As promised, dear reader, today sees the start of a five part series over the coming weeks, looking at five big races around the globe between now and the beginning of November. The stalls open with the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
In fact, of the five races, one will be held on the first Sunday in October, and the remaining four in the first week of November. So, in chronological order, I'll be previewing the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe; Breeders Cup Mile; Breeders Cup Turf; Breeders Cup Classic; and, the Melbourne Cup.
With little more than a toy trumpet fanfare (played on a kazoo), then, let's begin...
The Arc is Europe's richest race with a prize of a back-pocket bulging four million euros (or Â£3,559,283 at the current rate of conversion). I shall be there for the race this year for only the second time, having attended in 1995 for the win of Lammtarra, as a wide-eyed 24 year old.
As you might expect for a race that is such a pinnacle of the entire European racing calendar, there are some very strong trends...
- nine of the last ten winners also won last time out. The one that didn't, Bago, was 3rd in the Prix Niel.
- the Prix Niel has been the prep race 'de choix' for six of the last ten winners. Add to that the fact that last year's superfilly winner, Zarkava, won the Group 1 Prix Vermeille on the same day, and those Arc trials are key. Indeed, all three who didn't run in the Prix Niel won a Group 1 race directly prior to their Arc 'victoire'.
- All of the last ten winners were Group 1 winners, so we can confidently exclude any horse which has failed to secure at least one top prize.
- 3yo's have won seven of the last ten runnings; 4yo's have two notches; and the five year old Marienbard makes up the role of honour from the last decade.
- the winners in the last ten years have been priced between 6/4 (Montjeu and Sinndar) and 16/1 (Marienbard), and nine of the ten winners were 10/1 or shorter.
- 9/10 winners had between four and seven runs that year prior to the Arc win and, if you excuse Rail Link's debut unseating of rider, 8/10 had either four or five seasonal spins before Longchamp in October
- All seven 3yo winners had between five and eight career runs before their big day
So those are the numbers. Now let's apply them to the horseflesh... (It does sometimes feel a little surreal reducing hundreds of millions of pounds worth of equine racing and breeding stock down to a few statistics, but if they work, they work!)
Sea The Stars - 3yo; won Group 1 last time out; will be the favourite (three have won in the last decade); had the optimum five runs this season (all Group 1's, all wins), and eight in his career.
Geegeez Verdict: On stats and on form, looks almost bombproof. Almost...
Fame And Glory - 3yo; beaten in a Group 1 last time out (not Prix Niel); five seasonal runs and seven in total ticks lots of boxes. But... he'd be the first to win having not won a G1 or run in Prix Niel last time.
Geegeez Verdict: Readily passed over. Could be a place lay. (Could be egg on my face...)
Conduit - 4yo; won Group 1 King George last time out stylishly; just three runs this year (fellow 4yo Sakhee had just two runs before his win in 2001); typical improving Stoute middle-distance type and must get closer to STS over this extra quarter mile, having been beaten five lengths in the Eclipse.
Geegeez Verdict: Some each way appeal.
Cavalryman - 3yo; won Prix Niel last time out; owned by Godolphin (won in 2001 and 2002); trained by Andre Fabre (SEVEN winners since 1986, including Rail Link in 2006); double course and distance winner including Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris (new French Derby); optimum five runs this season, seven in career.
Geegeez Verdict: Best each way play. The big danger to STS.
Stacelita - 3yo filly; bidding to emulate unbeaten Zarkava (seven runs, seven wins); won all six of her starts to date, including three Group 1's on the spin (Prix Saint-Alary, Prix de Diane - French Oaks, Prix Vermeille - awarded the race after Dar Re Mi's minor interference); had the right amount of runs but may not be up to these.
Geegeez Verdict: May have flattered to deceive and was certainly lucky to be awarded the Vermeille. Not for me.
Vision D'Etat - 4yo; 2nd in Prix Foy last time; clearly better suited by a mile and a quarter (as when winning the Prince of Wales' Stakes at Royal Ascot).
Geegeez Verdict: Not good enough. Trip too far. Beaten fifth last year when in better form (won Prix Niel beforehand). Non, merci.
Sariska - 3yo filly; Oaks winner; beaten by Dar Re Mi last time out at York (form franked since); optimum career runs; will love the trip; probably just not good enough against some of these boys.
Geegeez Verdict: Makes some appeal, but I think her race will be the Breeders Cup Filly & Mare Turf. At least, I hope that will be her race...
Dar Re Mi - 4yo filly; owned by Lord (Andrew) Lloyd-Webber; matured into arguably the best of her sex in Europe after wins in Prix Vermeille (albeit disqualified) and Yorkshire Oaks; got closest to Zarkava in last year's Vermeille as well.
Geegeez Verdict: Probably has the best chance of the girls this year, and could be an each way play on the Pari-Mutuel, assuming the locals overlook her...
Getaway - 6yo; won the Group 1 Grosser Preis von Baden last time (same as Marienbard); consistent level of top class form; too old?
Geegeez Verdict: Was given a shocker of a ride last year in the race, when carrying Geegeez shekels. His chance has surely been conceded to age now. Pity, because he should have been much closer in 2008 (only beaten five lengths having been set an impossible task).
Youmzain - 6yo; ultra-consistent to the point of serial frustration (one win in last fifteen races; TEN placed efforts!); runner-up in the last two Arcs
Geegeez Verdict: An exceptionally classy monkey, Mick Channon might roll out the old 'windmill' football celebration if Youmy could win. Alas, I suspect this is now tilting at windmills.
So there you have it: Sea The Stars will probably win. But I can't back 6/4 shots in Arcs. So I'm going to go with the Prix Niel and Cavalryman. Connections know the time of day all right and, if there are any chinks in STS's armour (quite possibly not), it will be the Cavalryman that has the ammunition to win the battle (with apologies for a laboured military analogy).
At 12/1 with Ladbrokes, 16.5/1 Betfair, he looks a very strong each way bet and will carry my cash this year.
Conduit and Dar Re Mi look best of the rest.
Matt's Geegeez 1-2-3-4:
2nd Sea The Stars
4th Dar Re Mi