The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, run over one and a half miles at Longchamp in Paris is the most valuable race in Europe and invariably attracts the elite middle distance talent from all parts of the globe (3.30pm, Sunday) .
This year’s renewal features contenders from Great Britain, Ireland, Germany and Japan, as well as a strong home contingent and promises to be a fascinating contest of champions.
Last year’s impressive winner Treve (10/1), trained by Criquette Head-Maarek, is an obvious starting point. The daughter of Motivator quickened clear in the closing stages to beat Orfevre by five lengths last year and, although not in the same form so far this season, her trainer has made no secret of the fact that the objective has always been to make her a double Arc winner.
Treve was surprisingly beaten at odds-on in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, but wasn’t knocked about on her most recent start at Longchamp three weeks ago and apparently came through her final piece of work with flying colours. Frankie Dettori will be replaced by Thierry Jarnet, as he was last year, when injured, and the partnership looks to have bright prospects of a repeat performance if the filly is truly 100% sound.
Another filly, the Epsom Oaks winner Taghrooda (6/1), may prove the pick of the opposition. She, too, was turned over at long odds-on by Tapestry (supplemented for this race at a cost of €120,000 to connections) in the Darley Yorkshire Oaks in August. Trainer John Gosden recently revealed that she was just holding back on the fast ground at York and jockey Paul Hanagan mentioned she was just coming into season.
Certainly, if Taghrooda is back to the form that saw her become the first filly for 38 years to win the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot, she’ll be a very tough nut to crack. Gosden said afterwards that she is the best filly he has ever trained over middle distances and, if that’s the case, she commands maximum respect.
There are any number of viable alternatives, not least Ectot (6/1), trained by French-based Elie Lellouche, who has won both starts this season, including the Group 2 Prix Niel over course and distance three weeks ago on his first start since April. The son of Hurricane Run (who, himself, won the Arc in 2005) took the step up to a mile and a half in his stride on that occasion, winning a shade cosily, and remains open to significant improvement over middle distances. Al Shaqab Racing purchased a 50% stake in him immediately prior to the Prix Niel and their investment could reap huge rewards.
Of those at longer odds, I must confess to having a soft spot for St Leger winner Kingston Hill (20/1), whom I backed in the 2,000 Guineas, the Derby and the Eclipse but not – yes, you guessed it – when he won the St Leger. In truth, he probably needs soft ground over a mile and a half against opposition of this calibre but, even so, he could surprise a few better-fancied rivals and seems overpriced.
Another who appeals as a prospective each-way shot is Frankie Dettori’s mount Ruler Of The World (14/1). Last year’s Derby winner has been aimed specifically for this race, and that actually is not the usual policy with Aidan O’Brien. If the policy reaps its reward at the chief expense of Treve, the filly Dettori was jocked off, there will be one happy Italian on this Irish horse in France.
If you really want to go for it then there is a multiple Group 1 winner being totally ignored by both bookmakers and punters. Al Kazeem (66/1) is at silly odds and I can’t help think he is a far better horse than Youmzain, who was an Arc runner-up three times. Al Kazeem has taken some mighty scalps in his career. While it could be argued that he is not so good since he returned from a failed attempt at stallion duties, he was an eye-catching sixth in this race last year when he got a horrible trip, the worst draw and everything went wrong for him.
Sentiment aside, notwithstanding her shock York defeat for which there were a couple of excuses, TAGHROODA looks pretty solid. It will be strange to see former northern-based jockey Paul Hanagan win an Arc but our betting tips advice is to back John Gosden’s filly to win at best odds of 6/1 with either Coral or Ladbrokes.