This weekend should have clarified the situation. 3 recognised Arc trials on the same day over course and distance would normally clear things up. In some ways they have, the Grand Prix de Paris, the Prix Vermeille and the Prix Foy have all been competitive, but I don’t think the Arc winner ran in any of them. Having spent most of this year trying to find an angle into the Arc market, the simple fact is that the market probably has it right, with Enable vs Love.
Grand Prix de Paris
On paper this looked the strongest of the trials coming into the weekend. The Epsom Derby winnerSerpentine, ran with much more credit, in a race that really wasn’t run to suit. His domination of the Derby at Epsom had taken some knocks, but he ran well to back up his own reputation. Given a stronger ride, perhaps where he is able to force the pace, he may have won this, but he battled on well to the line to suggest he is more than capable of winning at this level again.
The race suited those that were held off the pace, with the winner Mogul and the 2nd In Swoop both coming from behind. Mogul got the perfect ride and perhaps more importantly the perfect run through the gap on the inside. Once he hit the front, he quickened away nicely to fulfil the reputation that connections have always held for him. The 2nd, In Swoop, the German Derby winner, had to come wider and did some nice late work to suggest he is a top class horse in his own right. However, for all that this was a strong race on paper, I can’t help feeling that the race was muddled. A stop/start pace set by Nobel Prize suited Mogul perfectly, much to the detriment of the stronger stayers in the line up. If connections were to go for the Arc, he is unlikely to get those exact set of circumstances again and I would be more in favour of Serpentine or In Swoop having the stamina to reverse this form, especially off a stronger pace.
Leading into the weekend, this race revolved around Raabihah. Jean-Claude Rouget’s filly was a very popular Arc pick and had shrunk from 50/1 into as short as 10/1. Sent off the 5/6 on favourite for the Prix Vermeille much was expected of her. On the day, she was beaten fair and square by Tarnawa. Being held up in rear perhaps didn’t suit, but this race confirms to me that Raabihah is a good horse, but she lacks the turn of foot needed to be top class. If anything, she looks like she needs a longer trip as she seems to gallop relentlessly, but always at the one pace. Tarnawa got first run yes, but she quickened much faster than Raabihah and if they were to meet again, there is no reason to suggest that the form would be overturned.
Tarnawa has perhaps been overlooked this weekend. Dermot Weld’s filly is a class horse in her own right and off the back of a light campaign in 2020, she could well be competitive at the very top level this autumn. Whether she has the quality to win a race like the Arc is debatable, but she is an uncomplicated honest filly and on this evidence I could definitely see her being able to challenge in the latter stages. She is the horse to take out of the weekend for me.
Stradivarius. The greatest stayer in a generation without question, but thats where it has to stop for me. Lots has been made of the slow pace and the sprinting sectionals in the home straight, but the simple fact is he has twice been beaten by Anthony Van Dyck over 12 furlongs this season and I don’t think that will be good enough to win an Arc. Had the race been run more strongly he may have been able to use his stamina to land this, but I think that he is very vulnerable to younger, faster legs. The Arc is likely to be a stronger pace, Serpentine will surely be pushed forwards if he lines up, as will Ghaiyyath if he takes his chance. That will suit, but Stradivarius is used to racing horses over marathon trips, where the pace is steady and he can gallop them into submission. In an Arc, where the likes of Love, a filly with the speed to win the 1,000 Guineas, will be challenging him, I think he is likely to be outpaced at the crucial stage.
The horse is a legend and I understand why connections are rolling the dice, but nothing I have seen will convince me that he is running for anything other than the place money. Order of St George is a great parallel, an Ascot Gold Cup winner, who placed in the Arc behind Found. The class got him into the race, but the lack of pure speed got him beaten.
Anthony Van Dyck finally broke the curse of the derby winner and in truth was a worthy winner. Dictating the pace nicely and having the turn of foot to hold off Stradivarius on the run to the line. He is a good horse on his day, but is probably 10lbs below the very best. The close presence of the admirable, but limited Nagano Gold in 3rd is enough to make me question this form overall. Connections seem likely to send Anthony Van Dyck to Australia for the winter campaign, which could well suit him given his linking for better going.
The simple fact is that the trials weekend has sorted out many of those with Arc aspirations. I began the weekend thinking that Jean-Claude Rouget would win the Arc and I have ended doubting whether he should even have a runner. Raabihah, Port Guillaume and even Sottsass look to have a lot to find. In truth, every horse that ran this weekend has a lot to find and after months of study, I think it comes down to Love and Enable, with the younger, fresher legs probably the most likely at this stage.