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Chantilly conundrum: the key issues surrounding Cracksman and the Arc

Scott Burton weighs up the pros and cons of a momentous call

Frankie Dettori hugs Anthony Oppenheimer after winning the 2015 Irish Champion Stakes on Golden Horn
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Anthony Oppenheimer and John Gosden should probably stay away from Twitter for the next few days if they value their sanity, such is the torrent of traffic questioning why there should even be a question over Cracksman's participation in the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. 

With Gosden in Kentucky inspecting yearlings on Sunday it was Oppenheimer who fronted up to the ever-dwindling number of British journalists who venture across the Channel for trials day, after his homebred son of Frankel won the Prix Niel in straightforward fashion. 

I am no psychologist but Oppenheimer gave every impression of being deadly earnest in his objections to running in the Arc this year, both on the grounds of overextending the still-immature Cracksman and of entrusting him to a jockey other than Frankie Dettori. 

So what obstacles would need to be cleared in both owner and trainer's minds for the Niel winner to line up? 

Who should ride Cracksman ? 

Pat Smullen canters Cracksman to post ahead of the Irish Derby in June
Dettori made it clear on Sunday that he won't be deserting Enable, describing her as being "more streetwise" than Cracksman at this stage, while Oppenheimer would appear convinced the man who won a Derby, an Eclipse and an Arc on Golden Horn is a key component in the equation.

When injury enforced the absence of Dettori at the end of June Pat Smullen all but won an Irish Derby on Cracksman and Oppenheimer clearly valued his post-race verdict that the colt needed time to mature.

The question of Smullen's availability might not be resolved early, with Zhukova potentially still in the picture for the Arc, a race his boss Dermot Weld truly covets. 

Should Smullen be free then he would fit the mould of Thierry Jarnet, to whom Criquette Head-Maarek turned three days before Treve's first Arc when Dettori fractured an ankle.

There are of course any number of top replacements who will end up watching the Arc either from the Chantilly weighing room or perhaps its equivalent at Musselburgh or Epsom. 

Olivier Peslier in the Ascot winners' enclosure after steering Coronet to success for John Gosden
One name that might at least gain consideration is that of Olivier Peslier who, like Dettori, has four Arcs to his name already and to whom Gosden has turned for the ride on Coronet this season. 

Peslier's judgement of pace and local knowledge would be huge assets to the cause, while this most sympathetic of horsemen could be relied on by Oppenheimer not to bottom Cracksman.

When discussing Peslier I am often reminded of the words of a now retired colleague in the French press room, Gerard de Chevigny, who observed that the only time he saw the talented – but notoriously tricky – Golden Lilac truly settle in a race was when Olivier deputised in the 2012 Prix d'Ispahan.    

Would the Arc leave a mark on Cracksman for next year?

Dimanche 10 Septembre 2017;Chantilly;QATAR PRIX NIEL - G2;Pierre-Charles BOUDOT;Vincent CHEMINAUD;Cristian DEMURO;Mickael BARZALONA;Lanfranco DETTORI;HASCOMBE AND VALIANT STUDS;Anthony OPPENHEIMER;John H. M. GOSDEN;SCOOPDYGA - MARTINI Jean-philippe
In many ways the answer to this is unknowable, since time and space don't allow for a parallel experiment where Cracksman number 1 runs and Cracksman number 2 is turned out in a field. 

What does strike me is that, now the thought has lodged itself in Oppenheimer's mind, it will be a difficult one to shift. And surely Gosden must at least partly share such concerns – potentially he was the first to air them – otherwise he would be politely but firmly persuading his patron to drop the line in public. 

So much comes down to the individual and Cracksman behaved well by and large on Sunday.

He is clearly maturing mentally with each run, although he would not appear to be an entirely straightforward colt and Gosden's team saddled him with the stable door closed at Chantilly on Sunday, before walking him directly to the parade ring.

Arc day can be an ordeal but there is no guarantee that any complexities in Cracksman's character will fade as he gets older. 

Is his form good enough? 

The Niel was run in the slowest time of the three trials on Sunday and arguably boasted the weakest field on paper, although that is frequently the case ahead of time with plenty of lightly raced three-year-olds taking their chance. 

It certainly didn't advance his claims beyond the fact he has shown he can get by with a certain amount of cut in the ground and he handles the track (I cannot stress enough times what a red herring this is in the case of Chantilly, which is basically fair to all).

But you don't want to run lights out in the Niel and his run in the Great Voltigeur got him to within 5lb of Enable on Racing Post Ratings, although she will also benefit from the 3lb sex allowance should they actually meet on the racecourse. 

RPR guru Sam Walker summed up Cracksman's claim thus: "That would be good enough to finish in the top three in a typical Arc and he's entitled to be thereabouts."

The trouble is that Oppenheimer is not interested in finishing thereabouts and does not, in his heart of hearts, believe his colt can beat a peak form Enable.

Will Enable run in the Arc? 

Frankie Dettori celebrates victory on the 'awesome' Enable
Before anybody reaches for the smelling salts, yes Chantilly remains absolutely on the agenda for the overwhelming bookmakers' favourite. But it is worth pointing out that Enable still needs to be supplemented for the race at a cost of €120,000. 

Enable won the Cheshire Oaks convincingly on the afternoon of May 10, just hours after the entries for the Arc closed, an identical scenario to the one surrounding Treve in 2013. 

If she is fit and healthy there will be no question and the money will be wired. But let's say her work is a bit below par in the days running up to the supplementary deadline, or she begins to get a winter coat? 

It is unlikely but not impossible and at that stage Gosden and Khalid Abdullah's team would have a more difficult decision to make than it might appear to the outside world. 

Those who have a strong opinion about what decision Gosden and Oppenheimer will make in the case of Cracksman can take odds of 1-2 that he stays at home and 6-4 he runs with Paddy Power. 

In the meantime we wait, with one of the key pieces in this year's Arc puzzle still missing.

Hollinshead shines with Daynawar

Andrew Hollinshead looks to have a progressive handicapper in Daynawar
24 hours after the Arc trials card concluded at Chantilly there were considerably fewer hardy souls at Maisons-Laffitte for a typically quiet Monday card. 

That won't have bothered Lamorlaye-based Andrew Hollinshead, who may have unearthed something of an improver in Daynawar, the winner of division two of the 1m2f handicap on the card. 

The son of Zamindar pulled three and a half lengths clear of his rivals under Alexis Badel and clearly relished the testing ground. 

Daynawar only broke his maiden at Le Touquet in August – again by a wide margin and with Alison Massin doing the steering on that occasion – and with the wet weather apparently set in for a while, there could well be more to come from the three-year-old.

I am no psychologist but Oppenheimer gave every impression of being deadly earnest in his objections to running in the Arc this year
E.W. Terms