THE defection of three of this year’s leading contenders in Snow Fairy, Nathaniel and 2011 winner Danedream has taken away some of the lustre from the prestigious Prix De L’Arc De Triomphe on Sunday (3.25pm). The trio, ruled out through injury or, in Danedream’s case, after a virus outbreak in her native Germany, should have made this one of the most competitive Arcs for years.
However, the will-he-won’t-he saga surrounding this year’s 2000 Guineas and Derby winner Camelot has ended. Aidan O’Brien confirmed the Montjeu colt a starter with Frankie Dettori riding. That has seen the three-year-old, beaten in the St Leger in his Triple Crown attempt, come in for sustained support and he is now jostling for favouritism with Japanese raider Ofevre.
I can’t have those two at the prices with Ofevre too short after an Arc trial win that told us very little. He is a class act but the four-year-old has to concede weight to the Classic generation who have won 15 of the last 18 renewals. Camelot had a hard race at Doncaster and rarely does a horse win this race as an afterthought.
Although the age group do have a great record in the contest, this year’s three-year-olds aren’t a vintage bunch. The likes of Saonois, Masterstoke and Kesampour have it to prove and in SHARETA we might just strike gold.
The daughter of Sinndar, the Arc winner in 2000, may be four but gets a weight allowance from the males. She was considered the Aga Khan’s second-string in the race last year, going off 66/1, but plugged on well to keep second having made the pace. She has proved that effort was no fluke with a series of solid efforts in top company since and arrives on the back of two Group One successes. Shareta’s form in the French capital reads 1321 and a repeat of her performance 12 months ago should see Alain De Royer-Dupre’s tough filly at least hit the frame at 7/1 with Coral.
The Prix De L’Abbaye over five furlongs looks a difficult race to start the day but HAMISH MCGONAGALL makes plenty of appeal. Unlike a lot of sprinters Tim Easterby’s charge always runs his race and he hasn’t been overlooked by bookmakers, as short as 12/1 with Coral.
WHAT A NAME at 2.05pm is unbeaten over this seven-furlong trip and was impressive at Longchamp last time out. The Mikel Delzangles-trained filly is taken to beat the boys who, on the whole, look a pretty exposed bunch. Aidan O’Brien won this race five times in six years between 2001 and 2006 but both his entries, George Vancouver and Pedro The Great, are unproven over the distance.
The last horse to catch my eye is GORDON LORD BYRON in the Prix De La Foret (4.55pm) in what must be one of the weakest Group One’s for years. Only Starspangledbanner has won at the highest level before and that was back in July 2010. After a failed stud career the Australian import returned to a bit of form in Ireland last time but whether he wants such a test of stamina is open to debate.
My selection has improved tremendously over the past season and his Listed success over this distance two starts ago was mightily impressive. He ran a cracker on ground that would have been too quick in the Haydock Sprint Cup and, back on this softer surface, the Irish gelding should make a bold bid.
HAMISH MCGONAGALL e/w 12.55pm (Sunday)
WHAT A NAME 2.05pm (Sunday)
SHARETA e/w 3.25pm (Sunday)
GORDEON LORD BYRON 4.55pm (Sunday)