A COMBINATION of drying ground and a weaker-than-expected field for Sunday’s Group One Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (3.05pm) leaves the door ajar for an outsider.
Market leader Ace Impact, a general 3/1 shot and as short as 5/2 with some firms, deserves his place at the head of the betting, but there is a question mark over his stamina.
He produced a blistering turn of foot to win the French Derby by three-and-a-half lengths and was then well in command at the finish last time out in the Prix Guillaume d’Ornano.
He wasn’t tying up in either of those impressive performances over 1m2½f and 1m2f, so connections will be fairly confident of him taking the step up to 1m4f in his stride, but it’s still a trip into the unknown for the son of Cracksman.
Despite the ground being much better than you’d expect in Paris at this time of the year, a truly run 1m4f still takes some getting and he’s just a bit too short in the betting to take a chance on.
There’s a lot to like about Hukum, who’s second in the market at 9/2, but connections would like to have seen some late September rain as opposed to the unseasonably warm dry spell on offer in France’s capital this week.
He and 6/1-shot Westover both enjoyed getting their toe into the softer conditions at Ascot when separated by just a head in the King George earlier this year, but the pair of them might just be tapped for toe on this quicker surface.
Bay Bridge, although impressive when stepping up to 1m4f for the first time in the September Stakes at Kempton last time out, is another who would appreciate a bit of cut underfoot.
St Leger and Great Voltigeur winner Continuous has plenty going for him, but his price has collapsed from 9/1 to 6/1 already this week and isn’t that appealing stepping back in trip.
The other thing to consider is that there are a clutch of stars missing from this year’s race.
The likes of Auguste Rodin, King Of Steel, Equinox and Desert Crown are all missing from the team sheet, as are fillies such as Soul Sister and Savethelastdance.
With those absentees and a few questions to be answered by the more fancied runners, SIMCA MILLE stands out as a cracking each-way bet at 16/1 with Betfred, who are offering a standout four places on the race.
On paper, Stephane Wattel’s son of Tamayuz might look like a left-field selection, but the four-year-old ticks a lot of boxes.
He’s a Group One winner over the trip, including last time out when landing the Grosser Preis von Berlin with a bit in hand, is at his best on good ground, and his form at Longchamp reads 2112.
Wattel’s decision to swerve the King George at Ascot, where the ground was deemed unsuitably soft, could prove a masterstroke come Sunday afternoon.
That turned out to be a very tough race for the duelling Hukum and Westover, while Continuous, although arriving in good form, is aiming to be the first horse in history to do the Arc-St Leger double in the same season.
Simca Mille e/w ParisLongchamp 3:05pm Sunday