An Arc Of Questions

Torquator Tasso | Emma Berry


   After the early retreat of Desert Crown (GB) (Nathaniel {Ire}) and mixed signals from the Classic generation in general this summer, Sunday's G1 Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe will provide more answers if not perhaps the categoric truth about how the generations compare on Sunday. In a fascinating renewal replete with conundrums, the best of the remaining 3-year-olds in action Luxembourg (Ire) (Camelot {GB}), Onesto (Ire) (Frankel {GB}), Vadeni (Fr) (Churchill {Ire}) and Westover (GB) (Frankel {GB}) pit their wits against the matured might of Titleholder (Jpn) (Duramente {Jpn}), Torquator Tasso (Ger) (Adlerflug {Ger}) and Alpinista (GB) (Frankel {GB}) among others. Any one of at least a dozen scenarios are plausible, particularly given the nature of conditions which are typically autumnal but all the same a shock to the system for those affected by the sudden jolt from the prolonged summer.

Winning Formula?

Given the gruelling nature of the Arc, the 3-year-old generation have always been best served by a summer break following the Classics. In the 1990s, Derby winners were almost expected to enjoy a mid-season sojourn before tackling this test and with the exception of Lammtarra that proved the correct format. Sinndar (Ire), Dalakhani (Ire), Bago (Fr) and Hurricane Run (Ire) continued that trend from the turn of the millennium and by accident Luxembourg fits the bill this time. More so than Onesto, Vadeni and compatriot Westover, Ballydoyle's G1 Irish Champion S. winner is fresh having spent the summer months in rehab. When Onesto and Vadeni went to Leopardstown, they had the edge of having respectively won a G1 Grand Prix de Paris and a G1 Eclipse S., so all power to Luxembourg for having overcome. Now he has to back it up off a work regimen that O'Brien would not be in a hurry to repeat.

Go West?

Despite the Irish Champion one-two-three and Eclipse win, the 3-year-olds have no absolute claim to dominance over their elders due to Westover and Emily Upjohn (GB) (Sea The Stars {Ire}) having been so disappointing in the only meaningful top-level clash of the generations over this trip in the King George. The former, who had looked such a bright Arc prospect when scoring by seven lengths in the Irish Derby, was guilty of over-racing there much as Juddmonte's former Arc hero Workforce (GB) (King's Best) had in 2010. If able to get back on track, he is the one member of his age group that is guaranteed to stay this trip with relish and jockey Rob Hornby had an interesting insight into the King George flop on Friday evening. “He was immediately running downhill at Ascot and can jump into the bridle, so I think with a bit of protection for the first two furlongs I can hopefully get him into a nice rhythm and then it's a case of following the right horses,” he said. “I have a lot of confidence in his stamina, he has that in abundance and will handle slower ground so hopefully that will play to his strengths.”

The Perfect Arc Candidate?

In an edition strangely thin on female representation, there is at least the reassuring presence of one who excels in ticking boxes. Kirsten Rausing's Alpinista has all ducks in a row, with five consecutive Group 1 prizes earned in Germany, France and England and even a kind draw handed to her in the final piece of the puzzle on Thursday. Her 4-year-old campaign was all about the pursuit of the three German Group 1s collected by her grandmother Albanova (GB) (Alzao) and, while she achieved that feat with metronomic consistency, it was only in hindsight that it was deemed a notable one. Creating only marginal public interest at the time of her defeats of Torquator Tasso and Mendocino (Ger) (Adlerflug {Ger}), she now boasts some of the contest's best form as a result and has been primed for this one target ever since. What the lack of a 5-year-old-winning mare in the last 85 years says about her chance is anyone's guess and probably means very little, but the fact is that Newmarket's legend Sir Mark Prescott who is venturing to ParisLongchamp for the first time in 21 years was not born when Corrida triumphed as a more mature vintage back in 1937.

The Adlerflug Connection

Torquator Tasso and Mendocino represent the much-missed Schlenderhan sire Adlerflug and along with live outsider Alenquer (Fr) combine to give him a presence in this year's renewal second only to Frankel who has a quartet. With In Swoop (Ire) going so close in 2020, this is a sire influence to take seriously in a race that is hand in glove for his prodigal sons. All three represent him strongly, with even M M Stables' G1 Tattersalls Gold Cup hero Alenquer impossible to discount going back up to a mile and a half for the first time since finishing a close sixth despite losing a front shoe in the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan Mar. 26. “He wasn't half the horse mentally he is now when he ran a decent race in this last year and won on bottomless ground at the Curragh,” jockey Tom Marquand said of Alenquer, who is fitted with blinkers for the first time and who if successful would be a monumental result for the William Haggas stable which held such a pivotal role in shaping this year's renewal. Mendocino, who would also be providing one of the contest's big stories if helping Rene Piechulek to back-to-back wins on two different horses, has the talent to make waves here. Stall Salzburg's chestnut has been expertly steered towards this prize by Sarah Steinberg and showed his mettle in the G1 Grosser Preis Von Baden, where he had to make up ground on Torquator Tasso in the most demanding part of the race. He is a more mature prospect than the one beaten just 3/4 of a length by the year-older Alpinista in November's G1 Grosser Preis Von Bayern at Munich.

Centenary Celebrations To Continue?

While Vadeni is rightly centre of attention on Sunday as the key representative of The Aga Khan's Studs in its 100th year in operation, the opening G1 Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere could be the best chance of seeing the famed emerald green silks in the winner's enclosure again. The Johnny Murtagh-trained G2 Railway S. winner Shartash (Ire) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}) suffered a coshing by the peerless Little Big Bear (Ire) (No Nay Never) in The Curragh's G1 Phoenix S. Aug. 6, but returned unbowed to run third in the Sept. 11 G1 Vincent O'Brien National S. over this seven-furlong trip. With an ideal draw, the homebred is poised to deal with Ballydoyle's hard-working The Antarctic (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}) and the key domestic player, Gerard Augustin-Normand and OTI Management's Sept. 4 G3 Prix la Rochette scorer Tigrais (Fr) (Outstrip  {GB}). “He's run in the two best Group 1s in Ireland and isn't far off them,” Murtagh said. “He needs to put it all together again and is a colt who I think will get through soft ground.”

Boussac Beauties

There are few things more satisfying in the autumn than the emergence of a new star filly in the G1 Qatar Prix Marcel Boussac, with the likes of Six Perfections (Fr) (Celtic Swing {GB}), Divine Proportions (Kingmambo), Finsceal Beo (Ire) (Mr. Greeley), Zarkava (Ire) (Zamindar) and Found (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) all issuing early warning of what was to follow. The Wertheimers' TDN Rising Star Kelina (Ire) (Frankel {GB}) is as exciting a juvenile as France possesses at present and despite not tackling black-type company has shown enough in two authoritative wins at Deauville Aug. 6 and Chantilly Sept. 10 to make her one of the country's leading hopes on the card. This is deep, however, and anything unexposed that is capable of downing Mohamed Saeed Al Shahi's Aug. 20 G2 Prix du Calvados  winner Wed (Fr) (Profitable {Ire}), Yeguada Centurion's Sept. 8 G3 Prix d'Aumale scorer Blue Rose Cen (Ire) (Churchill {Ire}), Gestut Fahrhof's Aug. 31 G3 Zukunfts-Rennen winner Habana (Ger) (Kingman {GB})–a second TDN Rising Star in the line-up–and Ballydoyle's July 21 G3 Silver Flash S. scorer Never Ending Story (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}) can legitimately boast genuine Classic prospects for 2023.

The Return Of Nashwa

   While there are surprisingly no 3-year-old fillies in the Arc, the one who could lay claim to being the best of those campaigned over middle distances is in a strong renewal of the G1 Prix de l'Opera Longines. Imad Al Sagar's TDN Rising Star Nashwa (GB) (Frankel {GB}) is kept to the original gameplan of this followed by a tilt at the Breeders' Cup and arrives in Paris fresh from a break having beaten La Parisienne (Fr) (Zarak {Fr}) in the June 19 G1 Prix de Diane and the subsequent G1 Prix Jean Romanet winner Aristia (Ire) (Starspangledbanner {Aus}) in Goodwood's G1 Nassau S. July 28. Slow ground is probably not her bag and there is the considerable threat of the May 29 G1 Prix Saint-Alary and Sept. 11 G2 Blandford S. scorer Above The Curve (American Pharoah) and the June 26 G1 Pretty Polly S. runner-up My Astra (Ire) (Lope De Vega {Ire}), as well as a host of others with a high-class level of form. There is another spoke in the wheels for Nashwa, as Teddy Grimthorpe pointed out. “She's obviously drawn 13, which is not ideal but we have to live with that,” he said. “She's had a pretty straightforward preparation in every way, she seems to be in good form and she's continued to develop, which has been pleasing. She's had a few positive bits of work, her last few bits of work were very decent. Both her father and her mother went on heavy ground, so we have to be at least hopeful. I don't think anybody wants to race on extreme ground, but I think she should have it in her DNA to be able to act on it.”

Queen For A Day?

   Having come up against Highfield Princess (Fr) (Night Of Thunder {Ire}) in the G1 Nunthorpe S. at York Aug. 19 and Trillium (GB) (No Nay Never) in the Sept. 11 G2 Flying Childers S. at Doncaster, The Platinum Queen (Ire) (Cotai Glory {GB}) bids to go one better and become the first juvenile to land the G1 Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp Longines since 1978. There is no stand-out this year and the Richard Fahey trainee has a favoured draw. “The draw gods have smiled on us somewhat, being in seven,” Middleham Park Racing's Tom Palin said. “You're closer to the rail there and a few of her market rivals are drawn a little bit less favourably than ourselves. In theory, as long as she breaks well, she should be able to get out and get a nice forward position on the rail. It's not going to be her most favourable conditions, but you are not going to get many other days where you are favourite for a Group 1 and getting all that weight from rivals.” TDN Rising Star Flotus (Ire) (Starspangledbanner {Aus}) was third to Highfield Princess on similar ground in The Curragh's G1 Flying Five Sept. 11 and this looks less tough. “It was soft ground at the Curragh and it rained all day, she won at Goodwood in soft ground as a 2-year-old, so hopefully she will get through it, especially over five,” Ed Crisford said.

Kinross Primed For Ultimate Target

Without doubt the most affected by the draw is the seven-furlong G1 Qatar Prix de la Foret Presente par Education Above All and Marc Chan's TDN Rising Star Kinross (GB) (Kingman {GB}) has been done no favours handed stall nine. What he does have is career-best form at present, having added Doncaster's G2 Park S. to the G2 City Of York S. and trainer Ralph Beckett is hoping Frankie Dettori gets the tactics right. “He got a little bit too far back last year–let's just hope it doesn't happen again on Sunday,” he said. TDN Rising Star Tenebrism (Caravaggio) is in one and is unbeaten at shorter than a mile, with her July 10 G1 Prix Jean Prat success a key piece of form. Whatever Alpinista does in the main event, Kirsten Rausing's July 26 G2 Lennox S. scorer Sandrine (GB) (Bobby's Kitten) looks poised to give her a thrill with conditions set up to suit ideally.


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