The first Sunday in October can mean only one thing, it is the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and all eyes will be on ParisLongchamp Racecourse. With the Prix de l'Abbaye and Prix de la Foret just two other heats on the card it is a brilliant afternoon of racing and even though none of us can be there I for one will be plotted up with a glass or two enjoying the horse racing TV, that is one certainty this weekend you can bet on!
The weather has been as much of a talking point as the horses and as I write the going is described as very soft with every chance of more rain Saturday night into Sunday morning. My bets for the six thoroughbred Group One races on the card follow.
They get underway at Longchamp at 1.15 with the two-year-old colts and one filly line up facing the 7f course for the Group One Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere; this looked a tricky betting race and then cut-up significantly. St Marks Basilica was third in the G.1 National Stakes and in many ways stablemate Wembley looked the best option for this out of that race but that colt didn’t travel. This one has an obvious chance but I am happy to take him on. Nando Parrado was second in the G1 Prix Morny on soft, couldn’t live with Campanelle but no disgrace there, and had won the G.2 Coventry Stakes prior to that at a massive price on only his second start. Cox did say at the start of the month talking of the entry Nando Parrado held in the Middle Park Stakes (Supremacy was his first choice and that colt won) "We have Nando Parrado in there just in case as we're not sure what will come with the rain situation. He's also in the Dewhurst and Lagardere and we'll run him where the rain comes” well it has come to Paris. My slight preference is for the Clive Cox inmate as I hope he will settle nicely somewhere near the pointed end in this now relatively small field and get first run on the O’Brien trained colt. I snaffled a bit of the 2-1 early in the week thinking it was a fair price and then wished I hadn’t as Coral offered 4’s but he is now in to 13-8 best.
At 1.50 we have the Group One Qatar Prix Marcel Boussac for two-year-old fillies over the mile. Joseph O'Brien sends Pretty Gorgeous over for the race and the daughter of Lawman, winner of the Prix du Jockey-Club & Prix Jean Prat in his day, was the one that jumped off the page at me when the entries were announced. Unfortunately, the Bookies noticed as well and she is favourite for the heat. I took 2-1 and truth be told I wouldn’t offer you bigger. Her second in the G.1 Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh last time looks fair form behind Shale who is current favourite for the G.1 Fillies' Mile at HQ. Shale is the filly Pretty Gorgeous had beaten over the same track and trip on soft in a G.2 in August and as it happens finished second to before that at Leopardstown – Joseph must have been on the blower and asked Donnacha to keep his filly at home! Fev Rover won a G.2 at Deauville last time and is shortlist material but will need to have improved again to take this whilst Thunder Beauty, fifth in the Moyglare Stud, could be the other one for the places.
I am not having a go at the Arab race at 2.25 the Group One 1m2f Qatar Arabian World Cup; they are lovely horses and I often enjoy watching the races (they have one at Goodwood) but I know nothing really about the form.
Betting for the big one due off at 3.05 the Group One Prix de LArc de Triomphe had revolved around the star filly and mare in the build-up but as is the way with the lovely ladies, one changed her mind! Sorry any female readers. The writing appeared on the wall for Love when the storm clouds gathered and she was duly taken out of the race on Thursday. She has plenty of other targets and hopefully we’ll see her again next year on track. That brings me to Enable who needs no introduction and there is little I can tell you about her I doubt you do not know. She has every chance of getting her third win in the race but she is a very short price and there is a nagging doubt in my mind as to is she as good as she was? Let's be honest she hasn’t beaten much in her last two starts and couldn’t live with Ghaiyyath at Epsom. Beating up Japan has become second nature to her but no-one thinks that colt is winning this year, do they? She is part of my Dirty Dozen but I cannot back her at the price and think, sadly as part of me would love to see her do it, the dream third Arc aint going to happen. With it being testing ground Stradivarius has been shortening in price and in theory if they made it a good gallop his obvious stamina would come in to play. I can’t see the others taking the chance of setting it up for him though by going off hell for leather. The lads from Ballydoyle paid €72,000 to supplement the shock Derby winner Serpentine on Wednesday but off the back of his fourth place in the Grand Prix de Paris recently behind stablemate Mogul I can only assume he is in on pace making duties for Love! One that won’t mind getting his toe-in is last year's third Sottass and the chestnut is available at an each-way price. I have plumped for one at an even bigger price though. Prix du Moulin winner Persian King has form on heavy, won the Poule d'Essai des Poulains last year on it, but this is a step into the unknown trip wise. He was second to Sottass in the Prix du Jockey Club over 1m2½f last season only losing out close home. A slow pace and a bit of luck might see him go close. The fact Andre Fabre sends him, he knows a thing or two about winning this race, and notable connections Godolphin SNC & Ballymore Thoroughbred Ltd have no other entries, suggests those who should know think he might last home. Being by Kingman it looks unlikely at first look at the pedigree but on the dam side he is out of Pretty Please, who got a mile-and-a-quarter on soft, and she's by 2007 Arc winner Dylan Thomas out of an unraced Giants Causeway mare so stamina is there on the female side. This could be a far more open-affair than the market suggests and at 22-1 best in the ante-post market on Wednesday I have taken an each-way chance. Recently purchased to stand at Haras d'Etreham stud from next year hopefully it will be a triumphant end to his racing career.
The fillies and mares are out for the Group One 1m2f Prix de l’Opera at 3.50. This has cut-up a little bit as well with a number of potential runners going in the Kingdom Of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday. Fancy Blue has headed the market for a while and is of course one I have been talking of this season quite a bit. She has form on soft going and with the under-hoof conditions likely to make this a test her ability to stay further should come into play – I just hope she is ridden more prominently than last time at Leopardstown when given far too much to do late on over the mile in the G.1 Matron Stakes when finishing third; the two she was behind that day, Champers Elysees and Peaceful having gone to Newmarket her chances are there for all to see. I have the carpet 3-1 and I am pretty confident. She beat Alpine Star in the 1m2f Prix de Diane Longines back in July and that filly is feared most of the opposition with Tawkeel, won the G.2 1m2f Shadwell Prix de la Nonette last time, considered on her first try at the top-table.
The speedsters line-up at 4.25 for the 5f Group One Prix de lAbbaye. Anyone who has been on the site before will know I swore off ever backing Battaash again many moons ago and I didn’t. He aint here of course and in fairness Angus Gold, owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum’s racing manager, told everyone on the Tuesday “At the moment he runs, but if it turns into an absolute quagmire I can’t tell you – but at the moment he runs.” That is one of the reasons I placed the bet I did. Make A Challenge has been sent over by Denis Hogan from Ireland and the geldings ten career wins have either come on soft or soft to heavy ground. The bookies weren’t taking much of a chance pricing him at a skinny looking 7-1 to limit the each-way damage but I took it on Tuesday. His fifth in the Flying Five Stakes last time reads well coming home well from off the pace bearing in mind that was on good ground. I would assume all the team at Cloughjordan, Co. Tipperary have been doing a rain dance all week - I have been! Liberty Beach is one I have backed before and I still feel she is a Group One winner in waiting. Take a look at the aforementioned Flying Five again if you get the chance; to my eyes she was going as well as anything and had her run blocked just at the wrong time when making her move before finishing seventh. She doesn’t have any form on soft though but has a chance of placing-up.
The 4.55 is the 7f Group One Prix de la Foret and the last of the big races on the card. A hat-trick bid is on for seven-furlong specialist One Master. The William Haggas-trained mare has won this race in each of the past two seasons and arrives following the narrowest of defeats at Doncaster last time to Wichita. Safe Voyage enters calculations and has form on soft of course but he’s been busy, beat One Master at York in late August, and his win at Leopardstown in a Group Two three-weeks ago was hard fought rather than convincing. Godolphin owned Earthlight won the 7f G.3 Qatar Prix Du Pin on trials day and has been aimed at this. The Andre Fabre-trained dual G.1 winner got his season back on track having been beaten in the 6½f G.1 Prix Maurice de Gheest prior to that. Talking afterwards the trainer said “He’s good. He handled the seven furlongs well That was a prep race for the Foret so that is the obvious target for him. The Breeders’ Cup Mile could be an option later.” He didn’t have the best trip on trials day as he was out wide the whole way round so you could mark the performance up a pound or two which would put him right in the picture. Team Godolphin had a number of options for the race with winner of the aforementioned Prix Maurice De Gheest Stakes Space Blues and 7f G.1 Qatar Prix Jean Prat winner Pinatubo obvious other candidates. The fact neither run and Earthlight does is seen as a positive for Fabre’s charge. He won the Prix Morny last year on heavy and has form on soft so the rain is of little concern. I am on at 13-8.
As for the two handicaps at the end of the card, all being well I will be feet-up counting the cash!