Just as North American racing fans wait for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, on the first Saturday in May, racing aficionados overseas await the first Sunday in October. For that is the day when arguably the world's greatest horse race, Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, is held at Longchamp Racecourse in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Paris, France. Considered the most prestigious horse race, the Arc is the largest international horse racing event. Recognized throughout the globe for its unique atmosphere, especially for the quality of the horses which are presented there, the race is run over a distance of 2400 meters (12 Furlongs) on the grass, concluding with a heart-stopping 500 meter finishing straight, and with no less than 4 million euros of prize money resting upon it. The Arc brings together the best 3-year old male & female thoroughbreds and their elders. The Kentucky Derby first run in 1875, is certainly steeped in tradition, however, the Prix de l'Arc Triomphe, first held in 1920, has its own rich history with a glorious list of winners in less than 100 years. This legendary race is one of the ultimate targets every owner, trainer and breeder of thoroughbreds in the world dreams of winning. The event has a real fascination, even for the most powerful. The Breeders' Cup, the Japan Cup and even the big Hong Kong races that happen at the end of the year cannot compare with this signature race.
In the lead up to this year's Arc, the anticipated lineup took a devastating hit with the absence of some major names, including last year's winner and third place finisher. DANEDREAM, the Peter Schiergen-trained filly, a brilliant winner of this race 12 months ago, is quarantined at Cologne Racecourse where she is stabled. The German track has been shut down for three months after a horse tested positive for an equine infection of the blood. At the orders of the special vets, no horses can come in to the track, and no horses can come out. For last year's third-place runner, SNOW FAIRY, the injury bug has struck again. The Ed Dunlop-trained mare was forced out of this year's race after she returned from her final workout for the Arc work with heat in a foreleg. She's had a series of injuries throughout her career that have ruled her out of major targets. In addition, John Gosden’s NATHANIEL, second in the G1 King George & Queen Elizabeth Stakes behind DANEDREAM, was ruled out after failing to satisfy connections with the results of a blood test. Add in IMPERIAL MONARCH to the list on non-runners. The 3-year old was withdrawn from the race, but not due to injury. The colt has been rerouted to contest the G1 Canadian International at Woodbine on October 14th.
However, the Arc received some wonderful news and a needed "shot-in-the-arm" on Wednesday when connections of three-year old star, CAMELOT, announced the three-time Classic winner will compete. Camelot's participation in the Arc had been up in the air since his defeat in the St Leger at Doncaster last month, when he was prevented from claiming the English Triple Crown. But after having worked at O'Brien's Ballydoyle stable on Wednesday morning, the decision was made to let the three-year-old colt take his chance. However, jockey Joseph O'Brien, the only rider to have partnered Camelot in all his races, is unable to ride at the assigned weight of 8st 11lb that Camelot is required to carry. Therefore, Frankie Dettori has been given the call to ride. The 41-year old Italian will be riding in his 25th consecutive Arc, which he has won three times on Lammtarra (1995), Sakhee (2001) and Marienbard (2002). O'Brien will guide St. Nicholas Abbey.
The Prix l'arc de Triomphe is scheduled to go to post at 10:25 am Eastern time and is set to be a fascinating renewal. With rain forecast in Paris this weekend, it’s a fairly safe assumption that the going will be on the soft side once again. This years edition looks tough, and very competitive. Below is a look at the field, listed by program number. The number to the right is the actual post position.
1/16/SEA MOON/Ryan Moore/Sir Michael Stoute--Closed out a successful 3-year old campiagn with a runner-up finish behind St. Nicholas Abbey in the Breeders' Cup Turf. Has been made the favorite in all three 2012 starts. Began the campaign with a head victory in the Tapster Stakes at Goodwood in May. A month later in the G2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot, a field that included Melbourne Cup winner Dunaden, Sea Moon racing on soft ground for the first time since his win in the G2 Great Voltigeur some eight months prior, took the lead two furlongs from the finish and accelerated clear of the field to win by three-and a-quarter lengths. Returned to Ascot for the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes a month later where he finished fifth of the ten runners behind winner Danedream, but was only beaten a little over two lengths. With the going at the French track soft at the moment and more rain forecast before the weekend it looks like that Sea Moon will have his ground.
2/10/ST. NICHOLAS ABBEY/Joseph O'Brien/Aidan O'Brien--He picked up the Breeders Cup Turf win back in November and currently seems to be in the form of his life for Aidan O'Brien in Ireland. Two-time G1 Coronation Cup winner makes his second run in the Arc after he finished 5th behind Danedream in 2011. That same rival got the best of him again in the G1 King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in July. Was third behind superstar Frankel by over seven-lengths in the G1 Juddmonte International. Most recently, he was rapidly closing in behind Snow Fairy and Nathaniel at the end of the G1 Irish Champion Stakes. He is a proven Group 1 animal and will very much be suited to the step back up in distance, so it would be no surprise to see him get in the placings.
3/13/MEANDRE/Maxime Guyon/Andre Fabre--Three-time G1 winner was a length back to Orfevre last time out in G2 Prix Foy. Prior to that run, 4-year old continued his ascent with victories in the G1 Preis Von Berlin and G1 Grand Prix de St Cloud. In the latter event, he displayed great poise and regained top form, something that had been absent for nine-months, to defeat Shareta by half-a-length and Danedream, last year's Arc winner. Guyon is the only rider to be aboard this colt, and the duo managed a sixth-place finish in the 2011 Arc, defeating 10 rivals in the process. He deserves respect but he may come up short again.
4/9/MIKHAIL GLINKA/Mirco Demuro/Aarslangirfy Savujev--Cost two million euros for his current owner. He won a G3 at Baden Baden last time out, but needs to vastly improve to even remotely get involved here. He may try to make all the pace like he did to win the G2 Dubai City of Gold at Meydan earlier this year.
5/12/ROBIN HOOD/Seamie Heffernen/Aidan O'Brien--Has raced strictly in top-notch G1 competition in his last five outings, and the results have been pretty dismal with just a single show placing to his credit. Owns two wins in fifteen races, and last visited the winners circle at Leopardstown in a handicap affair back in March. That score came after an 18-month absence from the races. He's definately one that will try to make all the pace up front for the more accomplished O'Brien runners.
6/18/ORFEVRE/Christophe Soumillon/ Yasutoshi Ikee--The 2011 Triple Crown winner and reigning Japanese Horse Of the Year in his native country has been considered one of the choices, if not the number one choice to win this event after his 1-length victory in the G2 Prix Foy on Arc trials afternoon. That race was the only time he has run outside of Japan. Despite all his success, he is facing a far bigger field and the certainty of a rougher race in the Arc. Five-time G1 winner looks to end a 32-year win drought for Japan which has seen three of their 12 runners finish in the frame. Soumillon is a two-time Arc winner.
7/8/AVENTINO/Anthony Crastus/Yasutoshi Ikee--Eight-year old has notched only 4 wins in his 49-race career. His last win came in January of 2009. His last outing was at Longchamp on Arc Trial day in the G2 Prix Foy, when he finished a well beaten fifth and last behind stablemate Orfevre. It was the first time Aventino raced at the Group level. Is likely entered to ensure a quick pace for his companion.
8/11/SHARETA/Christophe LeMaire/Alan Royer-Dupre--Last year's Arc runner-up at 66-1 proved that was no fluke with a sharp 2-length win in the G1 Prix Vermeille in September, which backed up her G1 Yorkshire Oaks score the previous month. She's a much more mature filly than she was last year. In addition to her five lifetime wins, the 4-year old French bred filly has finished in the money 12 times from 14 starts. The only thing that is going to affect her running in the Arc is the soft going. If there is much more rain she might not even be risked.
9/1/HAYA LANDA/Franck Blondel/Loic Audon--Has only one win from fourteen attempts. Checked in fourth in Golden Lilac's G1 French Oaks last year, but her form this year has been well below Group One level.
10/6/SOLEMIA/Olivier Peslier/Carlos Laffon-Parais--Injuries plagued this girl at three, but she showed what she is capable of with two wins in her first three runs at age four. Last out in mid-September, she was running on when third to Shareta in the G1 Prix Vermeille. Two starts back, she held off that same opponent, who was an unlucky favorite, by a wafer-thin margin in a dramatic finish of the G2 Prix Corrida, with barely a length covering the first four finishers. She is consistent and may very well be the best middle distance filly in Europe.
11/14/BAYRIR/Gerald Mosse/Alan Royer-Dupre--This supplemental entry was unraced at two, but quickly put things together this year winning four of his first five starts, including an invasion to the United States in the summer for a victory in the G1 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park. 3-year old colt then returned to France and one month later stretched out to 12F for the first time, finishing 2nd, beaten about 1 length by Saonois (G1 Prix Du Jockey Club winner) in the G2 Prix Niel. He was a clear cut winner of the G2 Prix Eugene Adam at Maisons-Laffite in July.
12/15/KESAMPOUR/Gregory Benoist/Mikel Delzangles--From October 2011 of his juvenile season through May of 2012, this 3-year old French-bred colt fired off four consecutive wins, including the G2 Prix Greffulhe at St.Cloud. In his previous two outings, G2 Prix Neil and G1 Prix du Jockey Club, he was handed defeat both times, finishing 6th and 4th respectively behind winner Sanois. With the rain, and if there is to be a major shocker, this is one colt that could provide it
13/5/CAMELOT/Frankie Dettori/Aidan O'Brien--The Ballydoyle horse has been one of the stars of the season in the UK and Ireland winning both the 2000 Guineas and the Epsom Derby in England, before adding the Irish Derby at the Curragh to his growing resume. The win in the Derby at Epsom was particularly impressive as he blew the field away. Started the St Leger at Doncaster as the hot odds on favorite with most believing he was a certainty to become the first Triple crown winner in England since the great Nijinsky. It was not to be though as he failed to catch Enke after the Godolphin horse had broken away from the field, but most believe he lost little in defeat. There's no doubt that he is the best three-year old this season and with sophomore runners having won 8 out of the last 9 runnings of the Arc, Camelot must be respected.
14/17/MASTERSTROKE/Mickael Barzelona/Andre Fabre--Partnered with jockey Barzelona for the first time since his debut, this colt finished strongly to capture the G2 Grand Prix de Deauville by a short-neck. 3-year old had plenty to do with one and a half furlongs remaining, but launched a sudden rush in the closing stages to get up in time. The return to Group company followed an easy Listed stakes success over 12F back in July. Was handed a couple of tough defeats: A neck in the 12F G3 Prix du Lys in June and a half-length in the G2 Prix Hacquart over a furlong shorter in May. He looks to be on the improve and warrants respect, but this by far represents his toughest challenge so far.
15/4/ERNEST HEMINGWAY/Colm O'Donoghue/Aidan O'Brien--Has started only twice, Was a maiden winner on synthetics in his debut, winning by 10 lengths and leaving such an impression that his connections started him next in the G2 Dante Stakes. In that Group event, he failed to live up to expectations having been allowed an easy time of things out in front and was eased right down. Hasn't raced since that May encounter, so whatever went awry with the horse has been solved. His appearance in here is nothing more than a rabbit for the more well known O'Brien horses.
16/2/SAONOIS/Antoine Hamelin/Jean-Pierre Gauvin--Was supplemented to the Arc after making a successful reappearance from three months away as he won the G2 Prix Niel with an impressive finishing burst, squeezing past Bayrir (G1 Secretariat winner), and Last Train. From 1996 to 2006, the winner of the Prix Neil has gone on to win the Arc seven times. Two back, this colt won the 10-furlong G1 French Derby overcoming a huge field and a troubled passage at 10.5 furlongs, so that is a bonus. He is better over today's distance at one-mile and a half.
17/3/YELLOW AND GREEN/Thierry Thulliez/Nicolas Clement--Is a three-year-old filly trained in France who gained herself the faintest dot on the Arc radar when finishing fourth in the G1 Prix Vermeille on just her fifth start. That represented her best effort yet, having taken the G2 Prix de Malleret 3 months earlier, and she did particularly well to get as close as she did given that circumstances did not go favorably. Held-up in rear, and forced to wait for run, she belatedly switched to the outside and finishing best of all, but with way too much ground to make up. However, her effort certainly was eye catching. Clearly she has to improve plenty and is definitely an outsider. Could go well given the soft footing.
18/7/GREAT HEAVENS/William Buick/John Gosden--With King George runner-up Nathaniel declared out of the Arc, full sister and G1 Irish Oaks winner is supplemented to the world's richest turf race. She is undeafeated in all four starts this season and the recent decision to supplement her was vindicated as she won that Group One in July with a tremendous turn of foot and stormed to a three-length win. 3-year old filly faces by far her toughest assignment to date, but has been freshened and could be dangerous.
TRACKMAN'S ANALYSIS: The course layout at Longchamp coupled with the usual massive Arc field makes this a nightmare for handicappers. The oddity known as "Hyde Park Corner" is the final bend featuring an abnormally long-handed right turn, followed by a short homestretch, which is usually the determing factor in the Arc. The large group of horses complicates the race further. Horses coming from off-the-pace are even more likely to get caught in behind tiring frontrunners. There doesn't appear to be any standout that can establish the pace in a relaxed manner. The majority of the runners prefer to settle into the back of the field, while others are most comfortable racing mid-pack.
If Dettori places Camelot closer to the pace to avoid possible traffic trouble, the 3-year old star has the ability to dispatch this bunch on sheer talent. However, if he encounters difficulties in the process, we seem likely to see an older horse win for the first time since 2007. Sea Moon exits an incredible key race in the G1 King George where he was beaten by less two lengths. The Stoute runner was second in the Breeders' Cup Turf last year and has had a strong three-race 2012 campaign including two wins. St Nicholas Abbey, the third-place finisher in the King George, is a Group 1 commodity who was closely matched with Snow Fairy and Nathaniel on their G1 Irish Champion Stakes running last out. Orfevre has proved he has the class by winning all the big races in Japan. Possesses good tactical speed which is a hugh asset in the Arc. That will allow him to quickly take advantage of any gap openings. If the soft footing doesn't interfere with him giving his best, he'll be tough to deny. If the the 3-year old Sanois doesn't encounter trouble, he is not without a chance. He proved his win in the French Derby was no fluke, when next out he overcame all sorts of trouble and then quickened very smartly to beat a decent horse in Bayrir who he re-opposes on Sunday.
UPSET SPECIAL: SAONOIS