The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is the highlight of the European flat season. The field of 17 lining up at Longchamp on Sunday (3.15pm) contains talent aplenty, including some from well beyond Europe.
Orfevre is the 2/1 favourite, bidding to become the first Japanese trained horse to take the Arc. Last year he came second by a neck to Carlos Laffon-Parias’ Solemia after having the worst possible draw, starting in stall 18. This five-year-old son of Stay Gold has been carefully campaigned by Yasutoshi Ikee. He has won his only two starts this season. Most recently he cruised home over course and distance in the Group 2 Prix Foy on 15 September. He beat Alban de Mieulle’s Very Nice Name extremely easily by three lengths without being fully extended on unsuitably soft ground.
He is up against it on two fronts on Sunday. Only one five year old has won the Arc in the past 20 years, Saeed Bin Suroor’s Marienbard in 2002. Orfevre has also broken blood vessels in the past, most recently in his work at home in June and also when narrowly beaten in the Arc last year. Any horse that has bled has to be treated with caution, especially on softish ground. He is obviously talented and has a single figure draw this year but does not provide any value at his current price.
The other Japanese contender seems likely to perform well. Shozo Sasaki’s Kizuna (7/1) looked to be carrying plenty of condition when landing the Group 2 Prix Niel at Longchamp on the same day as his compatriot’s run. He beat Aidan O’Brien’s Ruler Of The World by a short head.
This three-year-old son of Deep Impact (who came third in the 2006 Arc but was subsequently disqualified after a drugs test) had not been seen since his Japanese Derby win in Tokyo in May. He had won his previous two starts in Group company in Japan. He has shown that he can perform on soft and looks likely to have come on for the run.
The second favourite, German trainer Andreas Wohler’s Novellist (4/1 – late update: Novellist is a non-runner) could be a serious contender. His victory in the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in July was extremely impressive. He beat the Irish Derby winner, Jim Bolger’s Trading Leather by five lengths.
He also won his most recent start in a Group 1 (also over a mile and a half) on good ground at Baden-Baden in workmanlike rather than spectacular fashion. Wohler was keen to point out that it was a prep run and has been very bullish about his work at home since. This four-year-old son of Monsun is unbeaten this season and has four Group 1 victories under his belt, two of them on soft ground. It would not be a surprise to see him add another. He has the man of the moment, Johnny Murtagh, on board but has to overcome a double figure draw.
Criquette Head-Maarek’s unbeaten filly, Treve (5/1), attracted strong support after her stylish Group 1 Prix Vermeille victory over course and distance on 15 September. She beat Lady Cecil’s Wild Coco by nearly two lengths on soft ground. Head-Maarek believes that the filly has ‘improved enormously’ since the race.
In her previous run in the Group 1 Prix de Diane at Chantilly in June, this three-year-old daughter of Motivator was equally impressive. She has been campaigned exclusively in fillies’ races to date. Only on Sunday will we see how she compares with the colts. Thierry Jarnet regains the ride after Frankie Dettori’s ill-timed injury, and that can only aid her cause.
Looking at the stats, fillies have won three of the past five Arcs. Two of them, Danedream and Zarkava, were three year olds at the time. Prior to Zarkava’s victory in 2008 you have to go back 15 years to find a female winner. It was Urban Sea, dam of Sea The Stars, who triumphed as a four year old in 1993. All four of these fillies benefited from a single figure draw. Treve is drawn in stall 15.
André Fabre has an outstanding Arc record and bids to win it for an eighth time with five runners on Sunday. The French Derby winner, Intello (12/1), is the most fancied of his string. He won his latest start, the Group 3 Prix du Prince d’Orange at Longchamp over a mile and two furlongs on September 21. He beat Jean-Claude Rouget’s Morandi by three quarters of a length. He previously came third by one and three quarter lengths in the Group 1 Prix Jacques Le Marois at Deauville. It was won by Freddy Head’s Moonlight Cloud.
Intello’s only Group 1 win was in the French Derby, run over a mile and two and a half furlongs at Chantilly in June. He had not been tried over such a long distance before and has not since. This three year old by Galileo has sprinters on his dam’s side. It is far from guaranteed that he will stay the extra furlong and a half on Sunday.
Fabre also saddles Flintshire (14/1) who was a disappointing favourite in the Prix Niel, finishing fourth to Kizuna by two lengths. This three-year-old son of Dansili won his previous race, the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris over course and distance in July – but that was on good ground. His form strongly suggests that he needs it so conditions are against him.
Aidan O’Brien’s Leading Light (12/1), supplemented on Thursday, has stamina in abundance. He won his only Group 1 start, the St Leger at Doncaster on 14 September and previously took the two mile Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot. This three-year-old son of Montjeu has won five of his six lifetime starts. He was only beaten on his debut over an inadequate mile last season.
Whilst he has posted two Group 3 wins on good to firm, Leading Light’s high knee action suggests that he will thrive in soft ground. A very testing surface will also bring his proven stamina into play. If more rain arrives at Longchamp he has to be one for the shortlist.
O’Brien also sends out the Epsom Derby winner, Ruler Of The World (12/1). He was subsequently disappointing in the Irish Derby but now seems to be back on form. He was only a short head behind Kizuna in the Prix Niel after encountering traffic problems. This three-year-old son of Galileo handles a soft surface well and has the benefit of the perfect draw. He is drawn in stall six, the starting point of four recent Arc winners. He will benefit from the expert assistance of Ryan Moore.
Arc Betting Tips Conclusion & Advice
It looks certain to be a closely contested race this year, making the draw more significant than ever. Only two horses in the past 20 renewals have succeeded from a double figure draw. That record suggests that Treve and Kizuna are more likely to place than win.
The favourite, Orfevre has a good draw but only one five year old has won in the same time period and soft ground will not help his cause. The same can be said of Flintshire.
O’Brien’s Leading Light and Ruler Of The World are not only class acts but are the right age for the Arc and have been drawn well. Both look to provide good value but RULER OF THE WORLD at a current best price of 12/1 only with Coral seems to have the tactical speed that can prove decisive. He has to be our pick to live up to his name.
Fiona Derek is our Reality TV and horse racing expert. The only time you won’t find her riding or mucking out a racehorse is when she is watching Reality TV or racing on the box.