Friday, October 4, 2013

Arc de Triomphe 2013 - The Revenge of Orfevre?

Sunday's Arc de Triomphe is the highlight of the racing calendar for me and it looks set to be a fascinating renewal with some major contenders on the line. But the main question has to be with Orfevre, the Japanese mega-star and unlucky runner-up of last year's edition. To me, if the "Crazy Horse" is in top form and in the right frame of mind on the day, there will be no race; he has the potential to crush the field, he is that good.

Here are some of my thoughts on the main aspirants to the throne.

Orfevre. Much has been written about his heartbreak loss last year. Trainer Ikee somewhat gave closure to why he threw the race away this week. No, it was not a lack of stamina or a running out of gas as many speculated, since he accelerated and galloped away after the finish line. It was the flawed genius with his antics again. His prep Prix Foy win a few weeks ago looked convincing, allowing for the premise that he has retained his ability and might even be a better horse this year with an enhanced mental. This year, he has an ideal post and the soft ground will be of no detriment, unlike with some others. Unless he has an off-day and fails to fire, I cannot see him out of the first 3. He is head-and-shoulders the best horse in the race.

Treve. Unless she turns out to have Zarkava-like abilities, I cannot put her on a pedestal that many others are inclined to do. She is unbeaten in 4 and has looked dominant in the Prix Diane and Prix Vermeille but I have some reservations on the form book there. Soft ground won't be a problem to her but her very wide draw should be of concern to her backers. Orfevre easily overcame that issue last year but it won't be easy for a 3-year old filly running first time against males. I don't believe the switch of mount from Dettori to Jarnet will make a difference as she's won with the latter on 3 occasions. She is classy and can make the frame, but she's a definite lay in my books for the win.

Novellist. He rose to the top of the European middle-distance division by trouncing the King George in record-time. Then, he labored to win at Baden Baden prompting many questions about his real quality. Again here, my view is somewhat contrarian to most. While I cannot argue that he lowered the time scale by 2 seconds at Ascot, I've got to ask who he beat; Trading Leather, Universal, Hillstar are certainly not genuine Group 1 performers. Jockey Murtagh says he was impressed with the horse at Ascot and though I certainly respect his views on most matters, I've got to wonder whether his view is distorted by the fact that the facile win was against average opposition. At Baden Baden, his hard-fought win was dismissed as a prep for the Arc but it could very well be that he was either past his peak form or the race was a reflection of his true ability. Still, having won 9 out of 11 races and being a strong German-bred, he's got to be respected, but while he might be in the placings, he's another lay for the win for me.

Kizuna. He's a Japanese Derby winner by Deep Impact and won the Prix Niel by a nose. I have him several notches behind Orfevre at this point and his current odds are way too short. I am willing to lay him for both the win and placings.

Ruler of the World. The Derby winner looked an unlucky second to Kizuna in the Niel, having endured a torrid trip to the finish line. The main question is how good he really is? The form at Epsom is certainly  not transpiring very well and he could be just a good horse. The fact that stablemate Leaing Light has been supplemented indicates that connections must not be too confident either. He will have to benefit from exceptional circumstances to win this. I don't think he will make the frame.

Al Kazeem.  He will relish the soft ground but the extreme-wide draw killed most of his chances today. He is a solid top-class horse that has done well since the start of the season but he hasn't faced horses like this before. Certainly a big lay for the win at current odds

Intello. He's the big question mark of the race for me. There are doubts about his stamina based on his pedigree, being by a Danehill sprinter mare. He's definitely top drawer and if his class can carry him through, he will be a major player. The indications are strong that he was not initially prepared for the race and was destined for the major 8 to 10 furlong Group races where he's excelled. However, the flop of flag bearer Flintshire in the Niel probably prompted trainer Fabre to divert his course to the Arc. I cannot have him as a Win based on his preparation but it wouldn't surprised me if he finished in the frame.

Flintshire. He was the major disappointment of the Prix Niel where he was supposed to show his credentials as a major player in the Arc. It could be that the soft ground played to his disadvantage on the day but the ground will not get any better on Sunday. Trainer Fabre has opined that Intello is his best chance, so it's hard to side with this representative of Juddmonte stables.

Leading Light. St Leger winner but I doubt he is good enough to win this. Being by Montjeu and having been supplemented, he's got to be respected but I don't share the confidence of the connections. He's a big lay for me.

It's got to be Orfevre for me, with the hope that he shows his true best on Sunday. If he succeeds where every Japanese runner, including the mighty Deep Impact, has failed, you can expect the roof to come down with the staunch army of Japanese supporters at Longchamp. It could be an Arc for the ages and Orfevre carries the hope of a nation. The "Crazy Horse" can do it. For the placings, I will go with Novellist and Intello.

Win: Orfevre
Place: Novellist, Intello
Lay for Win: Kizuna, Al Kazeem, Treve, Novellist, Ruler of the World, Leading Light

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