A FAR wiser man than me once quipped “The fewer the facts, the stronger the opinion” and that perfectly describes my attempt to pick the winner of Sunday's Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (3.15pm) ahead of this morning’s all important draw with the added uncertainty over the weather thrown in.
The prestigious contest is the race of the season with, at the time of writing, the top 10 in the market all previous winners at the highest level.
With 19 runners, the draw is crucial. Only one winner in 11 years has won from a berth higher than nine.
Japanese raider Orfevre came within a quarter-of-a-length of pulling off a miracle from trap 18 last year and the five-year-old is favourite to gain compensation 12 months on. He looked smart winning the Prix Foy again and it’s hard to envisage that he won’t be involved in the finish.
The main reason I’m not backing him at 5/2 with Coral is his temperament. He threw glory away last year by hanging and I’m nervous backing horses in France that wander under pressure with such notoriously officious stewarding.
Then there’s the stat that 60 horses in the last 25 years have returned to Paris having been beaten in the race the previous year. All were beaten again.
Treve is respected as an unbeaten filly who has two Group One victories from four starts. However, she is short enough for her toughest test and meets the boys for the first time.
When I left Ascot in July after the King George, I was convinced I’d seen the Arc winner in NOVELLIST and I haven’t changed my mind. The four-time Group One winner has triumphed on ground ranging from quick to bottomless. He travels well and has the ability to quicken at the business end.
He looks a decent proposition each-way at 11/2 with Coral and may even be bigger on the day.
And don’t miss MOONLIGHT CLOUD (4.40pm) at odds-against in the Prix de la Foret. She’s in a different league to her rivals and can land a sixth Group One victory.
Tomorrow’s UK action is also threatened by rain but one horse who should give his running is DOC HAY at Ascot (1.30pm).
David O’Meara’s horse won this race last year and warmed up for his defence with a good victory at Ripon last time out.
I’m happy to leave the Challenge Cup (3.50pm) alone for now but keep an eye on my Twitter as I’ll post my thoughts nearer the time.
Up at Redcar they host their feature of the season, the six-furlong Listed Two-Year-Old Trophy (3.30pm), and AZAGAL can give the Tim Easterby yard back-to-back winners after Body And Soul in 2012.
She was unlucky to get chinned by 100/1 outsider Morning Post in a big sales races at York when I put her up. She should go well back over this trip.
Remember to follow me on Twitter @BillEsdaile. I put up winners at 16/1and 12/1 last week and will have a few more selections when I know the weather.
Looking ahead to Ascot’s QIPCO Champions Day on 19 October and the event won’t just be celebrating racing success. There will be a special one-day exhibition celebrating champions from the sporting world. The Jules Rimet trophy, the FA Cup, the Ashes urn, the Ballon D’Or and the rugby league Challenge Cup are a selection of those on show. To buy tickets visit www.tickets.ascot.co.uk
DOC HAY e/w 1.30pm Ascot
AZAGAL e/w 3.30pm Redcar
NOVELLIST e/w 3.15pm Longchamp (Sunday)
MOONLIGHT CLOUD 4.40pm Longchamp (Sunday)