Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe 2017 Preview: Trends, Tips
Widely held to be the best middle distance race in the world, the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe brings together global formlines in a thrilling clash of continents, generations and sexes. The race revolves around Enable, a filly not yet even entered, though virtually certain to be supplemented later in the week.
There are a few strong pointers to the average Arc winner, though this year's renewal could comprise a below average field and an above average favourite. Time will tell, but first some patterns...
2017 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe Trends
Arc de Triomphe: Weight and gender
A Group 1 run over a mile and a half and bringing together three-year-olds against older horses, girls against boys, means there are a weight-for-age and weight-for-gender concessions. Specifically, males aged four and up will carry 9-05, fillies aged four and up will carry 9-02, three-year old colts lug 8-13 and three-year-old fillies bear the least lead, just 8-09.
Since unbeaten Zarkava, a three-year-old filly, won the 2008 Arc, just three winners have been male. All three were three-year-olds, and all three were Derby winners: Sea The Stars, Workforce and Golden Horn. The other six winners, then, were female, split evenly between three- and four-year-olds.
To be clear, fillies and mares account for two-thirds of the winners since 2008, from just one quarter of the runners.
The last older colt to win the Arc was Dylan Thomas in 2007 and before that, Marienbard, a five-year-old, in 2002.
Key Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe Prep Races
This year, the Derby winner, Wings Of Eagles, has been retired, and his closest pursuer at Epsom, and winner of the Prix Niel, a key prep, Cracksman, has declined his invitation. The pick of the British and Irish three-year-old colts looks to be Capri, winner of both the Irish Derby and St Leger.
Another interesting snippet concerns Aidan O'Brien. The man chasing a global record for the most Group 1 wins in a season has only won the Arc once since 2007. That barren decade was blitzkrieged with a remarkable 1-2-3 in the race last year, as the redoubtable Found led home stablemates Highland Reel and Order Of St George. Though Found has now been retired, there is a strong prospect of the other pair of podium finishers re-engaging this term. Found herself was having a second swipe at the race, having been parked in a traffic jam the year before.
Treve, the 2013 and 2014 winner, was also - obviously - a repeat winner. That may add fuel to the fires of those who like the chance of the O'Brien olders.
Key trials for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe have been the Derby - you know, the Derby, run at Epsom - as mentioned, and also the Prix Niel (no Arc winner since Rail Link in 2006, but plenty before then), and the Grand Prix de Paris (no winner since Rail Link). The Prix de Diane meanwhile advertised the claims of both Zarkava and Treve, a pair of exceptional fillies.
Arc Betting Market Pointers
Enable is expected to be sent off an odds-on chance in this year's Arc, and justifiably so on the balance of her form in comparison to that of her rivals.
Last year, Postponed, an older male giving weight all round, was unplaced as the 15/8 favourite in a race where no three-year-old managed better than eighth. In 2015, Treve, seeking an unprecedented Arc hat-trick could finish only (a very gallant) fourth at even money as a five-year-old mare. As a three- and four-year-old filly, she had prevailed though was favoured on neither occasion, with the UK bookies at any rate. That honour went to the kinky (not in a good way, remember this?) Orfevre in 2013 and to a John Gosden three-year-old filly, Taghrooda, in 2014.
Taghrooda had a similar profile to this year's jolly, Enable, up to a point: that point being the Yorkshire Oaks, which Enable won by five lengths but in which Taghrooda was unmasked at odds of one-to-five. Ouch.
In 2012, Camelot carried the most money, and was defeated at 2/1 industry SP. Sarafina was sunk as market leader in 2011, and Behkabad likewise in 2010. Thus, we have to go all the way back to 2009 and the peerless Sea The Stars for the last winning favourite, at industry SP at least. STS was sent off a 4/6 chance, similar odds to those I expect for Enable this term. And, as this video shows, I was lucky enough to be there to witness it. Great days...
Using betting patterns as a 'trend' is always a dangerous game, but it is fair to say that the race is usually deeper than the market credits it for. Against that, the strongest two favourites since 2008 - Zarkava and Sea The Stars - both won. With average winning odds in the last six years of 13/1 there is at least hope for those not on Enable at fancy prices.
2017 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe Form Preview
Enable, trained by John Gosden, has been unbeaten in five since stepped up to the Arc distance of a mile and a half, a sequence which includes four Group 1's in a row. The aggregate winning distance in those races has been 20 lengths, each being won by five lengths, give or take a half. She's won on the road, in the Irish Oaks; and she's beaten the boys, in the King George; and she's beaten her elders, in both the King George and the Yorkshire Oaks.
She is an exceptional filly, and the best middle distance turf horse of her age group. So it seems hardly fair on the rest that she'll receive weight from the entire field unless Winter lines up here rather than in the Prix de l'Opera.
The going is currently soft but, with a dry week forecast, my best guess will be that the track will ride just on the easy side of good: perfect conditions for Enable. In truth, it is very hard to find chinks in her armour. Collateral form lines give her lengths to spare over her field; the clock says she's superior; and, she actually gets weight from her rivals when she'd be giving it in a handicap.
The track should be fine: it's right-handed with a relatively short run in, similar to Ascot, where she put five lengths into her field from the top of the straight.
She still has the game of Russian roulette that is the draw, assuming a big field show up, with which to contend. But even there, last year's Ballydoyle clean sweep emerged from 12, 11 and 16 respectively. Chantilly ain't no Longchamp in that regard. In any case, with twenty still engaged, and Aidan O'Brien unlikely to run more than four of his seven, it shouldn't be an enormous field.
No, a car park draw for Gosden's filly would make it mildly more interesting, but it probably won't change the result.
Scampering around for value in this year's Arc is a difficult game. Second choice after Cracksman's defection was confirmed is Sir Michael Stoute's Ulysses. This impeccably-bred four-year-old (by Galileo out of Oaks winner, Light Shift) has matured into a genuine Group 1 horse, something which cannot comfortably be said for most of the likely field on Sunday.
But he was on vapours at the end of the King George and, in spite of his stout pedigree, he looks a short runner to me at the Arc distance (form at 1m4f: 0142; form at shorter: 62121311). He's far more likely to get away with the trip in a race like the Breeders' Cup Turf, which is often falsely run. That's unlikely to happen with Ballydoyle peppering the Arc pot with pacemakers and Leger winners.
Pick of the home defence could be Brametot. He was as short as 6/1 before that lamentable prep effort in a Deauville Group 2. He's by an unfashionable stallion, Rajsaman, who never raced beyond a mile and a quarter; and Brametot himself has yet to go beyond the ten and a half furlongs he covered when winning the Prix du Jockey Club.
A back injury was cited for the poor last day effort and Jean-Claude Rouget's colt is reportedly working well ahead of his Arc tilt. It's possible he'll shorten further on the PMU, but he has enough to prove at a current top quote of 12/1.
It is perhaps a measure of the shallow nature of the race that Order Of St George is co-third favourite. The five-year-old, who will give ten pounds to Enable, has yet to race over shorter than 1m6f in six starts since that game effort in last year's Arc. He's been beaten in three of them, odds on each time.
On the plus side, he went into last year's Arc with a similar long-distance prep profile. Despite a wide draw, expertly mitigated by Frankie Dettori, and a little trouble in the straight, he was ultimately outpaced by Found and Highland Reel.
The latter re-opposes, tripping the light fantastic as he does at seemingly every top table tango. He's a six-time Group 1 winner, never in Ireland oddly, and has triumphed in two of his last three starts, both at G1 level. The ground is the key to him: were it to dry out to good, he'd have a solid place chance; on softer than that, not so much. Let's contextualise that with some numbers.
G1 form on good or quicker: 513141221211
G1 form on softer than good: 62582774
It might dry out enough for him, and he comes here fresh ahead of an autumn globe-trotting tilt at the Breeders' Cup, Hong Kong Vase and then perhaps Dubai. Bizarrely, this horse has his knockers. He's an absolute superstar who has deposited over six million - count them, six million - quids in the bank for his cash-strapped owners.
Capri is more compelling than many. He was the default winner of the Irish Derby after Wings Of Eagles' injury, and was good enough to beat Cracksman that day, the latter having been second favourite before absenting from the Chantilly field. Capri has since won the St Leger, meaning he comes here off the back of two Classic wins. If Team Ballydoyle decide to run him, and he's over his Doncaster exertions, his form puts him in the frame.
Finding a dark horse for the Arc - a dArc horse, perhaps - is tricky. The key probably lies in under-rated form lines, and that normally means in the German form book. There are two in the mix to fly the flag(ship uber alles), Dschingis Secret and Iquitos. The former sprung to prominence when winning the Prix Foy, a lesser prep for older horses on Niel / Vermeilles day.
He's been quietly progressive this season, taking down the Group 1 Grosser Preis von Berlin in the middle of a current unbeaten run of three. There he beat Hawkbill, who is a G1 place player on his day. But that's not Arc-winning form and odds of 14/1 are not tempting.
How about a 66/1 poke then? I don't even know if Iquitos - hopefully not pronounced "I quit 'oss" - is a certain starter, but in a race which looks open 'underneath', he is a dual Group 1 winner. That includes the Grosser Preis von Baden, a race which both Marienbard and Danedream won prior to scoring in the Arc itself.
Iquitos is five now, and was only second in the GPvB this year - having won it last year. But his run style leaves him a hostage to fortune in small fields: specifically he's a hold up horse who couldn't reel in the easy leader, Guignol, in his bid to double up at Baden Baden the last day. Prior to that he'd quickened smartly over a mile and a quarter in a bigger field where they went a beat faster, and comfortably saw off the Godolphin colt, Best Solution.
That form is not good enough to beat Enable - which horse in this field does have form good enough to beat Enable? - but if they go hard he'll be one of the finishers. The price makes the pennies play.
Another at a big price worth a second glance is Idaho. A full brother to Highland Reel, he was only just behind Ulysses when five lengths behind Enable in the King George at Ascot. The point here is that, if you like the chance of Ulysses at 6/1, why wouldn't you be attracted to the (eight times the) price of the horse that finished upsides that one and looks the more likely stayer?
Sure, Idaho has been bashed up in America since. But he was bashed up in America - OK, Canada - on his only other transatlantic trip. Although he won on Ascot's good to firm, he may not enjoy the officially firm Stateside sod. Either way, that race was not run to suit: he sweated up badly, and failed to get the lead he wanted throughout. On his two previous starts he won the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot, and then ran that decent third in the King George behind the first two in the betting here. Whichever way you cut that, it does not make him a 50/1 shot.
2017 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe Tips
I think ENABLE will win. There, I've said it. She has the best form in the race, she gets all the allowances, she has her optimal trip and probably ground, and she is trained and ridden by horsemen in the top two in their peer groups in Europe. She's not a sexy price but she is the class of this field.
I've been blethering on about her chance since her Oaks romp in early June, and I have backed her to win a few quid at 14's.
It's fair to say I've also backed a couple of others - Terrakova and Shutter Speed - who don't run. But they were double-carpet fliers and very little harm done. Moreover, I backed both the now retired Almanzor and Brametot at 20's each (10's coupled, the latter still 12's - great value!). So I'm not really minded to go in again.
But this isn't about me, it's about you if you've not yet wagered in the race. Capri is my pick of the next wave in the betting, at 16/1 (14/1 NRNB may be a better option). An improving dual Classic winner, he looks a little under-rated at this stage.
At big odds, for small money, Idaho is the wrong price plain and simple. If Ulysses is a genuine 6/1 shot for this, Idaho simply cannot be 50/1. I'd have the former longer and the latter shorter. 50/1 e/w might give you some fun in the run.
Arc winner: Enable
Each way against the favourite: Capri 14/1 NRNB Paddy
Big priced each way hail mary: Idaho 50/1 NRNB BetVictor/Betfair Sports (and perhaps Iquitos 66/1 NRNB Skybet)