Friday, September 30, 2011

The Arc 2011 - History beckons for So You Think

The Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe is the greatest and most prestigious of all races, in my opinion. For others, it is the Epsom Derby, the Kentucky Derby, the Dubai World Cup, the Breeders Cup Classic, or the Melbourne Cup, but the Arc is my favourite, from a pure racing point of view. The best horse of the race almost always wins. And it's usually the best horse in the world at the classic mile and a half distance.

This year's Arc is one of the most open in recent years, with no clear front-runner in the betting market. My opinion is if So You Think runs to his true ability, it will be a one-horse show. Here's my lowdown on the main contestants.

Sarafina is deservingly among the favourites. She came out third in last year's race the winner after being checked entering the straight. With a clear run, she would have been closer than the 2 lengths she finished off the winner. This year, she has been drawn in the 13th stall, which is a very bad draw, but since she comes from off the pace, that disadvantage will be negligible. She's in top form according to her trainer and I see her being among the strong finishers although seeing her winning it looks to be a stretch.

Workforce is the defending champion and he certainly would have a good chance of repeating if he's on his best form. One negative is that his jockey Ryan Moore has just returned to the saddle yesterday Friday after an injury layoff and will not be at 100% of his powers. The King Best colt is not to be dismissed but he would need some luck in running to beat the opposition this year.

Snow Fairy can mix it up with the colts no problem. I consider her as one of the 3 best middle-distance distaffers in the world. Her light race schedule this year will see her being in top form on Sunday. On her last race, she gave So You Think a scare and finished a lot closer to him than I thought she would. She will be ridden by Dettori which is a plus. She looks to be a very good Place prospect.

Treasure Beach is one of the best 3 year-olds at the distance and would have won 2 Derbies were it not for the exploits of Pour Moi. The Galileo colt also won a Grade 1 in the U.S and looks an uncomplicated sort who should find no problem adapting to the Longchamp track. He must have an outside chance and if race conditions are favourable to him, he could spring an upset.

So You Think has won 4 out of 5 in his European outings and his only loss has been well documented as a self-confessed trainer error. It is striking that the same trainer is insisting that SYT is a 10-furlong horse. How can a horse that very nearly won the Melbourne Cup be treated as a 10-furlong specialist? If that's the way the horse has been trained since joining the Ballydoyle stable, most possibly due for breeding purposes, then he will not have a chance against the other seasoned stayers. Speed being the attraction nowadays, O'Brien might have gotten directives from the Coolmore brass to make SYT as the best 10f horse around. But his pedigree screams 12f, just like his sire High Chapparal. The only other question mark is the assignment of Heffernan as jockey. The Irishman is far from proven on the French track and when chips are as big as this. My take on SYT is clear; if he's not been messed about by his genius-like, yet flawed trainer, and he's not subject to a pilot error, he's going to win because he's a notch above every single horse in the race.

Of the rest of the field, Galikova is going to be great next year, but has not yet attained the level required to win this year's edition. Saint Nicholas Abbey has been mostly hype and is just not good enough. The Japanese horses are the big question mark and it would not be entirely surprising if one of them came out the winner.

My trifecta selection is So You Think, Snow Fairy, Sarafina. This is the grandest stage of all for the Australasian superstar to cement his status as one of the all-time greats.

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