3.05pm Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Group One ) 1m4f

The great race. The Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe isn’t always the strongest middle distance turf race run on the global calendar, but it generally promises to be just that every season as the best of both sexes from the Classic crop and the older generations clash in the Bois de Boulogne.

Adayar and Tarnawa have headed the market for the 100th edition of the race in recent weeks, but it’s possible they could yet come under pressure from both Hurricane Lane and Snowfall to fill the mantle of favourite at the off.

The Dermot Weld-trained Tarnawa has been aimed at the race since the decision was taken to keep her in training after last season’s heroics in the Prix Vermeille, Prix de l’Opera and the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

The 'King of Ballybrit' sobriquet could be viewed as an inane nickname for her master trainer. Contests at the Galway Races aren’t easy to win for most trainers, but they’re not difficult to land either when you rock up with well bred horses taking on overmatched opposition, a task made easier when the king of Irish racing – Aidan O’Brien – has abdicated to Goodwood for the week to win races of genuine prestige.

Weld’s true metier is as a top target trainer, but maybe 'TTT' doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Successful forays to other continents have become quite commonplace for trainers, but it was far rarer when Weld was laying out meticulous plans to land a Melbourne Cup with Vintage Crop and a Belmont Stakes with Go And Go three decades ago.

Tarnawa was perfectly primed for last year’s autumn campaign and the schedule this year has been almost identical. The races she’s taken in may be different, but the timetable has basically remained the same, and there’s no reason to think that she won’t be at the peak of her powers on Sunday.

Like most top-class horses, it was her turn of foot that was responsible for landing those three big prizes in 2020. Her two wins over this distance came on fast ground in slowly run races, and while she did win the Prix de l’Opera on testing ground, that came over a shorter trip.

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On anything other than heavy ground, one could argue that she merits being clear favourite given the imperfect preps of her main market rivals. But the weekend forecast muddies the waters – and it could have a similar effect on the ground at Longchamp.

Sire Shamardal has produced winners over a wide range of trips, but his sprinters and milers have enjoyed more success than his middle distance and staying progeny.

This trip on testing ground is likely to be at the very edge of Tarnawa’s stamina range. She may have won over the distance at a more testing track in Leopardstown on her seasonal debut, but that came against vastly inferior opposition.

Her performance in the Irish Champions Stakes against Group One opponents provides a better indicator of her attributes, when she came closer to lowering the colours of St Mark's Basilica than any of his other rivals this season, despite the favourite enjoying first run in a steadily run affair and hampering her in the home straight.

Connections of the horse probably missed a trick in not supplementing her for last year’s race, which turned out to be a relatively weak renewal. It looked as if Love was the horse to beat in 2020, but there was always the possibility that she was going to be scratched from the race if the ground was on the slow side. What couldn’t be predicted was that all the Ballydoyle runners would be ruled out of the race due to the unfortunate contaminated feed fiasco. It may not have been an open goal, but she’d have probably have lined up as second favourite in the race behind Enable.

Some eyebrows were raised, at least on Irish shores, when it was confirmed that Christophe Soumillon would be back on board for the Arc, replacing Colin Keane. They shouldn’t have been. Soumillon is the Aga Khan’s retained rider in France and boasts a superb record at Longchamp, which isn’t an easy track to ride.

The Belgian jockey and the Aga Khan currently enjoy an esprit de corps in relations, but that wasn’t always the case. Soumillon is in his second spell in the job.

Back in 2009, Aga Khan Studs released a statement which read: "After eight years under contract as the first rider in France, it has been decided as human relations have become difficult and after mutual agreement, that his contract will not be renewed for 2010."

The straw that broke the camel’s back seemed to emanate from a charity event, where Soumillon made disparaging remarks about Andre Fabre’s height, or lack of it. Soumillon is not a small jockey, but his former model wife still towers over him. You’d have thought he’d have shown a little more empathy.

When the news broke, Fabre then weighed in, firstly explaining why he had dispensed of the rider’s services two years earlier.

"Soumillon is a top-class jockey, but I blamed him a lot of times for killing the horses and for using his whip much too much," the French maestro said.

That reasonable critique was followed by a final withering statement on the matter: "To be fair, though, Soumillon is the least of my concerns. He is not a friend of mine, he never has been and he never will be. I don't care at all (about him)."

The Aga Khan also abruptly ended his professional relationship with Johnny Murtagh on two occasions over the years.

If he's a difficult man to ride for, he’s also a tricky character to train for as well.

We should probably spare a thought for John Oxx on Arc day. The Aga Khan’s decision to stop sending him yearlings in 2013 precipitated the beginning of the end of that legend of the turf’s career.

Aside from being one of racing’s gentlemen, Oxx won a whole host of major races with horses carrying those famous green and red silks. If that didn’t earn him a reprieve, his expert handling of Sea The Stars should have.

It’s interesting to contrast this leading owner-breeder with one of his peers. The late Khalid Abdullah had a respected doyen of the turf training for him whose fortunes had plummeted to a desperate nadir. A colt that would be subsequently named Frankel was sent to his yard and the rest is history.

In a parallel universe, Tarnawa could have been Oxx’s Frankel.

None of this will help you find the winner of the Arc, but it’s an interesting subplot. Often what happens off the turf is as interesting as what happens on it.

It’s difficult to know what exactly was responsible for Adayar’s lacklustre run in the Lingfield Derby Trial.

Perhaps it was the ground or the track, but he had already won on soft going, albeit against modest opposition.

Lingfield and Epsom aren’t dissimilar tracks and he did bolt up in the Derby a month later.

Trainer Charlie Appleby did feel he might have a Leger horse on his hands at one point. It’s easy to see why. Adayar has the stride length and the cadence of a horse equipped for that sort of trip.

Adayar obviously has a turn of foot, but it can take him a few strides to organise himself. He doesn’t necessarily have push-button acceleration. That would be a concern at a track such as Longchamp on lively ground. However, prevailing ground conditions arguably negate that issue.

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The uphill finishes in his races at Sandown (over an inadequate trip and with a pace bias) and Ascot played to his strengths.

His King George win is also arguably the best single piece of form on show here. What makes it even more meritorious is that victory was achieved despite him pulling for his head throughout the early stages.

One worry, given his price, is that lack of a prep run. A minor leg infection ruled that out. Horses have overcome such absences, with Workforce making the leap from the King George to the Arc a successful one in 2010. A year later, and without the weight-for-age allowance, the task proved well beyond him.

Adayar is a strapping colt, one who you’d imagine takes plenty of work and/or racing to arrive at a peak. If he’s beaten, it could be through a lack of fitness.

If racing weights were recorded and publicly available, it could illuminate the picture.

The one horse prominent in the market that now looks too short in the betting is Adayar’s stablemate Hurricane Lane. His price has been contracting all week due to his versatility in terms of ground conditions, and there’s every reason to suspect that testing going could provide him with his optimum conditions.

He’s won six of his seven lifetime starts and is a multiple Group One winner. However, there are two legitimate queries over his prospects in this contest at his current price.

His win over course and distance in the Grand Prix de Paris in July was emphatic. But in racing, as in life, things aren’t often as good – or bad – as they first appear.

Hurricane Lane clocked really impressive closing sectionals at Longchamp that day given the ground, but they were achieved off a pedestrian early pace.

William Buick had his mount ideally positioned to kick clear of his rivals in the ligne droite (home straight) as the dash for home developed. Quite a few runners in Sunday’s field are capable of what he achieved that day.

There are also major question marks over the calibre of many of his Grand Prix de Paris rivals, and while he’s a better horse than Alenquer and Bubble Gift, who he should confirm form with, the discrepancy in price between the son of Frankel and that pair looks too great. If you are a supporter of Hurricane Lane at around the 10-3 mark, you have to add Alenquer (28-1+) and Bubble Gift (100-1+) to your portfolio.

The primary concern over Hurricane Lane is how he’s been campaigned.

He’s been racing since the middle of April and racked up six races in that time, including his win last time out in the St Leger.

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Leger winners don’t win the Arc. At least they haven’t until this point.

One reason for that is that they can have too much stamina, but perhaps that’s less of a concern or even a strength on testing ground. The other reason is that most Leger winners aren’t truly elite middle distance performers. More often than not, they’re future stayers.

Looking at each of the winners of the Doncaster Classic since the turn of the century, Conduit is the only notable exception to that concern over class and speed.

In Michael Stoute, he had a trainer that specialises in late-developing sorts. Conduit clearly wasn’t ready for loftier targets earlier in his three-year-old season.

Another reason Leger horses struggle to follow up at Longchamp is the nature of the test at Town Moor.

Arc runners often prep in the typically slowly run affairs that are the Prix Niel, Prix Foy and Prix Vermeille. These are trials for the big day, including the latter race, even though it holds Group One status. You don’t rip the guts out of a leading Arc contender three weeks before the race. That’s just not the way to prime a horse for a peak lifetime performance which is often needed to triumph.

If you are going to throw a horse into the white heat of battle so close to Arc day, do it in the Irish Champion Stakes. Running fast over 10 furlongs shouldn’t bottom an Arc horse out the same way running over 12 furlongs can, or over the 14-furlong test that is the Leger. Hurricane Lane appeared to win easily, but appearances can be deceptive.

Maybe he is the exception to the Leger-Arc rule. We’re going to find out.

Only a fool would say a 10-3 shot couldn't win an Arc. The weight of money suggests a big run is anticipated, but he’s not for me at that price.

It’s at this point that you could normally trot out a line about "the always informative Arc trials". That stock phrase can’t be used this year.

Snowfall is the great imponderable in the race. It’s tough to know what price she should be. Her Vermeille run marked a significant regression in an otherwise stellar Classic campaign.

She did have to overcome a pace bias, but that doesn’t fully explain her lacklustre effort. Her conqueror that day, Teona, doesn’t even line up here, with connections citing concerns over the ground. Teona wasn’t winning an Arc on any ground.

The proximity of stablemate La Joconde, back in third, is another worry. She’d been routed in their previous meetings.

Perhaps Snowfall was undercooked and had been given an easy time after her win in the Yorkshire Oaks, but even residual fitness should have seen her win.

Her authoritative success in the Oaks at Epsom came on very soft ground. Is she ground dependent? Her race record suggests not. However, she wouldn’t be the first horse to sour of fast ground having previously handled it. The issue with that theory is that Snowfall doesn’t show the knee action you often associate with mud lovers.

If there was a minor ailment hindering Snowfall in the Vermeille, it didn’t manifest itself in any visible way. Sometimes a horse will hang left or right if they've an underlying injury, as St Mark’s Basilica did in the Irish Champion Stakes. And while bloods are done before big races, there’s nothing to prevent a horse developing a low-grade virus after they’re carried out.

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For an all-time great, O’Brien’s record in this race is rather underwhelming. Saddling the first three home in the 2016 Arc at Chantilly while Longchamp was undergoing redevelopment was a remarkable feat, but his only other win came with Dylan Thomas in 2007. Both were four-year-olds. He’s yet to score with a three-year-old.

O’Brien’s most impressive strength as a trainer may be his ability to keep his stars performing at a high level for extended periods of time. His middle distance performers are rarely wound up first time out, and that lack of fitness early in the Flat season benefits them in the summer months when they’re campaigned aggressively and often go unbeaten. However, later in the year they can underperform.

Dylan Thomas is a good case in point. His Arc win marked the start of a regression which was followed by lamentable efforts in the Breeders' Cup Turf and the Hong Kong Vase, when he was clearly bottomed out.

Snowfall hasn’t been overraced this season, but maybe her form is just tailing off.

The decision to supplement her for €120,000 was a no-brainer from a commercial point of view and also doesn’t point to her wellbeing. If she was to disappoint, connections don’t have to consider the impact it could have on her future stud value as she’s not a colt. Snowfall will never be sold, her direct female progeny will never enter the sales ring, and her colts will never hit the open market as foals or yearlings. The only way they’ll change ownerships is as gelded older horses, who haven’t made the grade as Group One winners and potential stallions.

With queries hanging over her, the market is almost certain to be the best guide to her chances.

A price of 5-1 about the filly that swept all before her up the Vermeille is outstanding value, but it’s a dire quote if the Longchamp run is a reflection of her current condition.

The Coolmore stakeholders have acquired vast fortunes backing their judgement in various spheres of commerce. If they believe a runner to be overpriced in a high-profile race, they will take a position and avail of the perceived value. They won’t always get it right, but they’ll be correct often enough to make it worthwhile. A well-backed Snowfall should have a strong winning chance, while a market drift could signal that all is not well.

Japanese raiders Chrono Genesis and Deep Bond look overpriced. After harping on about the importance of a good prep heading into this race, a 98-day absence for Chrono Genesis could be regarded as a negative. It shouldn’t be. She’s been campaigned that way throughout her career and those lengthy gaps between her races are by design.

The daughter of 2004 Arc winner Bago is light-framed and goes best fresh. Her lack of size almost certainly cost her a win over Mishriff in the Sheema Classic earlier in the year, where she came off second best in a barging match with her compatriot Loves Only You. Victory in that contest would have seen her priced up much shorter here.

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Questions have been asked in some quarters over the Japanese contenders’ ability to handle testing ground. It’s true that many of their top races at home are run on good to firm or even firm turf. But her career best performance came in the 2020 Takarazuka Kinen at Hanshin on soft going. The official description may have been 'good', but a cursory glance at race times and the race replay indicates otherwise. Japanese racing gets most things right, but their going descriptions can be as inaccurate as they are in France.

Deep Bond is comical in appearance and this giant specimen is probably too one-paced to win an Arc unless there’s a brutal early tempo resulting in a pace collapse, but that could happen.

He may have been ideally positioned when landing the Foy from the front over course and distance last month, but the slowly run nature of the race wouldn't have played to his main strength, which is stamina.

Horses returning from a long break, as he was, often perform better over shorter trips. The 12-furlong Foy may have been within his compass last month, but his ideal distance is probably two furlongs further. Still, there is value present at his current odds on this ground.

Love was withdrawn from the race last year due to the going and now faces even more testing conditions this time around. She hasn’t replicated the highs of last season even when she has had her optimum conditions.

* Love was declared a non-runner on Saturday night

Raabihah has flattered to deceive on a number of occasions. Her win at Deauville last time out was encouraging and she’s a much bigger price than she’s ever traded at previously. The worry for her supporters is that she came up short last year when the weight-for-age scale was in her favour.

Alenquer should probably be a shade shorter now that he returns to this longer trip, while his run behind Hurricane Lane in the Grand Prix de Paris was better than it looked when you consider his closing sectionals. However, there may be another rival from that contest that offers even better value at the back of the market.

Sealiway is a genuine Group One horse, but Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere winners tend to be milers, while some can stretch their stamina to 10 furlongs. There’s nothing in his pedigree, form or run style to suggest that he’s an aberration. He has a 119-day absence to overcome and I’d guess he’s a social runner for his connections. It’s a strange way to campaign a talented colt.

However, don’t be surprised if he catches your eye as the field approaches the straight. It’s easy to envisage a scenario where he’s travelling well until that point. Then his fuel tank will empty, and like many UK motorists, he’ll be running on fumes at the end of his trip.

Masaaki Matsushim may not be a one of 'the lads' at Coolmore just yet, but he stills hold enough sway from from his place on the periphery of the inner circle to jock up Yutaka Take on Broome, the horse he co-owns with the main men John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith.

Take is the most feted jockey in Japan and there’s no disputing that he’s terribly elegant in the saddle, a race-riding version of Mikhail Baryshnikov, but you can forget about him galvanising a tiring horse home in a driving finish.

He has won six Group Ones on his European adventures, but is arguably better remembered for his neck defeat on Zenno Rob Roy behind Mick Kinane and Electrocutionist in the 2005 Juddmonte International and his loss by a head to Ryan Moore and Workforce in the 2010 Arc, where he partnered Nakayama Festa. In both instances, you'd fancy that switching jockeys would have brought about different results.

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Broome finally recorded that all-important Group One win on his 17th career start in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud in July, mainly due to a textbook Saint-Cloud ride from Colin Keane.

Keane got an early lead, slowed the pace right down, and then kicked just over two furlongs from home, getting the fractions just right.

The other riders had spun around the course hundreds of times before, while the Irish champion jockey was making his first appearance at the circuit. It was an incredible display of instinctive riding and track craft.

Broome won’t be troubling the judge, but Keane can feel a little aggrieved that he’s not in the plate.

He’s not the only top jockey to miss out on a ride in the race. It’s hard to believe that Olivier Peslier hasn’t picked up a mount here. Peslier had been due to ride Teona, but her defection leaves him sidelined. The veteran French jockey is arguably the finest exponent of how to ride Longchamp, with Frankie Dettori and Christophe Soumillon also high on that list.

Mojo Star has placed in Group one company, but looks outclassed here.

Germany is represented by Torquator Tasso, and he’s an interesting runner at 100-1 who can outrun his odds. His season has been built around this one target and he will handle conditions. However, it’s likely that there’s a comparatively low ceiling on his ability. Trainer Marcel Weiss would be delighted if he was to finish sixth or seventh, but that won’t reward each-way backers.

If there was a market on which horse would finish last, Baby Rider would be favourite. He's unlikely to stay the trip and is racing out of his class.

Only a nose separated Baby Rider and Bubble Gift in perhaps the worst Prix Niel in history, but there’s reason to think the latter will confirm superiority in dominant fashion this time around.

It requires a massive leap of faith, but Bubble Gift could run a big race here.

Let’s start with the negatives, of which there are many. Bubble Gift may have won three of his seven starts, but the clock and the subsequent form lines reveal those contests to have been poor affairs.

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His most recent win in the Prix Niel was achieved in another slow time, with the other two trials on the card almost three seconds quicker. The field should have clocked lightning quick closing sectionals in the Niel, but they didn’t.

However, Bubble Gift still falls into the category of a lightly-raced three-year-old colt who is improving, albeit off a low base. On its own, that offers scant encouragement.

Pace bias scenarios he's faced and, in particular his pedigree, provide more hope of a surprisingly good run.

Bubble Gift was held up off a slow pace in both the Grand Prix de Paris and the Prix Niel. His closing sectionals in the former race didn’t match those of either Hurricane Lane or Alenquer, and he covered less ground. But he’s been ridden as a non-stayer, even though that is likely to prove his forte.

His half-sister Bubble Smart has developed into a decent horse since upped in trip this season for the same connections and she’s by Intello. Bubble Gift is by Nathaniel, who is a stronger stamina influence.

Waiting patiently at the back of a more strongly-run race should see him outrun his odds. And it'll be interesting to see how many rivals he can pass in the home straight.

Conventional wisdom dictates that a low draw is desirable at Longchamp over the Arc trip. That’s certainly true when the going is good or better. Horses break from the stalls and after a few furlongs they almost become locked in position until they reach the home straight. Most are still travelling well under those conditions before what’s often a sprint over the final few furlongs. That’s one of the main reasons that the final margins between the Arc runners tends to be quite compressed, despite disparities in ability.

On soft ground, the draw is less of a factor. You can expect a greater number of horses to be under the pump some way out. That should result in more space and arguably produce a fairer race, with position entering the final furlongs not quite so key.

One interesting runner that could have been supplemented for the Arc but wasn't is Palmas. She runs in the Prix de l’Opera in the contest that follows the feature.

Unraced at two, she made a winning racecourse debut in the middle of May, and there were still plenty of signs of greenness in her Listed victory a month later. She made giant strides to run out a six-length winner of the Preis der Diana at the beginning of August, and victory was achieved despite horse and rider becoming unbalanced crossing the path that inexplicably runs across the home straight at Dusseldorf.

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If her rate of progression is unusual, so too is her breeding. During Northern Dancer’s lengthy, lucrative, and presumably highly enjoyable time at stud, the influential Canadian sire spread his seed far and wide. However, there is no Northern Dancer blood running through either side of her pedigree. Her outcross status makes her an even more valuable broodmare prospect.

We could be hearing a lot about her next season if she remains in training, but she’s one to follow in the here and now in the Prix de l’Opera at around the 9-1 mark.

Verdict

In the months leading up to the race, Tarnawa and Snowfall were the two horses I was keen to have onside in the antepost market. But I'm not sure if much value remains in their prices. My preference remains with Tarnawa, despite worries about the trip on this ground. Expect Christope Soumillon to be arriving with a very late challenge on Dermot Weld’s mare, while Snowfall’s chances should be highlighted by her position in the market.

It’s tough to avoid a degree of cognitive dissonance when recalibrating your view from the antepost to the day of the race market, but at the current prices, Chrono Genesis may provide the best value on offer. Priced at 12-1 with fixed odds firms and 14-1 on the exchanges, her odds are likely to contract on all platforms when the Japanese money arrives in the run-up to the race. If you are betting each-way, ensure it’s with a bookmaker paying five places on the race. Bonne chance.