The first Sunday in October is the traditional date for Europe's middle distance Championship race, the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Run at Longchamp over a mile and a half (2400 metres if you prefer) the race invariably cements the reputation of a champion elect or elevates the status of a hitherto underrated contender.
Consider last year, when Torquator Tasso was considered a shock winner by most measures, including the betting - he returned 72/1 on the French tote - but he had already been first or second in five Group 1 races! That quintet included a G1 score in the Grosser Preis von Baden on his prior start. Since his Arc glory day, TT has run second in both the G1 King George at Ascot and the Grosser Preis von Baden, missing by just a head in the latter.
In 2020, Sottsass, a dual Group 1 winner including when claiming the 2019 French Derby, prevailed on his second Arc attempt; he'd been third the year before having prepped with a win in the G2 Prix Niel: that brace of 2019 contests were his only other races at twelve furlongs.
And so it goes, back through Waldgeist, a triple G1 winner; the brilliant queen, Enable, twice; double G1 winner Found (who was also second in top grade a remarkable nine times before, and once after, her Arc win); Derby, Eclipse and Irish Champion victor, Golden Horn; and twice prior to that the magnificent mare, Treve. There are simply no poor winners of the race, though some are bigger prices hiding in plain sight.
Sottsass was 7/1, Waldgeist 13/1, Treve 11/1 in her second Arc, and before her, Solemia was 33/1, and Danedream 20/1. In other words, it's a race that can be played at a price if that's your thing. And fillies have a great record in the Arc, too: between 2011 and 2018, seven of the eight Arcs were won by fillies and, in the three renewals since, fillies have run second in two of them.
Part of this performance by females can be attributed to weight concessions: three-year-old fillies receive four pounds from three-year-old colts and seven pounds from older fillies and mares; and they receive ten pounds from older colts.
With Baaeed now a confirmed non-runner, the market has begun to settle and a deep list of possibles, even without the top rated horse in Europe, is assembling. We'll get to the form in a minute, but first a brief squint at recent history...
Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe Draw Bias
What about the draw in the Arc, of which much is usually made? Below are the stall positions of the first six home since 2008. Note that in 2016 and 2017, the race was staged at Chantilly while Longchamp was being renovated.
Eleven horses have made the frame from the inside three stalls in the twelve Longchamp renewals sampled above. That excludes the Chantilly 'combination Ted Rogers' (remember Dusty Bin?!) in 2017. But a horse from the outside three stalls has won three times, too, again excluding Chantilly. So is too much emphasis put on the stalls lottery?
Perhaps not, at least not in terms of Arc winners. As the little table below illustrates, those housed in the lower half of the stalls have won nine of the past dozen Longchamp Arcs: 75% of them. But the minor podium spots have been equally divided on both steps; and with many/most bookies paying four places at least in the days leading up to Arc Sunday, a high draw has been no impediment to finishing on the ticket.
Summing the top four positions into high/low gives a 25-23 verdict in favour of low, though of course the most material difference is in the win row.
I hope it goes without saying that this is a tiny, just about meaningless, sample size so caution is advised for all that trigonometry dictates a horse drawn low will travel less distance and should, with a clear run, therefore have a small edge, all other things being equal (which they never are!)
Arc Winning Nation
Looking at those same 14 renewals of the Arc from a nationality perspective, a few slightly surprising points emerge. The scorecard is as follows:
UK 4 (3 for John Gosden)
Ireland 2 (1 for Aidan O'Brien)
It was a bit of a shock, to me at least, that Ireland's haul in recent times has been so 'normal' given the volume of high class middle distance horses from that nation. And, particularly, that within those figures, Aidan O'Brien's record is just, well, good rather than excellent. Here is APOB's tale of the tape, and I've included 2007 because it's kind of relevant as you'll see:
2021: Snowfall 19/5 6th
2020: No runner
2019: Japan 9/1 4th, Magical 19/1 5th
2018: Capri 25/1 5th, Kew Gardens 8/1 7th, Nelson 100/1 8th, Magical 40/1 10th, Hunting Horn 40/1 16th
2017: Order of St George 8/1 4th, Idaho 25/1 8th, Winter 9/1 9th, Seventh Heaven 50/1 14th, Capri 20/1 17th
2016: FOUND 6/1 1st, Highland Reel 20/1 2nd, Order of St George 14/1 3rd
2015: Found 18/1 9th, Tapestry 33/1 16th
2014: Ruler of the World 12/1 9th, Tapestry 14/1 13th, Chicquita 40/1 15th
2013: Ruler of the World 7/1 7th, Leading Light 10/1 12th
2012: Camelot 2/1 7th, St Nicholas Abbey 14/1, Ernest Hemingway 150/1 16th, Robin Hood 500/1 18th
2011: So You Think 9/2 4th, St Nicholas Abbey 33/1 5th, Treasure Beach 28/1 14th
2010: Fame And Glory 9/2 5th, Cape Blanco 11/1 13th, Midas Touch 40/1 17th
2009: Fame And Glory 6/1 6th, Grand Ducal 300/1 17th, Cornish 500/1 18th
2008: Soldier of Fortune 9/2 3rd, Duke of Marmalade 4/1 7th, Red Rock Canyon 250/1 16th
2007: DYLAN THOMAS 11/2 1st, Soldier of Fortune 10/3 5th, Yellowstone 150/1 11th, Song of Hiawatha 150/1 12th
In fact, Aidan has won the Arc only twice, in 2007 and in 2016 when he had an incredible clean sweep of the medal placings. Aside from that, he has just one further top three finish since 2007, which was Soldier Of Fortune's third place in 2008. When you look at the quality he has aimed, and the prices at which some were sent off, that's not the strongest pointer to Luxembourg's chance. Nor, naturally, will it prevent Luxembourg from winning if he's good enough: it didn't stop Found or Dylan Thomas after all. But at the prices...
Meanwhile, Germany has 20/1 and 72/1 winners for its brace in the sample period. That, according to my fag packet calculations, from just eleven runners. Of the nine non-winners, It's Gino dead heated for third at 150/1, and all bar two finished in the top nine.
The full German-trained form string since 2007 (oldest to current) reads: 6th / 3rd 11th / 13th / 9th 12th / 1st / 8th / 6th 7th / 1st
That's pretty impressive.
The last non-Gosden trained British winner of the Arc was Workforce, brilliantly conditioned in 2010 by Sir Michael Stoute. Without going into the specifics of it, the likes of Hurricane Lane, Adayar, Stradivarius, Enable (twice), and Ghaiyyath have all been beaten for Team GB in just the last three years alone. A few have rattled the woodwork in the wider sample period - Sea Of Class narrowly failed to beat Enable, and Youmzain was famously second twice - but the overall record does not inspire confidence in the challenge of les rosbifs.
The home team saddles far more runners than any of the raiding squads and it is therefore little surprise that they have the most wins in recent years. There was Solemia at 33/1 (tipped on these pages, astonishingly) but, she aside, the longest priced French scorer since the superdam Urban Sea prevailed at 37/1 in 1993 was 13/1 Waldgeist three years ago. That's probably not out of kilter with what the maths would expect but it does serve as a note of caution for us reckless moulin-tilters!
Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe Winning Age and Gender
Five-year-olds occasionally win the Arc. Waldgeist did in 2019, so too Marienbard in 2002, Tony Bin in 1988 and Star Appeal in 1975; but you'll already have the impression that it's not a regular occurrence. That outlying quartet aside, every winner back to the five-year-old Le Paillon in 1947 was aged three or four. Runners older than five rock up in dribs and drabs most years, and this year may include the good (but not great) Aussie mare, Verry Elleegant, and Broome as well as a couple of Japanese entries. That latter trio if lining up would surely serve pacemaker duties only.
Between 1994 and 2011, three-year-olds won all bar three Arcs; since 2012, they've won only three. Further, two of the three-year-olds to win - Treve and Enable - doubled up at four. Why such a poor record for the three's? Well, given nothing has materially changed about the race conditions, it can only be down to the quality of the Classic cohorts and the rub of the green.
On gender, fillies and mares receive a healthy allowance from the colts. The biggest weight disparity is between a three-year-old filly and older colts, the younger ladies getting ten pounds from the more mature gents. In theory, this is simply to level the playing field, and it is a smarter cruncher than this scribbler who can posit against that theory. But since the German-trained three-year-old filly Danedream bashed up the trendsters, we've witnessed Solemia, then Treve twice, Found, and Enable twice bring it home for the fairer sex. Seven in the last eleven years.
But it runs deeper than that. Tarnawa got closest to Torquator Tasso last year, likewise Enable to Waldgeist in 2019, Sea Of Class was closest to Enable a year before that, and the likes of Taghrooda, Shareta, Sarafina, and Snow Fairy have also made the frame; as well, of course, as the brilliant winner in 2008, Zarkava. Fillies and mares continue to outperform their representation and, to some degree, are still under appreciated by the market.
Where does that leave us exactly? For many, it will doubtless leave you cold - or at least tepid - because the pen that inscribes the form book is more powerful than the blunt sword of statistical sophistry wielded hitherto. Or, in slightly plainer English, it's been quackery rules so far.
Still, I'm counselled by my rummage against being too hot on Aidan, or on Team GB, or on a Frenchie at a price; and never to dismiss a German runner out of hand. Moreover, I'll only slightly mark up an inside post and believe that a good horse can win from any post position. I will discount all but the most interesting five-year-old, and all older than that; and I will give a bonus point to any filly in the field. Devil take the hindmost.
Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe Video Form
Some, perhaps most, will disregard historical profiles in favour of which animals have done what on the track and, in fairness, it seems reasonable to at least consider those exertions*. So what follows is a quick whizz through many of the key races. Keep in mind that runners in some recent trials, especially the French trio of Niel, Foy and Vermeilles, may not have been 100% ready that day. For what they're worth, my quick notes are alongside each recording.
Irish Champion Stakes (1m 2f)
Looked very strong 10f form.
Vadeni - a little inconvenienced against the rail - and Mishriff closing on first run getters Lux and Onesto.
Lux by Camelot out of Danehill Dancer mare: offers hope but no guarantees
Onesto by Frankel out of Sea The Stars mare: plenty of stamina there. Already won the G1 GPdP over 12f, beating Simca Mille
Grand Prix de Paris (1m4f)
Onesto last to first, great turn of pace; but steady enough gallop (Eldar Eldarov outpaced)
Simca Mille - needs supplementing - tried to make all, coming back at Onesto (tenderly handled) at the line.
Prix Niel (1m4f)
Race fit Lassaut gave Simca Mille, back from a break, a two length start but couldn't quite bridge it. Winner has bags of 12f form (1121) at the trip.
Japanese Do Deuce might improve for the run but was well beaten
Prix Vermeille (1m4f)
La Parisienne locked up on the rail, splits came late, quickened smartly but not quite getting there.
Prix Foy (1m4f)
Last to first for the smart gelding (who is therefore disqualified from Arc entry), Iresine. Broome and Verry Elleegant were verry (sic) disappointing.
Grosser Preis von Baden (1m4f)
Small field, tactical, Torquator Tasso prominent, took lead but run down by Mendocino in shadow of posts.
Prix du Jockey Club (1m 2.5f)
Vadeni chased leaders from inside draw, quickened impressively. Al Hakeem, Onesto and Lassaut the rear trio, 10L from the lead, all finished well, no chance. Al Hakeem finished best.
Prix de Diane (1m 2.5f)
Nashwa (Prominent throughout, first run in straight) held off La Parisienne (ground saving rail run, got split 1 1/2f out, finished well but slightly too late)
Yorkshire Oaks (1m4f)
Alpinista (unbeaten in last 7, all 1m4f, last 5 at G1 level, including vs males) tracked leaders, smooth run to lead 2 out, ran on well. Tuesday held in second.
Takarazuka Kinen (1m4f)
Titleholder always front rank behind pacemaker, kicked first, won by daylight. Had previously won over 2m.
Arc Market Overview with Form Comments
To the right is a snapshot of some of the major betting lists courtesy of our mutual friends at oddschecker.
Luxembourg is the tenuous favourite, available at 9/2 in a place, and they then bet 7/1 the field. Clearly, the implication is this is still a very tough wagering puzzle!
Horses I'm for and against - and those I've backed (braced for impending arrest by the aftertime police), and why, are thus:
Luxembourg has bounced back from early season setback, comes here relatively fresh and has a chance of staying on pedigree. Would back him at a bigger price (had a small saver at 6's)
Alpinista has rock solid credentials in terms of trip, grade and consistency. Mare has beaten many of these, including Torquator Tasso prior to his 2021 Arc score and an obvious contender despite being a five-year-old. (Had tiny e/w saver at 15/2)
Torquator Tasso won last year on heavy but has strong form on sounder surfaces. Second the last twice in G1 company, running to similar level as prior to last year's Arc
Titleholder is the first Japanese runner in the list. Has won from 1m3f up to two miles. I cannot peg this form but winning - twice - at or around two miles suggests he might be too slow for this. [And I might be completely wrong about that]
Adayar won the Derby and King George last year before a good fourth in the Arc. Sole run in 2022 was an ungraded conditions event last week so has a bit to prove in spite of the ease with which he did it there (as the 2/7 favourite). Very well backed today - see line of blue in image
Onesto is a three-year-old colt with strong form. Winner of the 1m4f Grand Prix de Paris and second in the Irish Champion, he may not want it soft. Has a fine turn of gear, but will be "ridden for luck" from the back most likely
Vadeni is an uncertain runner and not a guaranteed stayer (by Churchill, though out of a Monsun mare) who has yet to race beyond ten and a half furlongs; took a while to get going in Irish Champion then tightened on the rail before finishing best. Prix du Jockey Club and Eclipse winner, good chance if he runs and stays
Westover has too much to prove after his King George blowout. Won a typically weak Irish Derby and was third in a pretty weak Derby. Not for me
La Parisienne is unlucky not to have won the French Oaks (Prix de Diane) and Prix Vermeille, both Group 1's, Gerald Mosse giving her a soupçon too much to do on each occasion. Looks like she stays and is a 3yo filly getting all the allowances. Backed her e/w at 33/1. 20/1 still reasonable, I think
Do Deuce represents the land of the rising sun and can be expected to step forward from his Prix Niel effort. Probably didn't enjoy the slow ground there and, if it comes up good, he'll be more interesting than the Niel trial suggests
Al Hakeem is another I took a small piece of at 33's, win only. Sole '22 defeat was when given (way) too much to do in the Prix du Jockey Club, where he recorded the best closing sectionals. Has won again since and is trained by 2020 winning trainer Jean-Claude Rouget (Sottsass)
Lassaut is also trained by Rouget and ran the classic French prep when accelerating from far back to not quite get up in the Prix Niel (sent off favourite). This is his trip and he's a dark horse for all that he has plenty to find on the book at this stage. Had small e/w at 33/1, currently readily available at 40's!
Simca Mille needs supplementing and there must be a good chance of that as he's won four from five this year, including the Niel. Was second to Onesto (tried to make all) in the Grand Prix de Paris, so his face fits for all that he may be swamped in the final furlong. Backed tiny e/w at 40's
Mendocino brings the Grosser Preis von Baden form to the table, seeing off Torquator Tasso there (ridden by TT's Arc-winning jockey, Rene Piechulek). Looks an Autumn horse and, as a German-bred and -trained four-year-old, likely to finish in the first half of the field
*I also had a cheeky go at 33/1 Baaeed prior to the Juddmonte. It looked interesting for a while... sigh
As you can see I've chanced a couple of quid in a few directions, and cannot yet discount a further wager, perhaps on Vadeni or Do Deuce when ground and entries are better known.
There remain a lot of horses with strong credentials and, whilst I respect Luxembourg and particularly Alpinista, there is value against the head of the market. I'm not hugely sold on any of TT, Titleholder or Adayar - which is not to say they won't fill out the first three places, natch - and I'm completely against Westover.
Vadeni would be very interesting on top of the ground if he's allowed to run; and Do Deuce also very likely has more merit than his prep blowout. But I think 20/1 La Parisienne and 33/1 Al Hakeem are two that could shorten (or shorten further in the case of the filly) and as such might be a sliver of value.
Good luck, it promises to be a fascinating Arc even in the absence of Baaeed.