsui family's glorious association with a contest plundered by their filly's father Sea The Stars and grandmother Urban Sea.

For her trainer William Haggas this will be a first Arc assault in 22 years. Boasting much more experience are dual winner Aidan O'Brien, whose five-strong challenge is led by St Leger hero Kew Gardens, and the legendary Andre Fabre, a seven-time Arc winner trying to make it eight with three runners headed by Waldgeist.

Unlike Fabre, some of France's biggest names are not represented. This is an Arc Christophe Soumillon sits out. The Aga Khan has not a single runner on a card, and nor does the powerful yard of Jean-Claude Rouget.

There is, however, the now normal sight of a Japanese horse trying to end the country's painful wait for a first Arc. The animal in question, Clincher, does not look good enough, but there is some consolation in that the Arc will undoubtedly be going back to Japan, given the nation has a representative in the Prix de l'Opera named L'Arc. Something is better than nothing.

Britain has the Opera favourite Wild Illusion and an even hotter hotpot for the Prix de l'Abbaye. Anyone backing the 2017 Abbaye winner Battaash will be hoping beyond hope the very hot hotpot does not boil over.

With a total of six Group 1 races on a card that gets two and a half hours of coverage on ITV, this is truly a day to savour. It is a day when Flat racing's championship of Europe is back at a place returning customers will find looks rather different. The Arc's outcome could be reassuringly familiar.

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Yet while last season's runaway winner is poised to start an odds-on favourite, let nobody tell you the mission she takes on is a fait accompli
E.W. Terms
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