Ah, gay Paris, dear reader, gay Paris! So far, I'm somewhat ashamed to admit, I've seen the inside of several Irish bars and I've eaten a lamb kebab.. Today, though, all that changes as we head for the Bois de Boulogne and a day of Britain and Ireland vs France in the annual jamboree that is Arc weekend.
Very much the calm before the storm, it's a staid - almost subdued - affair today, before tomorrow's riotous British invasion... To the races, and the winners, if luck should lend her sympathetic side to me.
1.35 Prix Chaudenay
Not a vintage renewal, but one where I'm hoping the form of my Arc pick, Cavalryman, is upheld by the 3rd and 4th placed horses from the prep race (Prix Niel), Aizavoski and Claremont. It's likely to be a tactical affair and, as a result, Aizavoski could once again prevail, with a soft lead on the front.
2.40 Prix de la Foret
The best horse of the day, and one of my favourites currently in training, Goldikova, takes on many rivals here. She is in a different league to these, but I can't bet her. The reason? Quite apart from the price, she's never won over seven furlongs, which is something of a specialist trip.
Despite my concern, I can't bet against her either. Watch this race, and cheer home a true champion. We'll be able to get the money down in the Breeders Cup Mile with a following wind...
3.15 Prix de Royallieu
Hmm... another tricky contest with no obvious pace. Plumania has the likeliest chance, but it could go to an unexposed type and, at the prevailing odds, I'll sideÂ tentatively and to small stakes only, with last time out Chantilly winner Daryakana.
It's obviously a step up in class for her here, but I don't think there's anything that stands out on form, so I'm happy to take a (small) chance.
3.45 Prix Daniel Wildenstein
A big field for this mile Group 2 contest, and many with chances, including a British raiding party of three (the Lodges, Beacon and Shamwari, and Spirit of Fame).
Most of the field are relatively exposed and have already demonstrated the ceiling of their respective ability levels. One however who may still be on the up is Alain de Royer-Dupre's Reggane.
Reggane was well beaten last time behind the aforementioned supermare, Goldikova. But that was a much hotter Group 1 contest, and the ground would definitely have been against her (she traveled well, but couldn't quicken a quarter mile out).
Previously, she'd beaten all bar Guineas heroine Ghanaati in the Group 1 Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot, and that piece of form is better than anything else on display here.
The biggest may be another filly, Tamazirte, who has excellent Group 1 placed form (twice). But I confidently expect Reggane to make the frame, and will be backing her accordingly.
4.20 Prix Dollar
It doesn't get any easier, and the last of the Group action for Saturday is a 13 runner, 10 furlong Group 2 affair. Almost half the field come from Britain or Ireland, and that tells you something about how winnable the raiders consider this to be.
Separating them, however, is a tougher task. Pipedreamer had looked a 3yo of real promise two seasons ago but, despite a Group 2 victory last season, has not really demonstrated his ability to win a race such as this in two runs to date in 2009.
The Irish challenger, Famous Name, from the Dermot Weld stable has a more obvious claim, to this eye at least. In six starts this season, he's yet to finish out of the first two, including two Group 3 wins and a brace of Group 1 silver medals to boot. This should be well within his compass and, although he might just want it softer, his remarkable 12 first or second places (and a third place) from fourteen starts means you're almost guaranteed a run for your money.
Gris de Gris put in a rare stinker last time, but is another ultra-consistent horse who may want it a little softer under hoof, but could well turn out to be the pick of the home team.
Back at home, Newmarket has more fat purses on offer than a Louis Vuitton clearance sale, and Lillie Langtry looks almost a 'shoo in' for the Â£433,360 first prize in the opener. What a ridiculous amount of money for such a mediocre race. I mean, seriously, there is twenty grand for finishing FIFTH in this race, and the fifth-best rated horse has a mark of 80-odd. Stupid. Just plain stupid. Timeform would be far better served spreading this huge pot across twenty races, making a series with prize money of Â£50k per race.
In the following race, where there's over half a million (!) up for grabs to the winner, John Gosden bids to follow up last season's 33/1 winner Donativum (I backed it!) with another horse of roughly the same price. This time, Meezaan, is unraced. It would be testament to the craziness of these sales race pots should that one double up for Gosden. Far stranger things have happened.
The Group 1 Sun Chariot Stakes for the ladies follows, and Ghanaati is nap material to bring home the bacon. She arguably improved to run her best race when finishing third behind Rip van Winkle and Paco Boy and, back against her own sex, she is strongly fancied to get back to the winning ways that have already seen her notch the 1000 Guineas / Coronation Stakes double.
The Cambridgeshire is a race for braver punting souls than me, and 10/1 the field tells you all you need to know about the difficulty level of this 35 runner nine furlong charge.
One thing I will say is that nine furlongs is a very specialist distance, and a horse with winning form over that trip has a decent advantage. That man Gosden bids for a hat-trick of wins in the race after Pipedreamer and Tazeez's triumphs in the last two seasons, and Charm School is respected because of that.
But the one they all have to beat is surely Sirvino (with apologies for a lack of originality). David Barron's 4yo gelding is five from five this season, including an ultra-impressive romp in the highly competitive John Smith's Cup at York back in July. Assuming he's fit after the break (and they surely wouldn't run if he wasn't!), then this may very well be his last run in a handicap before stepping up to Group class.
If he was trained by Stoute, Cumani or Prescott, he'd be 5/2 even in this mammoth field. That alone makes the 10/1 tasty. Sometimes the obvious route is the right route, and we try to overcomplicate things. I may very well have this wrong, but I honestly can't be bothered to wade through the form of three dozen horses when there's one at a price staring me straight in the face! Lazy? Maybe. Profitable? We'll see.
That's it from me. My mates have already headed to Longchamp, but I wanted to finish this off first, so that I could share my thoughts with you on a brilliant day's racing action.
Good luck whatever you fancy!
p.s. One last reminder about TTS. I'm pretty sure Gavin's about to close the doors on TrainerTrackStats 2009/10. He might not reopen them again, so - with the first runners tomorrow - if you've been wavering on this one, it's definitely decision time! You can grab a copy before the gates close here.