Kizuna's Arc Impact
Nic Doggett looks at the main contenders for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in October.
Last Updated: 24/07/13 5:17pm
Flintshire moved to favouritism for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe with victory in the Grand Prix de Paris, whilst Chicquita's Irish Oaks win franked the form for the chances of Treve. Nic Doggett takes a look at the main contenders as things stand.
Andre Fabre has dominated the Grand Prix de Paris over the last three decades, with his first of 12 winners coming in 1989. How Flintshire compares to those to have gone before him is pretty irrelevant, but more pertinent might be the statistic that three of Fabre's seven Arc winners won this trial and Trempolino (1989) was third.
Fabre says that the Dansili colt will follow the same route as Hurricane Run, taking in the Prix Niel next, but Saturday's race is a big deal when it comes to the Arc itself; so what did we find out?
Flintshire is tough. Although he has had four relatively quick runs (first career start in May), he looked very fresh and showed a nice turn of foot to settle the race quickly, despite some early jostling.
However the trainer himself has expressed doubts about the prospect of softer ground in the autumn and given his only defeat came on slower going, that seems a just concern. Conversely, as the owner's racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe pointed out, he is now a different and more mature horse.
Sticking with Fabre, or with the top of the ante-post markets if you prefer, and the colt Intello has a very different profile.
The winner of two starts as a juvenile, he may be more familiar to some domestic racing fans having landed the Fielden Stakes at Newmarket on his first start this year. He followed that up with a fine third in the French 2000 Guineas and has since won the Prix du Jockey Club and a Group Three at Maisons-Lafitte.
He will run in the Jacques le Marois next and it doesn't appear, certainly on paper, that he is a shoo-in to contest the Arc. He has plenty of talent, and would like the ground if it came up soft, but would he last home over the extra distance?
Prix du Jockey Club winners have been found out on a stamina front before and the son of Galileo isn't as stoutly-bred on his dam's side as some of his rivals; it's certainly a question mark.
The three year old filly Treve is well-fancied after blowing apart the Prix de Diane (French Oaks) with a startling turn of pace, breaking the track record in the process.
It was hard not to be impressed by that run, but her next start in the Prix Vermeille will be a sterner test against older horses. Note that five horses have done the Vermeille-Arc double, and that Solemia was third in the race (2012) before winning the Arc last year.
Treve's trainer, Criquette Mareek-Head, has played down her Arc chances at this stage, and the form of her French Oaks win hadn't really been tested before Chicquita's Irish Oaks victory (only two horses had run since, with both well-beaten although neither looked a good yardstick).
But she looks an exciting prospect at this stage and her price of 8/1 appeals more than the 6/1 of Intello.
Chicquita may herself head to the Vermeille and then the Arc, but Alain de Royer-Dupre's filly is a law unto herself, and it would take a brave person to back her in the Arc where any waywardness would be likely to cost her dear. She also has four lengths to find on Treve on their Chantilly run.
Moving further afield, and Orfevre will once again carry the hopes of a nation when he aims to go one better than when second last year to Solemia.
The Japanese superstar has a rather fantastic record, winning nine and finishing second four times from 16 starts, and it was a heartbreaking loss 12 months ago for supporters as he looked to have the race in safe-keeping with 100 yards to run.
Christophe Soumillon knows him better now, having only had the experience of one prior ride before that race, and the Belgian will already be looking forward to weaving his way through the pack to pounce on the line - not much before.
His trainer Yasutoshi Ikee has confirmed that Soumillon keeps the ride and that the chestnut will run in the Prix Foy after recently recovering from a blood vessel scare, and there is every reason to believe that the colt will run a huge race, especially as better ground than last season's heavy will be in his favour.
Eventually onto a domestic challenger then, and Al Kazeem has taken the UK's mile and a half scene by storm this season.
Yes, it isn't the strongest of years on the middle-distance front, however Roger Charlton's star really has blossomed into a genuinely top-class horse. Three quick Group One races; three quick wins, including most recently, the Coral-Eclipse.
The Dubawi colt looks sure to appreciate a bit of a break before a glittering end of season campaign which may involve the Juddmonte at York and a trip to Leopardstown for the Irish Champion before France, and it would take a brave man to lay big prices about a double.
However they are both 10 furlong races, as all three of his starts have been so far this year, and one wonders whether the 12 furlong trip of the Arc will come as a bit of a shock, especially at the top level.
He has won over the distance before (2012 Jockey Club) but that wasn't a strongly-run race, nor one of the very highest quality, so nay-sayers may look to pick holes in that side of his profile.
Personally I'm not in that group, and I rate him very highly. Indeed at this stage I would have him and Orfevre as the pick of the aforementioned horses.
A lot of column inches have been dedicated to Telescope since he went off favourite for a well-regarded Ascot maiden last September, and following his subsequent Newmarket victory, the world was deemed to be at his feet.
However he was a long time in reappearing this season, making a belated entrance back onto the Arc scene with a Leicester stroll last week. Sir Michael Stoute himself said the race was "a bit inconclusive" and trying to second-guess the horse's future engagements is a lesson in futility itself.
So 16/1 about a horse with massive potential? Not for me. I'd want decent odds about him actually running in the race to be quite frank, given his injury history, his lack of experience, and the fact that he is yet to race over the trip.This weekend's King George may have an impact on the betting, as Grand Prix de Saint Cloud winner Novellist and Irish Derby winner Trading Leather bid to land the generous pot of gold on offer at Ascot and stress their Arc claims in the process, whilst forgotten horse Ruler Of The World, the Epsom Derby winner has only run one poor race. One imagines that the hustle and bustle of a big field in Paris may just suit him down to the ground; he shouldn't be 25/1, especially with slower ground likely to be in his favour.
So where does the value lie at this stage?
Japanase racing fans have always flooded to Paris to support their national heroes, and came so cloase last year with Orfevre. He must go close again, assuming that his injury worries are behind him, however there could easily be a new kid on the block in the form of 16/1 chance KIZUNA.
Shozo Sasaki's colt won the Japanese Derby in May with a storming late run, after which his rider, the great Yutake Take, explained: "Next, I want to make him be a world champion horse."
It's certainly possible, as the colt was held up that day off a stop-start gallop, and was switched to the outside (from the rail) for a clear run. He didn't get it, being stopped in his tracks in a fairly serious way, but once he saw daylight he finished powerfully and actually won a tad cosily.
"The Arc almost always favours 3-year-olds," said Sasaki, who won the Derby for his first time.
"(Kizuna is) so mentally strong, he can handle all the difficulties that go along with racing overseas which is why I asked the owner to enter him for the race."
As a son of Deep Impact, who was (a later disqualified) third in 2006, there is a sense of history and expectation behind his challenge for France's premier prize. It might be worth taking the 16/1 now.