Saturday, October 4, 2014

Arc de triomphe 2014 - Can a Prince upset the fillies, the Japanese, and the odds?

The Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, my favourite race, as regular readers will know. Sure, there won't be Australia or Sea The Moon, but this year's race is without doubt a vintage one regrouping several top-class horses with a chance to enter racing folklore by winning the world's most prestigious prize. Here are my thoughts on those I consider the main protagonists as well as those that are at the forefront of the market but which I don't give much of chance.

Taghrooda, Britain's best filly, is the rightful favourite for the race.  Three-year old fillies have a fantastic record in this race, notably because of the generous weight allowance in their favour. She's only been floored once in her career and the word from trainer John Gosden is that she was in season when beaten by Tapestry on that occasion. She has beaten males and her elders in the King George and is by far the best middle-distance filly in the world in my opinion. She has such great tactical speed that her bad draw should not be a factor. Provided she's not in season again, she should play a leading role here and I see her in the first 3.

Ectot is clearly Hurricane Run's best progeny to date. The mile and a half is his optimum distance. A winner of 6 of his 7 races, his Classic career has been beset by injuries. He won the Prix Niel three weeks ago after several months layoff. On his best day, he should be in with a leading chance. My only worry about him is whether he will bounce from his last race, having come up with a big winning effort after a long layoff. If he does not bounce, don't be surprised if he wins this.

Harp Star. The best Classic filly from Japan and definitely one with a live chance if she takes to the Longchamp track. As with other 3-year old fillies, the weight allowance will play to her advantage. By Deep Impact, she should relish the distance. She's top-class and could be the one to realize the Japanese dream of finally winning the Arc.

Just A Way. The highest-rated horse in the world and possibly the best horse going up to a mile and a quarter. He is not proven at the mile and a half distance and that is a big negative for me. Although he is a live chance for many, in my books he's the one with the least prospect of winning among the Japanese raiders. He thrashed them all in the Dubai Duty Free at Meydan but the added distance will have others see him out.

Avenir Certain. Unbeaten in 6 career races, she is the best Classic filly in France having won the French Guineas and Oaks. The only un-certainty regarding her is the distance and being by Le Havre does not dispel doubts about her stamina. The way she won her 2 races at a mile and a quarter seems to indicate that she will have enough class to see out the twelve-furlong distance. She's been drawn in stall 1 and will need to ensure that she finds the necessary passage at the right time. I think she's top-class and will be in the first 3.

Treve. 3 outings and 3 defeats this year, no-one thought that she would have gone downhill to that extent after winning this race a year ago. This week, her connections gave yet another round of positive vibes about her, but after 3 comprehensive defeats, it's hard to take those with confidence. Dettori, her jocked-off rider says she's gone, and I will concur with him. I think she is no longer the same filly as last year and retirement will be the route to take with her.

Tapestry. Supplemented with a hefty sum at the final declaration of the race, so the Coolmore boys must be confident. They have every reason to be after she shocked Tahgrooda on her last outing although there seems to be excuses from the beaten connections (see above). Still, she race a fantastic race on that occasion. She's been beaten since then but at an unsuitable mile distance. With everything said, I am camping with the thought that Taghrooda is the one to side with and thus I don't see Coolmore celebrating in the end.

Gold Ship. A top-class Japanese middle-distance performer who is capable of some quirky races, not no to the extent of Orfevre's follies. His chances should be similar to Harp Star and the two dug out a closely-fought duel this year with the filly coming out on top by a slight margin. Cannot be dismissed by any means and many Japanese will be rooting for him to break their duck.

Ruler of the World. He is a Derby winner and recent of the Prix Foy, one of the main Arc trials. Will be ridden by Dettori who's very bullish on him. I am not. I think he's overhyped and will find the others much too good.

Kingston Hill. The St Leger winner should be out of depth here. Many Leger winners have failed and he's destined to be the same.

Prince Gibraltar. He is 40/1 as I write this. A summary of him will be as follows: he's been a favourite of the French Derby and the Grand Prix de Paris and got beaten (with excuse) on both of them. He was then heavy favourite of a Group 2 race and was again beaten. Is he an over-hyped horse or just unlucky? The truth seems somewhere in between. He is no easy mount, usually hangs left at the finish, and has had back problems. Provided his trainer has worked on those, this is a horse that has a fantastic turn of foot and for whom the distance will not be a problem. If he shows up on his best day, he should be thereabouts at the finish. I think he's the dark horse going in this race and under the radar for that matter at 40/1.

Prince Gibraltar is an each-way selection and I will have him, Taghrooda and Avenir Certain in the first 3.

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