Arc Trials Weekend Preview


The Arc picture will undoubtedly become clearer after the weekend with a whole host of championship races taking place in Britain, Ireland and France, writes Nigel Howard. On Sunday, Chantilly stages Arc Trials day which boasts 6 Group races, two at Group 1 level, with three events recognised trials for the big race itself.

Postponed has dominated the betting for the Arc in recent months but he bypasses all possible engagements and heads straight to the main stage after his emphatic win in the Juddmonte International at York in August. That leaves the coast clear for other Arc hopefuls to stake their claim on this year’s coveted prize.

The Group 1 Prix Vermeille, run over one mile and a half for fillies and mares, is considered the highlight of the meeting and is more often than not used as a stepping stone for the top French fillies to show their wellbeing before heading to the first Sunday in October at this same track.  This was the case for star fillies Zarkava and Treve, who both completed the Prix Diane, Prix Vermeille, Arc treble in their respective classic seasons.

However, trainer Jean-Claude Rouget has plotted a different path for this year’s Prix Diane winner, La Cressonniere, who dotted up in the Prix de la Nonette at Deauville recently and thus skips this race.

A small but select field of six line up for this year’s renewal with the classic generation looking to have the strongest claims. Leading that group, LEFT HAND finished a fine second to La Cressonniere in the Prix Diane and who has since followed up in a Group 3 at Deauville last month.

The daughter of Dubawi has yet to attempt the classic distance but racing manager for Les Freres Wertheimer, Pierre Yves Bureau, was confident, saying “She comes from the family of Plumania (won Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint Cloud, 1m4f) so I don’t see the extra distance being a problem and if all goes well there is the Arc”.

Ex-jump jockey turned trainer, Yohann Gourraud, presents HIGHLANDS QUEEN, who also ran in the Prix Diane but suffered trouble in running and was eventually placed last by the stewards for causing interference. The daughter of Mount Nelson put the record straight when she won the Group 2 Prix Pomone impressively at Deauville next time out and in so doing proved that she stays the classic trip.

Freddie Head will have high hopes for his progressive filly, GOLDEN VALENTINE, who won the Group 3 Prix Minerve, again at Deauville, on her last outing and is another who is proven at the trip. THE JULIET ROSE was comfortably beaten by Head’s filly that day and there is little to suggest she can reverse that result on Sunday.

The older generation is headed by the Aga Khan’s CANDARLIYA, who was second to superstar Treve in this contest last year. The daughter of Dalakhani has solid form and is obviously talented but the feeling is she is just shy of Group 1 level and might again have to settle for place money.

The field is completed by the Godolphin entry, ENDLESS TIME, who will need to improve considerably on her most recent run in the Yorkshire Oaks to trouble the judge.

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Japan has long sought victory in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe: El Condor Pasa (1999), Deep Impact (2006), Nakayama Festa (2010), Orfevre (2012, 2013) and Kizuna (2013) all came to Paris with high expectations but were ultimately conquered in pursuit of Arc glory.

This year the Japanese quest for victory in Europe’s premier race continues, in the shape of three-year old MAKAHIKI, another son of Deep Impact and winner of the Japanese Derby at the end of May.

He makes his much-awaited reappearance in the Group 2 Prix Niel (1m4f) and will have top French jockey Christophe-Patrice Lemaire, now based in Japan, in the saddle. Lemaire was in confident mood on the gallops at Chantilly on Wednesday, declaring that the horse had adapted well to his new surroundings and that his preparation was on track.

Of course we have no solid form lines with which to work but Kizuna, who came to France in 2013, was also the winner of the Japanese Derby and he was good enough to beat Epsom Derby winner Ruler of The World in this race before going on to finish fourth to Trève in the Arc.

Japan is now a recognised global force in horse racing having invested heavily in foreign bloodstock over the years. Kentucky Derby winner Sunday Silence has been their most successful import and indeed he is MAKAHIKI’s grandsire. We can assume therefore that his form to date is very good.

His main opponent is likely to be the Khalid Abdullah-owned/Sir Michael Stoute-trained MIDTERM, who was favourite for the Derby before running down the field in the Dante Stakes at York in May. It later transpired that the impeccably bred son of Galileo, out of Midday, had suffered a stress fracture in his pelvis.

Prior to York, the horse ran out an impressive winner in the Sandown Classic Trial with subsequent Derby seventh Algometer back in second. On that bare form, he still has a lot to find but Sir Michael must obviously believe that he is back to something like his best for him to take his chance.

Andre Fabre has won this race nine times with the likes of Trempolino, Carnégie and Hurricane Run. However, his representative, DOHA DREAM, a son of Shamardal, would need to improve significantly on his Listed win at Vichy; whilst the Aga Khan-owned DARABAD, trained by Alain de Royer Dupre, would also need to step up on his win in the Listed Grand Prix De Clairefontaine.

Given the opposition, then, the Japanese champion will be expected to win this race and a dominant display will surely see his price shorten for the main event in October.

The final trial of the day, the Group 2 Prix Foy (1m4f), was won last year by current big race favourite, Postponed. Reserved for older horses, only four go to post for this year’s renewal and whatever the outcome, we are unlikely to see any seismic movement in the big race market.

SILVERWAVE was a Group 1 winner last time out when he lifted the Grand Prix de Saint Cloud from Erupt at the beginning of July. However, the form of that event was not franked by the latter who failed to impress in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot in July and again ran a lacklustre race more recently in the Grand Prix de Deauville in August.

ONE FOOT IN HEAVEN, trained by Alain de Royer Dupre, disappointed behind SILVERWAVE at Saint Cloud yet had previously looked to be a bright prospect when taking the Grand Prix de Chantilly in June. By Fastnet Rock out of Champion Stakes winner Pride, his best efforts seem to be with some cut in the ground so any rain before the event would be in his favour.

The Andre Fabre trained ELLIPTIQUE has shown improved form this term and won his first Group 1 event in Germany last time. He had German contender ITO well behind him that day and he should confirm that result. The son of New Approach looks to be on the upgrade and is the one to beat.

The other Group 1 on the card is the Prix du Moulin run over a mile. This sees the return to action of the exciting Al Shaqab Racing-owned/Jean-Claude Rouget-trained ZELZAL who has been aimed at the race since his impressive win in the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat at this course in July.

He will need to improve again however as he faces some tough opposition in form of Andre Fabre’s VADAMOS, who was last seen running a fine race in defeat behind Ribchester in the Prix Jacques Le Marois.

In an interesting move, trainer Alain De Royer Dupre has brought the Aga Khan’s ZARAK back in trip as he felt the Dubawi colt didn’t quite see out his race when finishing second to French Derby winner Almanzor at Deauville over one mile and two furlongs. Speaking to French racing channel Equidia, de Royer-Dupre stated “It is quite a stiff mile at Chantilly and it should suit him”.

British interest comes in the shape of DUTCH CONNECTION, bidding to rebound from a slightly disappointing effort behind Signs of Blessing last time at Deauville in the Prix Maurice de Gheest. However, he was previously impressive when winning the Group 2 Lennox Stakes over seven furlongs at Goodwood and should he encounter his preferred fast ground, he could cause an upset.

It promises to be a fascinating series of dress rehearsals at Chantilly this weekend for the Arc and that stellar heat's glittering supporting card.

- Nigel Howard


Arc Trials Day Preview: Treve’s Back (Allez Treve!)

Treve bids for a second Prix Vermeille

Treve bids for a second Prix Vermeille


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.

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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.


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