With less than three weeks until the 2012 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longhcamp in France, it's time for the prime contenders to fine tune their form before the biggest race in Europe. Defending champion Danedream (GER) already turned in her final pre-Arc tune-up by winning the G1-Preis von Baden on September 2nd. If she were to successfully defend her title she would become the first repeat winner of the Arc since Alleged in 1977/78.
On Sunday, Longchamp provided a home-course practice run for the Arc with the G2-Prix Foy and the G2-Prix Niel, both run at the Arc trip of 12 furlongs. Let's take a look at the results from France and from other races in Europe this past weekend.
Arc Preview Day
2011 Japanese Horse of the Year Orfevre (JPN) turned in a performance in the Group 2-Prix Foy that solidifies him as one of the betting favorites for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on October 7th. Facing only a field of four rivals, Orfevre sat at the rear of the field for the first nine or ten furlongs, moved towards the front along the rail and came home willingly under mild urging in the final furlong.
Shareta (IRE) backed up her win in the Yorkshire Oaks with a score in the G1-Prix Vermeille at 12 furlongs over going rated at "Good to Soft". While the Arc is the likely spot for her next start, either the G2-Prix de Royallieu or the G1-Prix de l'Opera, both on Arc weekend, wold be good spots for this filly. And you'd have to think that this filly would fit in very nicely in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, should the connections decide to ship to the U.S. Her trainer, notes that this filly love fast ground and likes a fast pace, both of which she'd probably find at Santa Anita in November.
In the G1-Prix du Moulin de Longchamp, filly Moonlight Cloud (GB) held off Farhh (GB) by a head, and is likely to fly to America to take on the boys in the Breeders' Cup Mile. Even though the field for the Moulin drew just four horses, Moonlight Cloud was still quite impressive in victory given the way the race set up in the middle stages and the traffic trouble the filly experienced as she made her winning move. Check out the race replay on YouTube (Moonlight Cloud is in the white silks with the green stripe).
Trained by Freddy Head, trainer of the phenomenal three-time Mile winner Goldikova (IRE), is looking to take another shot with Moonlight Cloud.
Caspar Netscher (GB), also a candidate to run in the Breeders' Cup Mile, finished last in the field of four.
Saonois (FR) powered to the front in the final 100 yards to win the G2-Prix Niel over Secretariat winner Bayrir (FR), the Arc prep for three-year-olds. In recent years, three-year-old have done very, very well in the Arc (winning eight of the last 10 races) in part due to the significant weight allowance for the sophomore colts. It's tough to know how serious of an Arc contender Saonois is at this point given the smallish field and the fairly slow pace of the race, but his recent form is excellent (winner of four of his last five) and he appears to be a colt that is steadily improving throughout the year.
Let's talk about Bayrir as a possible Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita. The mile and a half distance of the Prix Niel didn't seem too long for him at all on Sunday but, given the dawdling pace in the early stages and the bunched nature of the pack, it's tough to get a great read on his performance. If he were to come to the U.S. and run on a flat and firm Santa Anita turf course, I think he gets 12 furlongs with ease and would likely display the same kind of strong, late kick as he did at Arlington. Additionally, the notoriously soft at Longchamp probably didn't do him any favors when compared to his run over good ground at Arlington. We'll see if the connections decide to take another shot in the U.S., but after their success at Arlington you'd have to think the Breeders' Cup Turf is a strong possibility.
England & Ireland
While Camelot (GB) was coming up short in the English St. Leger at Doncaster, Royal Diamond (IRE) was winning the G1-Irish St. Leger at The Curragh over yielding ground. The rating for the race came back fairly soft on both Timeform and from the Racing Post, so it remains to be seen whether the winner is a serious contender for the big races this fall. Brown Panther (GB), mentioned as a possible Breeders' Cup Turf starter, finished third, beaten just a half a length.
The top performance of the weekend in Ireland came from juvenile Dawn Approach (IRE) in a brilliant performance in the G1-National Stakes at The Curragh. Sent to post as the 2/5 favorite, Dawn Approach settled just off the pace, took command of the race with a little over a furlong to go, and won by a comfortable 4 3/4 lengths at the wire.
Dawn Approach is now a perfect five for five to begin his career, with his score in the National Stakes backing up his win in the Group 2 Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot in June. He currently sits at #2 on the Timeform ranking for two-year-olds in Europe.
|15-Sep||CUR||G1-Irish St. Leger||3up||14.0||Turf||Royal Diamond|
|15-Sep||CUR||G1-National Stakes||2yo, c&f||7.0||Turf||Dawn Approach (IRE)|
|15-Sep||DON||G1-St. Leger||3yo, c&f||14.5||Turf||Encke|
|15-Sep||DON||G2-Champagne Stakes||2yo, c&g||7.0||Turf||Toronado (IRE)|
|16-Sep||LCH||G1-Prix du Moulin de Longchamp||3up||8.0||Turf||Moonlight Cloud (GB)|
|16-Sep||LCH||G1-Prix Vermeille||3up, f&m||12.0||Turf||Shareta (IRE)|
|16-Sep||LCH||G2-Prix Foy||4up||12.0||Turf||Orfevre (JPN)|
|16-Sep||LCH||G2-Prix Niel||3yo||12.0||Turf||Saonois (FR)|
|16-Sep||DOR||G3-Deutsches St. Leger||3up||14.0||Turf||Altano (GER)|
|16-Sep||LCH||G3-Prix du Petit Couvert||3up||5.0||Turf||Monsieur Joe (IRE)|
|16-Sep||LCH||G3-Prix Gladiateur||4up||15.5||Turf||Ivory Land (FR)|