It’s raining at Longchamp as we close in on the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, and that significantly changes the dynamics of not only the feature contest on Sunday, but all the other big races that support the Arc.
On the basis that she wasn’t going to be able to show her best on the prevailing ground, confidence in Love already appeared to have evaporated before news broke of her withdrawal on Thursday.
The dual Oaks winner won’t get her chance to stop Enable’s hat-trick bid, but I was not planning to lay a three-year-old filly of such obvious class at 4.0+ on the exchanges given the recent record of such animals in this race.
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With Love out of the picture, Enable’s price has of course come in but she is far too short now, especially as conditions are going to blunt her speed. The juice has also now gone out of the price of stablemate Stradivarius, although I do think everything is coming right for him now. I certainly wouldn’t be put off by the booking of Olivier Peslier.
As the race draws nearer, I’m also warming to the chances of last year’s third, Sottsass, who has been building up to peak form with each start this year and there are no ground worries for him, while his trainer is making some pretty encouraging noises about his chances.
Win or lose, I expect him to post his biggest performance of the season which is probably the reason why jockey Cristian Demuro has chosen to ride him instead of Raabihah, who is better than she was able to show in her trial but she hasn’t raced on ground anything like what she faces this weekend.
So, when it comes to the other Group 1 races at Longchamp on Sunday, which horses are going to benefit or suffer from the worsening of conditions? Well, let’s spin through them.
Prix de la Foret
Earthlight coped well with heavy ground when winning the Prix Morny (6f) last year but he was beaten on his only try in Group 1 company this year and there has to be a fear that the combination of this trip on stamina-sapping ground might just stretch him. He looks worth taking on at the top of the market.
Everything seems to be falling into place for One Master who has won the last two running’s of this race and she loves to get her toe in. However, at bigger odds don’t rule out a big run from Safe Voyage who comes here at the peak of his powers having won Group 2’s at York and Leopardstown on his last two starts. He had One Master behind him in the City Of York Stakes and is a real seven-furlong specialist that will relish this test.
Prix de l’Opera
This is an extremely difficult race to assess given there are so many alternative options for these fillies, not least the Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket 24 hours earlier.
However, the performance of Alpine Star against the colts in the Prix du Haras de Fresnay-le-Buffard Jacques le Marois at Deauville marks her down as a standout contender for this event, should connections confirm her participation.
The Jessica Harrington-trained filly showed a fantastic attitude to get within three-quarters of a length of brilliant miler Palace Pier and although she might not have loved the deep ground at Deauville that day, she at least proved that she can run right up to her best on it. She would have to be in the shake up if replicating that level of form back against her own sex.
Testing conditions would make this a proper test which would certainly help Fancy Blue, but even in a fiercely run Matron Stakes she found the mile too sharp, so connections may well decide to go up in trip with her.
Aidan O’Brien won this race with Rhododendron in 2017 but I would be a little surprised if he ran Peaceful, currently second favourite in ante-post betting lists, given her clear preference for a sound surface.
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Prix de l’Abbaye
This is a real draw race and even the likes of superstar sprinter Battaash will struggle if he doesn’t land a low draw. To underline the importance of the draw, last year’s first four home were drawn 3, 1, 4, 5.
So it’s obviously not a race to bet on until gate positions are known, but softening conditions will be music to the ears of connections of last year’s winner, Glass Slippers. Kevin Ryan’s star filly returned to something like her best by landing the Derrinstown Stud Flying Five Stakes at The Curragh a couple of weeks ago and it looks like the three-year-old is primed to make a bold bid to regain her crown.
As for Battaash, well he’s burnt the fingers of favourite backers in the last two editions of this race so it’s understandable that he’s on the slide a touch in the betting. He would win this with something to spare if at his best and landing a low draw but there are obvious risks attached to taking short odds about him.
Improving filly Que Amoro gave Battaash a bit of a fright in the Nunthorpe but she has been kept away from testing ground throughout her career, which has to be a worry.