Thursday, October 4, 2012

Camelot, meet Orfevre

My favourite race of the year: the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in Longchamp is my idea of the greatest race in the world. The legends of the turf have won it and the best horse almost always wins it.

This year's race has been marred by late defections of some leading fancies; title holder Danedream tragically won't be there through no fault of her own, Nathaniel spiked a fever at an unfortunate time, Snow Fairy is out of the season injured. And the mighty Frankel (or more so his connections) opted not to venture on the stamina-sapping 12 furlongs;

The race will still regroup some high-caliber horses, 4 of which seem clear-cut above the rest; Camelot, Orfevre, Saonois and Shareta. I don't think the winner will be outside this quartet.

Camelot failed to win the Triple Crown although he did finish a honourable second in the St Leger. Whether he is the super horse billed by his connections, remains to be seen. His defeat somewhat lowered his colors and reputation that was made of him. He's still a high-class horse that has won the Epsom and Irish Derbies, not forgetting the 2000 Guineas. He is the best 3-year old of the race. There are a lot of positives going for him. He will be ridden by Dettori, he will have a weight allowance against the older generation, and he's by super 12-furlong-sire Montjeu. The only issue I see is how well he's recuperated from his St Leger exertions. It is commonly acknowledged that the great Nijinski got beaten in the Arc because he was still feeling the ill-effects of the Doncaster Classic. There are only 3 weeks separating the 2 races and there is no doubt that the small recuperation time can be taxing, particularly when facing a strong Arc contingent. This is the question mark regarding Camelot; how fit and rested will he be for the race? If he is 100%, he will win orelse he'll be in the placings.

Orfevre, Japanese superstar, maybe not on the same level as Deep Impact, but the best to grace Longchamp since the Sunday Silence wonder horse. He won this trial when not fully wound up a few weeks ago and indications are that he's improved a bunch and will be in top form. He's clearly class, he will be ridden by Soumillon and distance will suit. He looks prime to run a huge race. He should be in the first 3, like Camelot.

Saonois is the best French 3-year old and winner of the French Derby. He was impressive in winning the Prix Niel, considered the main trial for the Arc. He produced an instant acceleration in the last metres of the race after having been held boxed in the straight. Not many other horses would have been able to do that. Saonois must be respected as many French 3-year old colts have shown their mettle in the race over the years.

Shareta is the best remaining filly in the race after the defections of Snow Fairy and Danedream. She was a surprise second last year and she seems even better this year. She won the Prix Vermeille in good style and any reproduction of that form should see her play a major role. She has got a great cruising speed and her ability to stay close to the pace could put her in clear daylight in the straight and not be reached . If she's on song, she could strike strike big for the Aga Khan.

I think Camelot and Orfevre have to be in any trifecta. This could be the day that Japan finally lands the race that it wants most to win. It won the Dubai World Cup, it won the Melbourne Cup, but this is the trophy that it really wants; for prestige, for the record books and posterity. I don't know if it will happen, but I sure will be rooting for Orfevre to achieve what no other Japanese horse has done in the history of the race. May the Sun rise on Arc Day!

Place: Camelot, Orfevre

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