Defending champion Workforce (GB) will try to become the first back-to-back winner of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe since Alleged in 1977/1978 when he faces 15 rivals on Sunday morning at Longchamp in Paris. The 2011 Arc is scheduled to go to post at 10:15am Eastern/7:15am Pacific, and can be viewed on both HRTV and TVG. Also appearing on the Sunday's Arc card is three-time Breeders' Cup Mile winner Goldikova (IRE); she will run her final race in France in the Group 1 Prix de la Foret.
Like many of the racecourses in Europe, Lonchamp is a challenging and stamina testing course, especially at the classic distance of a mile and a half. Below is a diagram of the Longchamp course, along with a description of the Arc trip.
The Arc begins at the far left starting position for races at 2,400 meters. The field will run the first furlong or so on the flat, and then proceed uphill until reaching about the midway point on long turn at the far right portion of the course. From there, the field will descend slightly as they run int the "false stretch" before facing another slight rise in elevation as they enter the final furlongs.
The run to the top of the turn is quite testing and, as a result, the pace is usually very, very slow during this portion of the race. As you watch races from Longchamp that run over this part of the course, you can see the considerable elevation gain from the gate to the top of the turn. The picture below gives you some perspective as to the elevation gain during the opening furlongs, although this vantage point is not at the highest point. You can see the Arc starting gate all the way in the back of the photo.
We discussed several times this year about weight and how much difference a pound or two makes during the running of the race. The two extra pounds that Havre de Grace carried when running against Blind Luck in the Delaware Oaks was the prime focal point during 2011. The Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe is a weight-for-age/sex race and the weight differences can be quite severe, especially for older horses. The official weights are (of course) in the metric kilograms, but (thankfully) not stone. Using the power of the internet in order to assist this non-metric American, I've calculated the Arc weights in pounds.
|Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe Weights|
|4up Fillies & Mares||58.0||127.87|
Check out those weight allowances for three-year-olds; does it surprise anyone to know that seven of the last eight winners of the Arc have been three-year-olds, including two fillies (Sea the Stars and Zarkava)? Furthermore, beginning in 1994, only three horses have won the Arc that weren't three-years-old (Sakhee, Marienbard (IRE), and Dylan Thomas (IRE)).
Now think about this year's Arc; Galikova, Reliable man, Treasure Beach, Seville, Shareta and Testosterone will all receive very nice weight concessions. The three-year-old fillies - Galikova, Shareta and Testosterone - will carry 11 pounds less than Workforce and So You Think.
Below are the entries, draw and weight allowances for the 2011 Arc:
|4||1||Hiruno d'Amour (JPN)||4c||131.18||S. Fujita||M. Kon||14/1|
|15||2||Danedream (GER)||3f||120.15||A. Starke||P. Schiergen||20/1|
|14||3||Testosterone (IRE)||3f||120.15||S. Pasquier||P. Bary||100/1|
|11||5||Masked Marvel (GB)||3c||123.46||W. Buick||J. Gosden||14/1|
|16||5||Galikova (FR)||3f||120.15||O. Peslier||F. Head||7/1|
|2||6||St Nicholas Abbey (IRE)||4c||131.18||J.P. O'Brien||A. O'Brien||33/1|
|12||7||Reliable Man (GB)||3c||123.46||G. Mosse||A. De Royer-Dupre||12/1|
|1||8||Workforce (GB)||4c||131.18||R. Moore||M. Stoute||9/1|
|13||9||Shareta (IRE)||3f||120.15||T. Jarnet||A. De Royer-Dupre||100/1|
|10||10||Meandre (FR)||3c||123.46||M. Guyon||A. Fabre||12/1|
|8||11||Snow Fairy (IRE)||4f||127.87||F. Dettori||E. Dunlop||12/1|
|9||12||Treasure Beach (IRE)||3c||123.46||C. O'Donoghue||A. O'Brien||33/1|
|7||13||Sarafina (FR)||4f||127.87||C. Lemaire||A. De Royer-Dupre||4/1|
|6||14||So You Think (NZ)||5h||131.18||S. Heffernan||A. O'Brien||5/1|
|3||15||Silver Pond (FR)||4c||131.13||T. Thulliez||C. Laffon-Parias||150/1|
|5||16||Nakayama Festa (JPN)||5h||131.18||M. Ebina||Y. Ninomiya||33/1|
With a 16 horse field, there are many different ways one can go in playing the Arc. I don't think Workforce is as good this year as he was in 2010, so I'm inclined to go against him in this spot. Ditto for So You Think, who is a very good but is going to be challenged by the weight and the distance. So You Think is much, much better at 10 furlongs and the Arc is one of the more testing 12 furlongs any horse will encounter.
Hiruno d'Amour (JPN) could represent some great value on the board after only missing by a neck to likely favorite Sarafina last time out over the Arc course. As of today, Hiruno d'Amour was around 12/1 with British bookmakers.
At the end of the day, I like two fillies in this years Arc: four-year-old Sarafina (FR), and three-year-old Galikova (FR).
Sarafina (FR): The likely favorite has been as good as a horse can be during 2011 with three wins in four starts. She began the year with a one length loss to Planteur in the Group 1 Pix Ganay in April. Man o'War and Arlington Million winner Cape Blanco (IRE) finished in fourth that day, a length and a half back of Sarafina. She bounced back from defeat to easily beat her own sex in the G2-Prix Corrida at Saint-Cloud in late May, followed by a pair of wins in the G1-Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud and the G2-Prix Foy.
Sarafina has defeated Hiruno d'Amour, St Nicholas Abbey (IRE), Nakayama Festa (JPN), Cirrus Des Aigles (FR) (runner-up in Saturday's G2-Prix Dollar), and Silver Pond (FR) during the year.
Galikova (FR): Unlike her half-sister Goldikova (IRE), Galikova appears to relish runn at distances longer than a mile. After a juvenile campaign that saw her win one race from two starts, Galikova stepped up to group stakes company in 2011 and has never looked back. After beginning the year with a win in a listed stakes race at Saint-Cloud, Galikova came back to score her first Group win in the G3-Prix Cleopatre at 10 ½ furlongs. From there she stepped up to the Group 1 level in the Prix de Diane (French Oaks) at Chantilly, where she finished a good second to the classy Golden Lilac (IRE). After a win against Group 2 competition in the Pix Guillaume d'Ornano (where Golden Lilac finished 3rd), Galikova finally broke through at the Group 1 level with a win in the Prix Vermeille while going 12 furlongs over ground rated "Very Soft" at Longchamp.
Galikova has proven to be a classy filly capable of running a big race, but the Arc is going to be, by far, the most difficult race she's had in her brief career. She will, however, receive a very nice weight allowance for 3yo fillies.
Sarafina has been very consistent this year, is versatile over a variety of ground conditions, and may have won this race a year ago if not for a brutal trip in the final furlongs. A clean trip tomorrow and I think she finds herself in the winner's circle.
Below are the entries for the Prix de la Foret featuring Goldikova:
|7||1||Flash Dance (IRE)||5m||125||M. Barzalona||F. Head||200/1|
|8||2||Goldikova (IRE)||6m||125||O. Peslier||F. Head||8/11|
|6||3||Dever Dream (GB)||4f||125||R. Hughes||W. Haggas||28/1|
|5||4||Bewitched (IRE)||4f||125||J. Murtagh||C. O'Brien||14/1|
|2||5||Worthadd (IRE)||4c||128||F. Dettori||V. Caruso||10/1|
|3||6||Dream Ahead||3c||126||W. Buick||D. Simcock||7/2|
|4||7||Surfrider (IRE)||3c||126||C. Lemaire||E. Libaud||33/1|
|1||8||Marchand d'Or (FR)||8g||128||D. Bonilla||M. Delzangles||20/1|