The betting will tell you that next Sunday’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is a virtual match between 6-4 shot and dual fillies’ Classic winner Love and the Queen of world racing, Enable, who is available at 5-2 after just the 13 Group wins in an 18-race career over five seasons which has yielded 15 victories in all.
That two of them were in the Arc seems not to matter in the face of Love’s faultless campaign of 1,000 Guineas, Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks. The memory of an almost unthinkable defeat when going for the hat-trick at Longchamp last October when Waldgeist got up late to deny her, and another second place to Ghaiyyath in the Eclipse Stakes this summer have only slightly dented Enable’s air of invincibility.
The promise of rain in Paris this week will not shake the confidence of the Gosden-Dettori-Abdullah team, nor will the prospect of facing some of the best colts in Europe on Sunday. Those two elements have still to be addressed by Love, representing the Aidan O’Brien filly and her Coolmore owners. Their three-year-old will have a 6lb weight advantage against her revered rival, but obviously boasts a great deal less experience.
That said, Love did run seven times as a juvenile, winning three. Two of those victories last year were on good ground, the other on good to firm. When she was defeated, three of the four were on good to soft or yielding. All three of her Group 1 successes this year have also been officially on good. Add in that she has yet to meet a colt and, while the margins of her wins have been uniformly eye-opening, this represents a new and deeper test.
At this distance, the big two overseas squads (as far as the French are concerned) of Gosden and O’Brien are garnering high-class back-ups. Gosden can bring another six-year-old, the multiple champion stayer Stradivarius, who has shown on two occasions, admittedly in defeat behind Ghaiyyath and Anthony Van Dyck in the Coronation Cup and Anthony Van Dyck again in Longchamp’s Prix Foy, either side of a third Gold Cup at Ascot and fourth Goodwood Cup, that he is effective at a mile and a half. Soft ground or worse would only add to his competitiveness on Sunday.
He will have Olivier Peslier in the saddle this time as Frankie is understandably ever more welded to Enable. The third Gosden runner is anything but a lightweight too. Mishriff had not been considered one of the stable’s superstars when he travelled over to Chantilly for the French Derby (Prix Du Jockey Club) in July, but he won the 10.5 furlong Classic by a length and a quarter from The Summit. Next time out, in a four-horse field for a Deauville Group 2 over slightly further than 12 furlongs, he more than tripled his advantage over the same rival. No non-entity he!
The ground will finally determine which of the host of potential Aidan O’Brien contenders will form his back-up squad. Mogul is an obvious prime contender after his bounce back to form in the Grand Prix de Paris and the trainer was ready to forgive Japan’s lapses this season by pointing out that he has a good record around Parislongchamp, winning last year’s Grand Prix and finishing fourth to Waldgeist and Enable in the Arc. Derby winners Santiago and Serpentine would be possibles along with Anthony Van Dyck – less likely in the event of soft or heavy – and even Magical. I’m sure the mare herself, still on the upgrade at five, would relish the chance of another nip at Enable.
I think it could be a step too far for Pyledriver, but I feel Willie Muir’s three-year-old was unfairly condemned in many quarters as a non-stayer when third in the St Leger. Had he kept straight he could easily have been right there with Galileo Chrome and was getting back to the leaders again at the finish.
Recent Grand Prix de Deauville winner Telecaster will be aiming to complete his rehabilitation as a Group 1 performer without the services of Christophe Soumillon who guided him to a very easy success on soft ground that day at the conclusion of the August festival. That emphatic six and a half-length verdict on heavy ground at Group 2 level has encouraged Hughie Morrison and the Weinfeld family to take the plunge, with far less downside than the colt’s unfortunate Derby experience caused them last year.
A work-out over the full trip on the testing home gallop convinced Morrison that his four-year-old has the tools needed for a strongly-run Group 1 test and hopes it will keep raining. If Love or for that matter Enable can come through to beat that host of dangers on Sunday, she will deserve the highest accolade. But then, they both have been greatly acclaimed already. I take them in that order, LOVE to beat Enable and I’d be thrilled to see Telecaster get third.
Apart from the fact that the two horses I fancied for Saturday’s Cambridgeshire got impossible draws – one of them, Walhaan, won the race on his side and finished 13th of 27, I enjoyed the result. It was nice for Paul Hanagan that at the age of 40 – surely not - he was back in the big time after suffering such a bad injury from a fall at Newcastle when fracturing three vertebrae and having another – the sixth – badly crushed.
How he could come back from that I can barely imagine, but all he could do afterwards was thank everyone, especially Jack Berry House where he did most of his rehabilitation work, and long-term ally Richard Fahey who kept faith with him in the early stages of that recovery and continues to support the former champion jockey.
Now fully fit, and gratifyingly self-effacingly humble as ever, he teamed up with Paul and Olly Cole on Majestic Dawn and their lightly-raced four-year-old surged up the favoured stands rail to win by almost five lengths. This was only his second start of the year, after a last of ten around Kempton three weeks earlier.
At 40-1 it might have looked a forlorn hope, but Olly Cole certainly fancied Majestic Dawn’s chance as he had been fifth in the race last year behind Lord North. Cole junior has grown quickly into his role as co-trainer with his father and it is certain that all those earlier big race triumphs for Paul Cole can be remembered in the context of this revival in the yard’s fortunes.
Paul and Olly Cole were the first of the co-trainers to record a win, quicker even than Simon and Ed Crisford, who were operating under that banner earlier than their Berkshire-based counterparts. The Crisfords have had a brilliant season from their Newmarket yard and so have two much newer operations in the same town.
I remember a few years ago I discovered that George Scott, still working as assistant to Lady Jane Cecil at Warren Place, had a house in Newmarket where Ed Crisford, assistant to his father; James Ferguson, with Charlie Appleby for Godolphin; and George Boughey, Hugo Palmer’s assistant, were his house-mates.
In view of where they all are now, it’s interesting to ponder what they managed to talk about in the evenings when settling down to Coronation Street on the telly. Judging on Scott’s steady progress from his larger premises and support of father-in-law Bill Gredley, and the flying starts made by Ferguson and Boughey, the quartet probably did a little knowledge-exchanging about the business they are now adorning with so much promise.
Talking of promise, I wonder what will assail the ears of young Leo Sangster, christened last week by proud parents Sam and Maddy, over the next week or two. Sam is readying himself for another sales season with his thriving agency, but before that gets too demanding, the Sangsters and their co-owners have a date in Paris, where his late father Robert enjoyed three Arc successes in four years with Alleged (twice) and Detroit.
Sangster senior was one of the first owners that supported Nicolas Clement when he was compelled to take over the Chantilly stable of his father Miguel on his sudden death. Clement struck almost immediately in the 1990 Arc with Saumarez, ridden by Gerald Mosse (still going strong 30 years later) for owners Bruce McNall and Wayne Gretzky, the ice hockey legend, great friends of Robert Sangster.
Sam Sangster has already enjoyed Stakes success with horses trained by Nicolas Clement and they have high hopes of their bargain two-year-old Camelot filly, King’s Harlequin, bought for only €30,000, in the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac. King’s Harlequin won the Group 3 Prix d’Aumale, one of the customary trials for the Marcel Boussac, over the course and distance, in impressive all-the-way fashion last time and is sure to be a major contender on Sunday.