October is a great month. Quite apart from it being my birth month (ahem), it is more materially the twelfth in which we are served three courses of global gourmet galloping.
We start in Paris this weekend for Treve's date with destiny: can she become the first horse ever to win the Arc three times? Bookmakers think so, most of them making her more probable than possible, and none of them regarding her as worse than a coin toss (even money) to make history.
Arc weekend - which includes the small matter of six other Group 1's on the Sunday, even excluding the Arabian World Cup (well, it is sponsored by those deep Qatari pockets, and they do love their Arabian racing, for what will be obvious reasons) - is a kingmaker as well as a potential queenmaker meeting.
Gleneagles cemented his position as winter favourite for the 2000 Guineas with a win in last year's Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, albeit that he was disqualified for the sort of minor offence that would not have resulted in an amended outcome here or in Ireland. Ballydoyle's much missed miler ran out a ready winner of the first Classic, and followed up in the Irish version, but sadly has been unsighted since.
At this stage, I've not seen the entries for the juvenile races, but we can be fairly sure that Aidan O'Brien's name will be amongst them.
The races for older horses - Abbaye (2yo's do occasionally run in this), Cadran, Opera, Foret, and the Arc - will be replete with away team raiders. The traditional Sunday curtain raiser, the Abbaye, is a contender for global Group 1 with the worst finishing line camera angle. More pertinently, it has been something of a Gallic gift to the visitors, with just three domestic winners this century.
Mecca's Angel is a deserved favourite, but she wouldn't want the turf too quick, and has eased out a tad in the betting with the forecast hinting at good ground or possibly even a smidge quicker. A quick five is bang on for Muthmir, and Willie Haggas's charge is one from one on his French sorties. The 11/1 with racebets (10/1 general) appeals, as does the 25/1 bet365, BetVictor about Goldream. Like Muthmir, a quick five is optimal and he's already claimed G1 glory under those conditions, winning the King's Stand at Royal Ascot this term.
If that is les rosbifs' best race historically, the palmarès of the other Sunday Group 1's is peppered and pocked with sniper strikes from Team GB and Ireland. However, the Prix de l'Opera - a ten furlong race for the girls - has been a happy hunting ground for l'equipe de France in recent years. Thus, Jim Bolger's versatile Pleascach, winner of the Irish 1000 Guineas over a mile and the Yorkshire Oaks over a mile and a half, may be best of the Jenny Foreigners, but the UK books surely have it wrong offering as high as 10/1 (10bet) about Avenir Certain.
This filly won the Prix de Diane last year, a year after Treve, in similarly authoritative fashion, and ten furlongs on top of the ground looks ideal. She'll be cherry ripe for this, and it's quite hard to see her out of the frame.
The Foret has been better for Blighty (and Ireland) with three of the last four eluding local clutches, though the two super-smart fillies, Goldikova and Moonlight Cloud, were the pick of the last quintet of winners - both trained in France. If there's to be a third French filly since 2010 to win this, it will almost certainly be Esoterique. Already a G1 winner this season, against the boys in the Prix Jacques le Marois, she's backed that up with second to Solow in the Queen Anne and the same placing behind Muhaarar in the Prix Maurice de Gheest.
Those two silvers behind multiple Group 1 winners this season mark her out as the best in the field, and the close second in the Maurice de Gheest over six and a half furlongs dispels most concerns about the trip being on the short side. If she runs - and she's not certain to, with a supplementary entry for the softer Sun Chariot at Newmarket on the same day, also G1, having been made - she'll be very hard to beat.
If she doesn't, it's up for grabs, Limato being a legitimate-looking but far from value proposition as market leader around 2/1.
The Prix du Cadran, run over two and a half miles, is a proper old favourites' race, James Fanshawe's High Jinx joining Kasbah Bliss and Sergeant Cecil on the recent role d'honneur last year. Plenty of overseas interest again, as Alex My Boy, formerly trained by Mark Johnston and now tutored in the Teutons, heads the embryonic market. He's done well but this represents a stiffer test, and a half mile longer one too.
If Manatee runs, he'll be stepping up a full mile on anything he's raced over previously so, while dismissing a runner from M. Fabre's ecurie is une grande folie, a top price of 5/1 gets the ready swerve.
Bathyrhon looks a likely runner, and his talented trainer, Pia Brandt, watched her lad beaten only two lengths in the Ascot Gold Cup over this range. On his home circuit, and with proven trip form, this late maturing type is attractively priced at 8/1 with the ground in his favour too. Obviously, you can completely ignore his prep run in the Foy (mile and a half, soft) where he would surely have been doing no more than blowing out the cobwebs after two months off.
I'd expect the two French nominees above - Avenir Certain and Bathyrhon - to be no bigger than half their current British odds on the Parisian 'nanny', and though I won't be getting overly excited from a wagering outlay perspective, they're two I'm keen to side with. The Abbaye is wide open as ever, and a poor race for me personally, so it'll be a couple of beans - no more - win and place on those I've mentioned.
But what of the Arc? Well, we'll save that for later in the week, shall we?
[Post Script: it's now later in the week, so here's the 2015 ARC PREVIEW]
If Arc weekend is a sumptuous hors d'oeuvre, one must refrain from metaphorically gorging oneself on the main course of Champions Day, for there remains a syrupy yet surprisingly satisfying dessert to be ladled up at the end of the month. It goes by the name of the Breeders' Cup, and this year it will be served at Keeneland for the very first time.
As with Paris and Ascot, I will be lucky enough to be there - all other things being equal - and I'll have plenty more on both those later events nearer the time.
And, as if that wasn't enough, we also anticipate the tempting prospect of an amuse bouche, courtesy of The Geegeez Geegee, at some point in the proceedings. Our lad has been training well, and he's entered in two races towards the end of the week. As things stand, it looks like the fine weather will scupper us on both starts, but we (me and the other syndicate owners) hope he'll prove to be better than his current rating of 110.
He was certainly unlucky in both of his last two starts. His penultimate run saw him arrive at the last flight going much the best, only to run out through the wing of that notoriously orphaned hurdle - bereft of rail either side and sitting like an island in the centre of the track - at Worcester. No matter, for we'd entered him just a few days later at Southwell. Again, he looked seriously unlucky, flying home for a clear second having been shuffled back to last of twelve in a packing field on the home turn. We have our fingers crossed for his eagerly-awaited return.
Lower down the ability spectrum, Nonagon is another for whom the dry weather is no use whatsoever. His only two poor turf handicap runs came on good to firm - even then he was beaten only around five lengths - and he is a late developer who looks well handicapped. He's not going to shoot through the ratings but can definitely win, and hopefully some time soon.
Our (the geegeez syndicates', that is) most recent acquisition, East Wing, has been pleasing his trainer in his early motions. He's being brought steadily through the learning process, and could be ready to race around the turn of the year. He's a strapping lad - big for a four-year-old - and we're excited to see what he can do in due course.
Fingers crossed they all stay healthy.
I'm half tempted to acquire another horse at the October horses in training sales with a view to syndicating. Not sure if there's enough interest to do that, in truth, but I'll certainly take a look at the catalogue... 😉
Finally today, if you're a free subscriber to Geegeez, I hope you're already taking a good look at our Race of the Day. Highlighted in yellow when you're logged in (free users only), it's one race a day where we showcase all of our premium Gold racecard tools - Instant Expert, Pace Analysis, form indicators, speed ratings, head-to-head records, form and breeding comments.
And, as of now, we're offering you more races of the day. Approximately one race per meeting - though not necessarily spread evenly across the day's meetings - will show up in yellow on the racecards page, in both the compact and full views. (The races are not highlighted on the home page grid at this stage, but we'll have them there too soon).
Nothing else to say except I hope you enjoy the extra content, and I hope it demonstrates to you a) that we welcome all levels of racing fan at geegeez.co.uk, and b) that the Gold content is really rather good. 😀
If you've yet to register on the website, you can do so here.
I'll be back on Thursday with a few thoughts on the Arc. Spoiler alert: my heart is with Treve, my wallet is not.