ParisLongchamp: “The race holds no terrors.” Confident Rouget Waits for Arc Impact

Ace Impact leads the Arc fieldScoop Dyga


As the only trainer to bring a winner of the “new” Prix du Jockey Club to the G1 Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and succeed, Jean-Claude Rouget can be forgiven his aura of zen ahead of the all-important Paris rendezvous for Ace Impact (Ire) (Cracksman {GB}) on Sunday. While the yard's Sottsass (Fr) (Siyouni {Fr}) took more than a year to complete the difficult double, late September's freak heatwave means that the 2023 edition of this autumn jewel is not the dire test it habitually represents for the Classic generation. Showing alacrity that only the elite are capable of in June's Chantilly Classic, Gousserie Racing and Ecuries Serge Stempniak's unbeaten colt can again employ that power play with conditions to suit and a draw that is a pure gift for this GI Breeders' Cup Turf qualifier.

Rouget is a veteran of keeping his head in such situations and he was typically steady in his pre-race assessment this week. “We're not going to do anything special,” he said. “He's quite calm in the morning and while it's true that in a race, like all good horses, he's more exuberant we shall just handle it as we always do. The track is going to be fast enough so everyone will be able to find a position and I'm not really worried that there isn't going to be any pace.”

“Ace Impact, given his stride devouring-action, should relish these conditions,” Rouget added. “We can't be absolutely certain that he'll stay the trip, but the manner in which he finishes his races allied to the fact that his sire had the required stamina lend me to feel fairly optimistic. The fact that he's discovering Longchamp for the first time isn't a worry, as the colt is a straightforward ride once he settles. The race holds no particular terrors! I'm just hoping for a race run at a proper gallop.”

The Flame Still Burns…

   In the days of the old 12-furlong Prix du Jockey Club, it was Pascal Bary who held sway with five winners but surprisingly none of them managed to provide him with the Arc victory he so covets. Surprisingly, his top-class 1998 Chantilly Classic hero Dream Well (Fr) (Sadler's Wells) cut no ice that year at Longchamp while his best Jockey Club hero  Sulamani (Ire) (Hernando {Fr}) beat High Chaparral (Ire) in the 2002 Arc but failed to get past Marienbard (Ire) (Caerleon). Perhaps the fairytale victory will come during his twilight via his longstanding supporter and friend Jean-Louis Bouchard's TDN Rising Star Feed The Flame (GB) (Kingman {GB}). This lightly-raced and probably still-improving colt is tried and tested over the course and distance on similar ground and the manner of his G1 Grand Prix de Paris display lingers in the memory.

“He really likes Longchamp, because it's a track that allows him the time to produce his potential,” Bary reflected. “He's a horse that likes to take his time and at Longchamp he can do that because there's the long straight. He's a horse that can be a bit cold at the beginning of a race, but he develops throughout the race as he goes further and he showed in the Grand Prix de Paris that he accelerated really well in the final straight.”

“Having such a horse at the end of my career is something very fortunate,” the trainer added. “Jean-Louis Bouchard is very upbeat ahead of Sunday, we have a magnificent colt and are heading to the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe with a chance. Obviously, we are heading there with a mix of pleasure and enthusiasm and if not this year, it will be next year! He will be an even better four-year-old.”

Japan's Long Wait To End?

Over the past two seasons, it is clear that Japan sits at the forefront of the international racing world and most would agree that it is only a matter of time before the country achieves the Arc glory it has strived for with such admirable determination and patience. While the 5-year-old mare Through Seven Seas (Jpn) (Dream Journey {Jpn}) seemed the unlikeliest of flagbearers for the nation when winning a Nakayama handicap in January, she has since used a win in the G3 Laurel R C Sho Nakayama Himba S. as a springboard to the big time.

That came when pushing the world's best Equinox (Jpn) (Kitasan Black {Jpn}) to a neck in Hanshin's G1 Takarazuka Kinen at a huge 55-1 and she has reportedly thrived since arriving in France. It is ironic that in a year when Equinox would have had his ideal ground to finally satiate Japan's hunger for his prize, his rider Christophe-Patrice Lemaire could still be in for the ultimate glory ride on what could be a supersub of supersubs.

Trainer Tomohito Ozeki is on the verge of history, notoriety and immortality and he knows it. “For any trainer, the Arc is a huge goal which seems somewhat removed, but it is now staring me right in the face,” he said. “Everything has gone well in her training. She has acclimatised really well to a new environment. Through Seven Seas has reached her optimum level as a five-year-old. In her younger days she showed a lot of temperament, ate little, was very thin and lacked strength. The mare was roughed off for the season after last August and she has strengthened up as a result. I believe in the mare.”

A Solid Cast…

Representing the brilliant-to-watch G1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth S., the race that Aidan O'Brien said was “turned into a St Leger”, are the respective monarchs of two of the most successful breeding and racing operations in the sport in Hukum (Ire) (Sea The Stars {Ire}) and Westover (GB) (Frankel {GB}). While Hukum's illustrious brother Baaeed (GB) ended his career in anti-climax in the soft ground that blurred his brilliance, Shadwell's latest flame could have done with plenty of the rain that undermined his sibling in last year's G1 Champion S. Instead he has none and a very difficult wide draw, so perhaps his desire for attritional warfare will go unrequited.

Juddmonte's Westover was a respectable sixth in the sapping, deep going in this 12 months ago, but a quartet of big shows at the top level this term demonstrate what an expert job Ralph Beckett has done with a colt that could have gone the wrong way. While he has a far-from-straightforward number one draw, Rob Hornby may have in his mind what his mount did when ridden forward by Colin Keane on a sound surface in last year's G1 Irish Derby.

Just what the G1 St Leger hero Continuous (Jpn) (Heart's Cry {Jpn}) is capable of is a tantalising mystery and he thankfully continues the long mission to at last marry the dear old Doncaster Classic and this ultimate prize. Had the former Ballydoyle legend Alleged not encountered the rock-hard Royal filly Dunfermline (GB) in that Classic prior to winning his first Arc in 1977, this would have been a story long since concluded. However, the stark fact is that in the extensive interim period there have been many in the Continuous category who have looked as good as him coming here only to have failed by some margin.

Thankfully for Germany, their own search for an Arc winner is already a past success story and the country is now a regular and rightly-respected presence in the race. In the hero of the 154th G1 Deutsches Derby, Fantastic Moon (Ger) (Sea The Moon {Ger}), it has another contender along with that Classic's runner-up Mr Hollywood (Ire) (Iquitos {Ger}) who remains unexposed and potentially problematic for his adversaries. Fantastic Moon seemed to beat Feed The Flame fair and square in the course-and-distance G2 Prix Niel three weeks ago, while TDN Rising Star Mr Hollywood is not far off the standard of Westover based on his battle with the G1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud runner-up Zagrey (Fr) (Zarak {Fr}) in the G1 Grosser Preis von Baden.

Then there is the spectre of the reigning G1 Champion S. hero Bay Bridge (GB) (New Bay {GB}), whose five-length dismissal of Mostahdaf (Ire) (Frankel {GB}) in Sandown's G3 Brigadier Gerard S. last May was a performance consistent with what is required to win one of these. Among those who rate as “outsiders”, Sir Michael Stoute's fully-mature charge is the stand-out during an era that is favouring experience over youthful zest.

Raiders Take Aim At Beauvatier In The Lagardere…

   Sunday's action at ParisLongchamp begins with an open-looking renewal of the G1 Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, in which Philippe Allaire and Haras d'Etreham's TDN Rising Star Beauvatier (Fr) (Lope De Vega {Ire}) puts his unbeaten record on the line against the usual collection of British and Irish challengers. Stall seven is no problem, but seven overseas peers in attendance could be as he bids to show he is more than just a very effective group 3 bully.

There is no arguing with his string of precision strikes, starting with the edging out of the high-class Ramatuelle (Justify) in a Saint-Cloud showdown in May followed by an upstaging of the subsequent G3 Prix des Chenes winner Zabiari (GB) (Wootton Bassett {GB}) in Deauville's Listed Prix Roland de Chambure in July. Even his defeat of Evade (Fr) (Wootton Bassett {GB}) in the course-and-distance G3 Prix la Rochette in early September stands up well, but the trouble for Yann Barberot and co. is that he has no direct line to the likes of fellow TDN Rising Star Unquestionable (Fr) (Wootton Bassett {GB}) from Ballydoyle or the still-exciting Hannon trainee Rosallion (Ire) (Blue Point {Ire}).

Where Rosallion is concerned, it is a question of whether the version that ran away with Ascot's Listed Pat Eddery S. turns up or the one that flopped in third in the G2 Champagne S. at Doncaster. Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum's homebred grandson of his remarkable broodmare Reem Three (GB) (Mark Of Esteem {Ire}) has been done no favours drawn in 10 in a race where that really matters, so he will have to be every bit as good as he looked when dismissing the subsequent impressive winners Al Musmak (Ire) (Night Of Thunder {Ire}), Alyanaabi (Ire) (Too Darn Hot {GB}) and Dancing Gemini (Ire) (Camelot {GB}) on the King George card.

“It looks like it's going to be fast ground out there which will be much more to his liking,” Hannon said. “We were very disappointed at Doncaster and we hope he is going to show what he can really do. They went very slow at Doncaster and he just didn't look like the horse we saw at Ascot or we've seen at home, so hopefully we will see him in a much better light.”

One of the live outsiders is Wathnan Racing's unbeaten Tattersalls Ireland Super Auction Sale S. scorer Native American (Ire) (Sioux Nation) from the Richard Fahey stable responsible for Wootton Bassett who captured this in 2010 and who is the sire of three runners in this renewal. “They would be similar horses and both undefeated going there,” the trainer said. “I think Wootton Bassett had won four before going there. He was slightly more experienced, but this horse will have improved a lot now. He's going to be a better three-year-old than two-year-old, but we've been really pleased with him since the Curragh.”

Another Turn-Up Due In The Marcel Boussac?

If there is one race on the Arc card that has proven difficult for favourites, it is the G1 Qatar Prix Marcel Boussac with no market leaders successful since Ballydoyle's Ballydoyle (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) in 2015. Since then, there have been recorded returns of 8-1, 10-1, 25-1 and 28-1 which perhaps reflects the changing of the season and the flux in these juvenile fillies' fortunes as a result. As a rule, proven sequence winners like Newtown Anner Stud Farm's G2 May Hill S. and G3 Prestige S. winner Darnation (Ire) (Too Darn Hot {GB}) can find it hard, especially after having to travel, but with the sun shining like summer she could still have an edge despite her horror draw in 10 of 10.

Aidan O'Brien's sole favourite on the card is his representative here Opera Singer (Justify), who is unbeaten over this mile trip and who came into her own when taking The Curragh's G3 Flame of Tara S. in August. Drawn best of the main contenders in two, she carries the confidence of Ryan Moore. “This Justify half-sister to Hit It A Bomb and Brave Anna , both group one-winning juveniles, took a big step forward when winning at the Curragh last time. She looked a serious filly there and, although the likes of Darnation and Les Pavots clearly have to be respected, I reckon she has a big chance here to follow in the family footsteps,” he said.

Interestingly, the aforementioned Les Pavots (Ire) (No Nay Never) is a half-sister to a duo by Camelot (GB) that the Ballydoyle handler has recently had through his hands in Sir Dragonet (Ire) and Sir Lucan (Ire), but Haras d'Etreham and Craig Bernick's TDN Rising Star is not surprisingly more about speed and precocity than those middle-distance colts. After a string of creditable efforts over five and six furlongs, the Francis-Henri Graffard trainee is two-for-two over seven with a latest triumph in Deauville's G2 Prix du Calvados but on strict form has to improve again upped another furlong.

In general, winners of this tend to be already battle-hardened fillies, with Wuheida (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) in 2016 the last to come off a debut win and succeed. That augurs badly for Albert Frassetto's highly-regarded Ribaltagaia (Blame), but what the Gianluca Bietolini-trained Lyon Parilly winner lacks in experience she more than makes up for in star potential if the manner of her performance in that 6 3/4-furlong maiden is anything to go by.

Can Blue Rose Bloom Again?

Dominant in the G1 Prix Marcel Boussac on this fixture 12 months ago, Blue Rose Cen (Ire) (Churchill {Ire}) seemed an unstoppable force by the time she had extended her sequence in the G1 Prix de Diane in June. Now approaching the G1 Prix de l'Opera Longines, Yeguada Centurion SL's homebred has had her wings clipped to a degree with two defeats marring her otherwise admirable record. While the latter probably came as a result of insufficient stamina in the 12-furlong G1 Prix Vermeille, the prior reversal was marked by a sluggish display in the G1 Nassau S. over this 10-furlong trip.

Only fourth having been hampered in that Goodwood feature won by the more straightforward Al Husn (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}), the dual Classic heroine is on a retrieval mission but Christopher Head is confident she is going to go out on a high in 2023. “I think that's pretty much going to be the end of the season for her,” he said. “She's going back to the 2,000, she's had a tremendous season and we can't wait to see her this weekend.”

With the possibility that Blue Rose Cen may fail to fire and Al Shira'aa Farms' G1 Prix Saint-Alary heroine Jannah Rose (Ire) (Frankel {GB}) being drawn in 12, this could open up. There was only a head between that Carlos Laffon-Parias-trained 3-year-old and Lumiere Rock (Ire) (Saxon Warrior {Jpn}) in the G2 Prix Alec Head at Deauville in August and that subsequently impressive G2 Blandford S. winner has the upper hand from stall three.

Princess Has a Question To Answer In The Abbaye…

Uncharacteristically tame defending her crown in the G1 Flying Five at The Curragh when last seen on Irish Champions Weekend, Highfield Princess (Fr) (Night Of Thunder {Ire}) looks to bounce back on her first tilt at the G1 Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp Longines. Having dodged this burn-up 12 months ago in favour of a build-up to the Breeders' Cup, John Quinn is keen to have a go this time on the back of a season which can be seen as slightly underwhelming. That may be a harsh summary given that her current campaign has yielded a win in Goodwood's G2 King George S. and three placings at this level, but then she was such a force in 2022 anything other than a repeat was always going to engender a touch of deflation.

“She's doing fine and has been well since the Curragh,” Quinn said. “I've been happy with her the last 10 days. She did a little bit of work on Tuesday morning and moved well and Jason [Hart] was happy with her. She looks well, it didn't work out at the Curragh but Sunday is a different day.”

Of her draw in stall 14, he added, “She missed the break at the Curragh and slipped coming out and at least in 14 she has a bit of space where she can manoeuvre. I was hoping to get somewhere in the middle, like 10 or 12, so I'm not going to cry over 14. This is a nice flat track, she has good form on flat tracks and we're looking forward to Sunday.”

Of the 3-year-olds, The Rogues Gallery's Listed Scarbrough S. winner Rogue Lightning (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}) is dangerously progressive albeit from the widest draw in 19. Others in the mix are the Flying Five hero Moss Tucker (Ire) (Excelebration {Ire}) and Clipper Logistics' TDN Rising Star Dramatised (Ire) (Showcasing {GB}) who needs to arrest a decline having failed to fire since opening her season with an impressive win in the G2 Temple S.

Rogue Lightning's trainer Tom Clover said of the post position, “It is a bit of a graveyard draw, but he's in really good form. We're not drawn too far from Highfield Princess, so hopefully that gives us some pace and he can run a really nice race.”

Kinross Poised For Foret Defence...

The draw is all-important in the G1 Qatar Prix de la Foret, particularly when there are 14 in the line-up as is the case this year, so Marc Chan's ever-reliable TDN Rising Star Kinross (GB) (Kingman {GB}) has an immediate headstart in two as he bids for back-to-back wins in the seven-furlong contest. This has been dominated by British raiders since Make Believe (GB) prevailed for France in 2015 and one of his main rivals, the G1 Prix du Moulin de Longchamp heroine Sauterne (Fr) (Kingman {GB}), has a nightmare scenario from stall 13. In nine is Kinross's 2022 1000 Guineas-winning compatriot Cachet (Ire) (Aclaim {Ire}), who will need to go forward from there as she continues her road back.

Chan's racing manager Jamie McCalmont said of Kinross, “Knowing Frankie as long as I've known Frankie, he's not really one to become emotionally attached to horses but one thing is for sure, he really does like this horse and is fond of him. I remember last year by the time that race was run, the English crowd had got a fair few drinks in them and when they went back into the winner's enclosure the crowd were chanting 'oh Frankie Dettori'. It was pretty cool. Let's hope they are all singing again.”

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