SUNDAY’S Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe now looks set to be run on unusually quick ground with Paris having been bathed in sunshine all week. John Gosden’s Nathaniel, a mudlark who was originally many people’s idea of the possible winner, will stay at home and his place is now taken by stablemate Masked Marvel.
The St Leger winner, a best-priced 16/1 for the 12 furlong contest, will love the fast ground, but may just lack the star quality to land arguably Europe’s biggest flat race of the season. That said, the one thing he does have in his favour is that he is part of the three-year-old generation that is responsible for 14 of the last 17 winners.
The final declarations for the race will be made this morning, as will the all-important barrier draw. It is important to remember that only two winners in the last 10 years have been drawn out wider than eight. The main reason for this is that it can often be a race where making up ground late is hard and those switched off out the back can encounter trouble.
Now, there is no better example of this than big race favourite Sarafina, who many feel may have beaten Workforce 12 months ago when an ‘unlucky in-running’ third. She showed she was in good heart with a cheeky win in the Prix Foy last time, but makes very little appeal at the 5/2 currently available with Ladbrokes.
If you fancy her, you look sure to be able to back her at a bigger price in-running on Betdaq as she’ll be held up and is sure to have a wall of horses in front of her again as they turn in. If the gaps open, she is without doubt the one they all have to beat, but that’s a big ‘if’ at such a short price.
Aidan O’Brien’s global superstar So You Think is next best in most lists at around 9/2, but looked rather laboured in Ireland last time and I’m not sure how well the Ballydoyle non-juvenile team are running. Workforce would almost certainly appreciate some rain, while Snow Fairy would appeal over a mile and a quarter against her own sex.
That leaves Galikova who seems to improve with every run and Andre Fabre’s MEANDRE who has been supplemented for the race at huge expense. The former is now as short as 6/1 and she needs to improve dramatically again to take a hand here.
Meandre’s form as a two-year-old was nothing to write home about and I’m not sure connections would have ever dreamed of coughing up nearly £100,000 to run their horse in Europe’s richest race if asked 12 months ago. Our selection beat only two home in a Conditions race at Compiegne last November on his final start of a winless campaign.
However, Meandre hasn’t finished out of the first two in six starts this season and won the Group One Grand Prix de Paris in July beating the French and Irish Derby winners comfortably.
It’s that run that I’m focusing on as he had the ability to track a lightning fast pace and quicken-up impressively at the business end – all the necessary qualities needed to win on Sunday. His most recent defeat behind Reliable Man last time can be put down to the ground, muddling pace and the fact that his yard had been under a cloud. In fact, his trainer admitted after the race that he had missed work the previous week.
Fabre has won this race a record seven times and he wouldn’t have recommended the Rothschild Family to stump up such a huge sum to supplement Meandre if he wasn’t in sparkling form. He is terrific value each-way at 12/1 with Ladbrokes.
Looking at tomorrow’s action and Roger Varian appears to have found ELZAAM the ideal chance to get back to winning ways in Ascot’s John Best Bengough Stakes at 3.15pm. He’s been trying his luck in Group One company on his last three starts and will appreciate the drop in class, small field and decent ground. At a bigger price, I wouldn’t be surprised to see old-timer War Artist chase him home on ground he loves.
Only 18 runners go to post for the Challenge Cup at 3.50pm with Smarty Socks and Eton Forever currently battling it out for favouritism. The former has to contend with another hike in the weights, while the latter needs more juice in the ground to be seen at his best. I’m taking each-way chances on PASTORAL PLAYER at 12/1 and ATLANTIC SPORT at 25/1. Both love Ascot and seem to have been given a chance by the handicapper.
Over at Newmarket, SAMITAR should win the big fillies Sales race (2.25pm), if she doesn’t feel the exertions of last week’s cracking run in the Fillies Mile.
We’re now just two weeks away from the QIPCO British Champions’ Day and the excitement is really beginning to build. The highlight for many will be Frankel in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, as he seeks to make it four straight Champions’ Series Mile wins.
You can follow me on Twitter @BillEsdaile.
SAMITAR 2.25pm Newmarket (tomorrow)
ELZAAM 3.15pm Ascot (tomorrow)
ATLANTIC SPORT e/w 3.50pm Ascot (tomorrow)
PASTORAL PLAYER e/w 3.50pm Ascot (tomorrow)
MEANDRE e/w 3.15pm Longchamp (Sunday)