LONGCHAMP ARC TRIALS DAY, by Nigel Howard
Longchamp stages its Arc Trials meeting this Sunday with six Group events on offer, three of which are major prep races for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Top billing goes to the Group 1 Prix Vermeille (1m4f) which sees the return of the mighty Trêve in her preparation for an unprecedented triplé in Europe’s premier race.
This will be her third appearance in the Vermeille after finishing fourth last year on the back of a troubled season but having won the race in her classic year for Al Shaqab Racing, who bought a majority share in the filly soon after her scintillating victory in the 2013 Prix de Diane.
TRÊVE comes into this renewal on the back of a long summer break but with two impressive performances under the saddle earlier in the season. In May she won the Group 2 Prix Corrida (1m4f) easily and then took the Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint Cloud, on ground perhaps faster than ideal, at the end of June beating Flintshire. He has since won a Grade 1 in the US and is again a likely adversary in the Arc.
Defeat on Sunday would be a huge disappointment for her ever-growing legion of supporters. On paper she is the clear favourite but, despite its G1 status, this remains a trial and not the ultimate objective. TRÊVE was soundly beaten in the race last year and yet bounced back with a superb performance in the Arc. Criquette Head has handled her with aplomb this term and is looking forward to her reappearance.
Head said, “Sunday is important as we will see if she is still in the same form as she was at Saint Cloud. The race comes at the right time in her preparation. She has some strong opposition in the form of Arabian Queen and Sea Calisi. Any rain can only be in her favour.”
Indeed, Trêve’s main dangers come from the classic generation with the three year olds in receipt of 8lbs from their elders. ARABIAN QUEEN, shock winner of the Group 1 Juddmonte International at York, tackles 1m4f for the first time but owner Jeff Smith believes the daughter of Dubawi will appreciate the step up in trip and this race is her sole objective. The same is true of SEA CALISI, a daughter of Youmzain and recent third in the Yorkshire Oaks. François Doumen, her trainer, is quietly confident, “Everything is good. We haven’t been hard on her since her York run. It’s a top race but she’s improving”.
The Aga Khan’s colours are carried by CANDARLIYA, a daughter of Dalakhani and winner of the Group 3 Prix Minerve (1m 4½f) at Deauville last time. That represented her fourth straight win yet she remains relatively unexposed. Alain de Royer-Dupré, her trainer and winner of the race seven times, was realistic about her chances when he said, “She is very relaxed and handles all ground conditions. We don’t really expect to beat Trêve but hope to run a place. This is really her Arc. The three year olds get a considerable weight allowance from the older horses”.
DIHNA acts as pacemaker for the favourite so a strong gallop is expected and indeed needed if TRÊVE, who has a tendency to run quite freely in her races, is to settle after this long layoff. Her adoring supporters will expect nothing less than a win but one feels that Thierry Jarnet, her regular jockey, will be looking to take care of her in the event of a close finish. If any horse were to give TRÊVE a race, preference would be for ARABIAN QUEEN who has the generous weight advantage and is running in the race to win, not as preparation for the Arc.
Attention is turned to the three year old colts in the Group 2 Prix Niel (1m4f) with just 7 going to post for this year’s renewal. The Niel has been the stepping stone for previous Arc winners Montjeu, Sinndar, Dalakhani and Hurricane Run amongst others, with Rail Link being the last colt to do the double back in 2006.
This year sees a mouth-watering clash between Prix du Jockey-Club hero, NEW BAY, and the unbeaten Grand Prix de Paris winner, ERUPT, both sons of Dubawi. NEW BAY turned up at Deauville in August where he showed he could handle soft conditions with a smooth success in the Group 2 Prix Guillaume d'Ornano (1m2f). This will be his first attempt at the classic distance but connections seem in little doubt that he will handle the step-up in trip.
Erupt ran out an impressive winner of the Grand Prix de Paris in July beating the Andre Fabre-trained Ampere by 2 lengths. The same horse finished 4 lengths behind NEW BAY at Deauville so a line through him gives NEW BAY the upper hand. Heavy ground may have played a part in that result but on the bare form lines, the Khalid Abdullah-owned NEW BAY is a worthy favourite.
Opposing are the Grand Prix de Clairefontaine (Listed 1m4f) first and second MING DYNASTY, trained by Mikael Delzangles, and Freddie Head’s MIGWAR. The latter was sent off the short priced favourite on the day but MING DYNASTY ran out a good winner and his trainer was delighted with the performance. Qatar Racing has since bought a half share in the King’s Best colt with the owner’s retained jockey Andrea Atzeni taking over in the saddle from fellow Italian Umberto Rispoli. MIGWAR was far from disgraced in defeat and was making his reappearance after a long layoff. Retained jockey Olivier Peslier holds this son of Invincible Spirit in high regard and improvement is expected.
Next up is the Group 2 Prix Foy (1m4f), reserved for four year olds and upwards and the race chosen as the warm-up event for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes winner POSTPONED. Another son of Dubawi, Luca Cumani’s colt looked to be the obvious choice in this race until Alain de Royer Dupré switched Dolniya from the Prix Vermeille. Consequently, the Foy has a much more solid look about it as DOLNIYA is a Group 1 winner in Dubai and most recently ran third to Trêve in the Grand Prix de Saint Cloud. With Golden Horn having been pulled out of the Ascot showpiece, POSTPONED’S victory in the King George was considered bloodless. Where he finishes in relation to DOLNIYA tomorrow should give us more insight into the value of his form.
Away from the Arc, the other Group 1 event on the card is the Prix du Moulin run over a mile. This provides another chance for ESOTERIQUE to strut her stuff after a wonderfully successful Deauville festival. First she ran second to Muhaarar in the Prix Maurice de Gheest over an inadequate 6½f and then the following week she produced a stellar performance to defeat TERRITORIES in the Prix Jacques Le Marois. The daughter of Danehill Dancer loves some cut in the ground and with rain forecast over Paris at the weekend she should have the conditions she prefers. She looks the one to beat.
TERRITORIES, who re-opposes would seem to be held on their Deauville running and preference is for the Aga Khan’s French 1000 Guineas winner, ERVEDYA. She ran with credit when second to Amazing Maria in the Prix Rothschild over a mile at Deauville at the beginning of August. She has Group 1 winning form on rain softened ground and is likely be the one to chase ESOTERIQUE home tomorrow.