Clouds Loom as the Arc Approaches

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The rain should only aid the chances of Hurricane Lane | Scoop Dyga

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It is racing's greatest dichotomy. Labelled by the official ParisLongchamp website as “la meilleure course au monde”, the G1 Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe will have few who brook any argument with that claim. Yet it is the time of year within which it is framed that delivers the ultimate snag, with autumn's entry prompting an often drastic change in terrain and a late turnpike for the kings and queens of summer just past. Half of the previous 10 renewals of France's great monument have been run on testing ground and that looks extremely likely again for the 2021 version which carries extra consequence as the 100th of its kind. Rain is coming and, according to the forecast, an abundance of it to greet this flagship edition. How that twists the narrative of the season is either welcome or otherwise depending on where connections and fans of the protagonists sit. Although the storms arrived to soak Epsom and this track on Bastille Day, conditions could end up being vastly contrasting to those encountered for much of this year so far.

Godolphin's Hurricane Lane (Ire) (Frankel {GB}) has perhaps shown the greatest appetite for significant ease in the surface and has the stamina capacity to promote his chances, while The Aga Khan's Tarnawa (Ire) (Shamardal) overcame heavy ground to barnstorm the G1 Prix de l'Opera on this fixture 12 months ago. Epsom marvels Adayar (Ire) (Frankel {GB}) and Snowfall (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) pounded through rain-afflicted going in the first week of June, but this is the first week of October and there will be no feedback from the turf if the whole of the predicted 30-plus millimetres descends from the leaden skies.

Japan's quest to end decades of hurt depends not only on the relative skillsets of Chrono Genesis (Jpn) (Bago {Fr}) and Deep Bond (Jpn) (Kizuna {Jpn}), but also on their ability to carry themselves on going that is significantly softer than they have encountered in competitive action. Undone in all but four of the domestic middle-distance Group 1s in 2021 and with that quartet absent from this line-up, France appear to have surrendered all hope of landing the precious centennial renewal but at least their outsiders with a squeak understand how to operate on this ground. In the year that Sheikh Hamdan was lost to the racing world, it is not impossible that the talented filly Raabihah (Sea the Stars {Ire}) could provide a romantic fable in the Shadwell silks.

This ability to endure the final drag of a long season is what makes the Arc the most formidable of all racing's peaks and crests. It is the strength to make the summit which separates the legends from the almost mighty and so we go again towards the culmination of the ultimate ambition. There is very little separating what is largely viewed as the leading quartet, with Godolphin's aider and abbettor looking to add to their remarkable combined haul of Epsom Derby, Irish Derby, Grand Prix de Paris, King George and St Leger; Dermot Weld's fully-mature cruise missile seeking to implement her trainer's masterplan; and Ballydoyle's prima ballerina poised to leap in as she did when tearing up the established Group 1 script in the Oaks.

As the first representatives of Frankel to go to the Arc with leading prospects, there is a weight of expectation on the able shoulders of Adayar and Hurricane Lane and little in the way of past precedent to dampen the flames. As an awesome combination, they are Godolphin's best chance of winning this prize since the great Sakhee (Bahri) a whole 20 years ago. Hurricane Lane came alive on very soft ground when ripping up the course-and-distance Grand Prix de Paris July 14 and carried his class over the extreme Classic trip of Doncaster's G1 St Leger Sept. 11, so further easing underfoot only serves to strengthen his credentials. Adayar was so impressive when holding Mishriff (Ire) (Make Believe {GB}) when it was fast at Ascot July 24 that it seems almost improbable that he can translate that superiority to the other extreme, but at present he retains the freak factor his illustrious sire made his trademark.

Charlie Appleby was interviewed as he awaited the opening group race at the track on Saturday–in which he enjoyed a one-two as a welcome portent–and he admitted that a serious worsening of the ground may swing the balance in Hurricane Lane's favour. “Both Frankie and James said it's holding ground, so we'll just have to see how things play out,” he said. “They're predicting up to 40 millimetres of rain. If that arrives on top of opened-up ground, whether you can find a fresh strip or not it'll be heavy, there's no doubt about it. The only horse I would say will probably like it is Hurricane Lane. He will like soft ground and it's going to become a staying race, isn't it? We know the soft ground is going to suit him and we know if it becomes a stamina-sapping Arc, he has already proven he has stamina in abundance. It's a double positive for him.”

“Adayar is in great order and we've seen him win on good-to-soft and he won his maiden last year on soft, but obviously that was not the same level. We are certainly happier being on soft rather than quick ground going into an Arc, but if it got heavy it wouldn't be a positive for him.”

As is the case with many of The Aga Khan's products, Tarnawa gets ample stamina from her distaff side and showed that deep ground does not blunt her finishing surge as it can lesser lights in the Opera 12 months ago. Her ostentatious comeback over this trip came on yielding-to-soft in the G3 Ballyroan S. at Leopardstown Aug. 5, but there is a chance that a severe stamina test in this echelon may stretch the elastic of a daughter of Shamardal beyond its capacity. Christophe Soumillon has ample time to work out his closing act from an ideal inner draw and then it will be in the lap of the gods up ParisLongchamp's home straight. If she manages to carve out an Arc win on demanding turf just three weeks after virtually matching the sprint of St Mark's Basilica (Fr) (Siyouni {Fr}) on quick going in the G1 Irish Champion S., she will deserve every plaudit available.

“Tarnawa is very well and I'm satisfied with her in every possible way,” trainer Dermot Weld said. “Her preparation has gone very well. She takes her training very well and it's been very straightforward since Leopardstown. She's a very fit filly and I've been very happy with her.”

While the Arc used to be about the 3-year-old colts, the earth spun on its axis in 2008 with the arrival of Zarkava (Ire) (Zamindar) and the equally effervescent Snowfall bids to become the fourth of that age and sex to prevail subsequently. Remarkably, since 2011 there have been seven renewals won by fillies and that is in keeping with the general momentum shift away from the opposite sex. Whether Snowfall would have beaten Adayar at Epsom a day later is a matter of conjecture, but the manner of her 16-length victory in one of Europe's oldest Classics defies belief. After following the plan in the July 17 G1 Irish Oaks at The Curragh and the Aug. 19 G1 Yorkshire Oaks, she was unexpectedly undone by Teona (Ire) (Sea the Stars {Ire}) in the course-and-distance G1 Prix Vermeille Sept. 12 and her prior invulnerability disappeared overnight.

Despite the shock of that defeat, the fact remains that several of this race's heroes and heroines were coming off a similar reversal and Aidan O'Brien remains convinced that she retains the star material required. “I think she's a filly that gets a mile and a half well and acts on soft ground and on her Epsom run you could say she's better on it,” he said. “Last time was a completely different set of circumstances in a slowly-run race on quickish ground.”

There is a feeling of a second tier after that foursome, with Chrono Genesis having to prove an aptitude for easy ground and the Sept. 12 G2 Prix Foy first and second Deep Bond (Jpn) (Kizuna {Jpn}) and Broome (Ire) (Australia {GB}) needing to step up markedly on past form to have a serious impact. M M Stables' Alenquer (Fr) (Adlerflug {Ger}) has at least proven himself on heavy ground when winning the G2 King Edward VII S. at Royal Ascot June 18 and had the withdrawn Love (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) behind on a sound surface when runner-up to Mishriff in the G1 Juddmonte International S. at York Aug. 18.

“I'm really looking forward to riding him and I think he'll run a really big race,” Alenquer's jockey Tom Marquand said. “Whether that is good enough to put him in the frame, I don't know, because it's one of the best Arcs of my lifetime and we won't know until the race. We've got a good gate, so fingers crossed it all goes well. He's had an interrupted prep, which wasn't ideal. He ran well at York behind Mishriff, beating the rest convincingly, but it's the Arc and it certainly won't be easy.”

The aforementioned Raabihah, who was just over four-lengths fifth in this last year, bounced back to form upped in trip again last time when beating Saturday's G1 Prix de Royallieu protagonists Joie de Soir (Ire) (Fastnet Rock {Aus}) and Valia (Fr) (Sea the Stars {Ire}) in the 12 1/2-furlong G2 Prix de Pomone at Deauville Aug. 22. On a line through the fourth Silence Please (Ire) (Gleneagles {Ire}), the Jean-Claude Rouget trainee could theoretically be closer to Tarnawa now than she was when three-lengths second to her in the 2020 G1 Prix Vermeille.

 

Juveniles Set to Shine

Sunday's action begins with the G1 Qatar Prix Marcel Boussac, where Andre Fabre looks to pitch his highly-regarded 'TDN Rising Star' Raclette (GB) (Frankel {GB}) in at the deep end following two impressive wins at Deauville Aug. 8 and at Chantilly Sept. 17. She registered a four-length success from the smart colt Welwal (GB) (Shalaa {Ire}) on soft in the latter contest, but significant rain might yet lead to the withdrawal of Juddmonte's daughter of the four-times Grade I heroine Emollient (Empire Maker). Where Raclette is all promise, Scott Heider's Agartha (Ire) (Caravaggio) is a rock of experience already having dominated the G3 Silver Flash S. at Leopardstown July 22 and The Curragh's G2 Debutante S. Aug. 21 and run second to Discoveries (Ire) (Mastercraftsman {Ire}) in the G1 Moyglare Stud S. back at the latter venue Sept. 12. “Agartha has had a great season, she looks ready for this longer trip and looks to set the bar for the rest of them to come up to,” trainer Joseph O'Brien said. “There is a lot of rain due, but it isn't a big concern for her. Hopefully she runs another big race.”

Andre Fabre also saddles Godolphin's Fleur D'Iris (GB) (Shamardal) and Al Wasmiyah Farm's Zellie (Fr) (Wootton Bassett {GB}), who were first and second in the G3 Prix d'Aumale over this track and trip Sept. 9. The former holds the re-opposing Aug. 3 G3 Prix Six Perfections winner Oscula (Ire) (Galileo Gold {GB}) on the form of the G2 Prix du Calvados at Deauville Aug. 21, where they were second and third behind the G1 Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere-bound Accakaba (Ire) (Acclamation {GB}). Godolphin's Lisa-Jane Graffard said, “Fleur d'Iris was very dominant in the trial for this race on her latest start. This is a big step up against some seasoned 2-year-old opposition, but she is in good form and won on very soft ground at Compiegne in July.”

Merry Fox Stud Limited's Acer Alley (GB) (Siyouni {Fr}) beat the subsequent G3 Prix Thomas Bryon runner-up Making Moovies (Ire) (Dabirsim {Fr}) and the G3 Prix de Conde winner El Bodegon (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}) in the seven-furlong G3 Prix la Rochette here Sept. 5 and is firmly in the mix. George Strawbridge's 'TDN Rising Star' Natasha (GB) (Frankel {GB}) will find this far harder than her easy novice wins at Kempton Aug. 20 and Sandown Sept. 10, but the Gosden representative has obvious potential as a half-sister to Almanzor (Fr) (Wootton Bassett {GB}).

The Wertheimers' aforementioned unbeaten filly Accakaba takes on the colts in the Lagardere, with the mile of the Marcel Boussac possibly beyond her stamina reserves at present. Al Shaqab's G1 Phoenix S. hero Ebro River (Ire) (Galileo Gold {GB}) has to prove he stays this seven-furlong trip, having been worn down late by Point Lonsdale (Ire) (Australia {GB}) as Native Trail (GB) (Oasis Dream {GB}) disappeared into the distance in the G1 Goffs Vincent O'Brien National S. at The Curragh Sept. 12. “I'm really looking forward to it–he's in great form,” trainer Hugo Palmer commented. “His last bit of work was good and he looked tremendous on Friday morning. He's got a nice draw. We're really excited about it.”

Marc Chan's Angel Bleu (Fr) (Dark Angel {Ire}) has been off since winning the G2 Vintage S. at Goodwood July 27 and the easier the ground the stronger his claims according to trainer Ralph Beckett. “Angel Bleu knows more about the game than I do now,” he commented. “I think he and Ebro River have run more than the rest of the field in the Lagardere combined. I think he'll run well, particularly with this forecast. We always felt after Goodwood that the Lagardere was the right spot for him.”

Coolmore and Westerberg's Sept. 9 G3 Prix des Chenes scorer Ancient Rome (War Front) drops in trip and Andre Fabre said of him, “Seven furlongs is a bit sharp for him, but we will see how we go. He could be a prospect for the Breeders' Cup or the Group 1 [Criterium International] in Saint-Cloud.”

Charlie Appleby seems to hold the upper hand with his juvenile colts at present and sends the Sept. 10 Listed Flying Scotsman S. winner Noble Truth (Fr) (Kingman {GB}) into battle here, while Aidan O'Brien who has won this eight times in its present guise and as the Grand Criterium saddles Peter Brant, Susan Magnier and Michael Tabor's Sept. 11 G2 Champions Juvenile S. runner-up Stone Age (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}). Appleby said of the former, “I feel that Noble Truth doesn't look out of place in this field. He is a strong galloper who can maintain it. I think we will allow him to use that gallop more this time rather than trying to take him back. He goes into this in decent shape and we are hopeful of a good performance.”

 

Audarya Aims at Consecutive Operas

Post-Arc, the G1 Prix de l'Opera Longines gets the ball rolling again with Alison Swinburn's GI Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf heroine Audarya (Fr) (Wootton Bassett {GB}) looking to supplement both that victory and last year's G1 Prix Jean Romanet. Performing up to standard when second to Love in Royal Ascot's G1 Prince of Wales's S. June 16 and to Grand Glory (GB) (Olympic Glory {Ire}) in the latest renewal of the Romanet at Deauville Aug. 22, the 5-year-old was below-par in between when fifth in Goodwood's G1 Nassau S. July 29. James Fanshawe said of Audarya, “Obviously, we'd all like better ground but she has run well on it before. She ran well there last year. Her best form is on that quick ground, but she doesn't mind the soft.”

Third behind Lady Bowthorpe (GB) (Nathaniel {Ire}) and Zeyaadah (Ire) (Tamayuz {GB}) in the Nassau, Joan of Arc (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) is back in her comfort zone after trailing in last of seven in the G1 Prix Vermeille over a mile and a half here Sept. 12. Her defeat of Philomene (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}), Burgarita (GB) (Sea the Stars {Ire}) and 'TDN Rising Star' Sibila Spain (Ire) (Frankel {GB}) in the G1 Prix de Diane over 10 1/2 furlongs at Chantilly June 20 puts her in prime position. “She's come out of the race well from the last day–we think a mile and a half was too far for her, so going back to a mile and a quarter we think should suit her well,” the Ballydoyle handler explained. “She likes to be ridden forward and she usually gets the trip well. The last day was a little bit of a mess, so we'll just put a line through that.”

Joan of Arc's compatriot Thundering Nights (Ire) (Night of Thunder {Ire}) adds more ballast as the winner of the G1 Pretty Polly S. at The Curragh June 27 and even though she has been upstaged on her next two starts, remains a leading player. “Thundering Nights is another filly that has had a big season for us and she was a bit below form in the Blandford S. last time, but she was carrying a penalty and the race didn't really go her way,” trainer Joseph O'Brien said. “She is better than she showed there and can hopefully show it in this. She is one that won't have too many worries if the forecast rain arrives.”

Arguably Germany's star turn on the fixture is Gestut Etzean's unbeaten Palmas (Ger) (Lord of England {Ger}), who registered a six-length success in the G1 Preis der Diana over another furlong at Dusseldorf at the start of August and at this stage is an unknown quantity.

 

Speed to Spare

In the G1 Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp Longines, King Power's Winter Power (Ire) (Bungle Inthejungle {GB}) bids to repeat her antics in York's G1 Nunthorpe S. Aug. 20 where she had the subsequent G1 Haydock Sprint Cup hero Emaraaty Ana (GB) (Shamardal) in second and Suesa (Ire) (Night of Thunder {Ire}) in fourth. Only 10th on her next start in the G1 Flying Five at The Curragh Sept. 12, the grey will find it easier to boss this strip. “She's in good order,” trainer Tim Easterby said. “The track should suit and she should run well, fingers crossed. The ground will be okay for her and we'll see how the draw pans out, with a lot of the fancied horses drawn high.”

George Strawbridge took this with Silver Fling (The Minstrel) in 1989 and has reason to believe he can prevail again with Suesa, who came into her own when winning the G2 King George S. over this five-furlong trip at Goodwood July 30. Only fourth in the Nunthorpe, she may find the best compromise with the leaders slowed down by the ground over this distance and she is drawn near enough to Winter Power to get a tow into the closing stages. “She came back well from York and has got some freshness,” trainer Francois Rohaut said. “She worked well last week and everything is okay with her. One thing is sure–the draw is better for her than in York, because her draw there was awful for us. She is drawn 12, but I think all the good horses are drawn on the outside so it's a good number for me.”

Successful in 2019 and a neck second last term, Bearstone Stud's Glass Slippers (GB) (Dream Ahead) is back for more having finished third in Goodwood's King George and in the Flying Five. Ahead of her on the latter occasion was Clipper Logistics Group's Romantic Proposal (Ire) (Raven's Pass) and Gary Devlin's A Case of You (Ire) (Hot Streak {Ire}), who are both progressive Irish sprinters certain to be suited by the run of the race. Eddie Lynam said of Romantic Proposal, “She's in good form. She ran the best race of her career the last day, so I hope we are as lucky again and things pan out for her.”

“She has no problem with ease in the ground, but I am very concerned it's going to get heavy over there and we've got a high draw,” Lynam added. “It does make it difficult, but Mabs Cross won from that draw. Let's hope they have over-shot the amount of rain they are going to get, but all the weather forecasts look very bad and it could come up very soft. She goes on good-to-soft, summer soft. I'd just be worried if it got into a bog.”

 

Foret Draw Key

If there is a race on the card where the draw is vital, it is the seven-furlong G1 Qatar Prix de la Foret and Haras de Saint Pair's Pearls Galore (Fr) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}) has the edge in that respect from stall five. Having proven her ability at this level when splitting No Speak Alexander (Ire) (Shalaa {Ire}) and Mother Earth (Ire) (Zoffany {Ire}) in second in the G1 Matron S. at Leopardstown Sept. 11, the Paddy Twomey-trained homebred is a strong stayer at this trip as she proved when taking the G3 Brownstown S. at Fairyhouse July 11 and the G3 Fairy Bridge S. at Tipperary Aug. 26.

Godolphin's 'TDN Rising Star' Space Blues (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}) has been aimed at this since 2018 only to miss the date and his only previous visit to this track resulted in a win in the 2020 G3 Prix de la Porte Maillot at this distance. Last year's G1 Prix Maurice de Gheest and G2 Lennox S. winner was back to winning ways in the G2 City of York S. at York last time Aug. 21 and his 10 draw is not necessarily a disadvantage given that he is a hold-up merchant. “This is a race I have been trying to get Space Blues to run in for the last three years, but unfortunately he has met with a setback on each occasion,” Charlie Appleby explained. “We have put him in bubble wrap since the City of York S. and he goes into this in great shape. He looked fantastic in his work during the week. He loves soft ground, but it's the last group race of the day and it could be a war of attrition looking at the forecast. I'm pleased with his draw in stall 10 and William Buick knows him inside out.”

If Space Blues is not entirely compromised by the draw, that is the case for The Aga Khan's Sagamiyra (Fr) (Sea the Moon {Ger}) who has only one rival on her outer in 15. She had Speak of the Devil (Fr) (Wootton Bassett {GB}) a short head back in third when runner-up in the G1 Prix Rothschild at Deauville Aug. 3 and confirmed her superiority over that rival when winning the course-and-distance G3 Prix du Pin Sept. 12. Giving the impression of an improver, the Mikel Delzangles-trained homebred will nevertheless need all the luck to prevail in a renewal featuring two other TDN Rising Stars in Thunder Moon (Ire) (Zoffany {Ire}) and Kinross (GB) (Kingman {GB}).

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