Baaeed's absence may strip the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe of some of its lustre, but it remains Europe’s most prestigious Flat race.

As precocity and speed have usurped stamina as the traits most coveted in racehorses by owners and breeders in much of the world, there’s an argument proffered that an autumn contest over a mile shouldn’t be regarded as the highlight in the calendar.

However, it’s still the ability to quicken – regardless of trip – that decides so many races on the level.

Longchamp’s topography generally puts an emphasis on that attribute, with quick closing sectionals the norm, even on testing ground.

A number of runners in each of the last two Arcs run on ground officially described as "heavy" managed to break 12 seconds over the penultimate furlong, while times under 11 seconds are commonplace for that 400m-200m closing sectional on good ground.

A decade ago, Frankel cemented his legacy as the greatest of all time without ever lining up in this race and headed to Ascot for the Champion Stakes.

Any suggestion that Baaeed could emulate him with victory at Ascot looks spurious and smacks of false equivalence, and there’s no doubt that he hasn’t captured the public’s imagination in the way Henry Cecil’s star did.

While part of Frankel’s appeal was the role he played in the renaissance of a master trainer who had languished in the doldrums in the latter stages of his career, all the while battling what proved to be terminal illness, it was the calibre of the opposition he faced and the manner of his victories that sealed his place in the record books.

Baaeed falls short of Frankel in both categories, while there’s reason to believe that his unbeaten record has acted as a millstone around his trainer's neck, resulting in him being needlessly conservatively campaigned.

Unlike Frankel, Baaeed boasts obvious stamina on both sides of his pedigree and has a racing style and temperament described by his trainer on more than one occasion as "straightforward".

Baaeed will ultimately be judged by an exceptional body or work, not the result of one race, but it’s interesting to ponder how he might have been remembered if he had managed to blow an Arc field apart.

While Baaeed has to go down as an unenforced absentee, the same can’t be said for La Parisienne or Verry Elleegant, with plenty of finger-pointing at France Galop taking place in the build-up to the race this week.

With the race oversubscribed, they both missed out on places in the 20-runner maximum field.

There are two issues with this decision.

Firstly, should a popular bet dictate who can line up in Europe’s most illustrious race? Because that’s what’s happening here. If you thought tricasts were tricky, the Quinte is quite the monster. It requires punters to select the first five horses home and is a massive moneyspinner for the PMU and therefore French racing. It’s also limited to races with a maximum of 20 horses, with no option for horses balloted out to line up on the day should there be non-runners.

The other issue that caused consternation was the ratings method used to decide the top 20 in the field.

Australian racing fans were left irked by 11-time Group One winner Verry Elleegant missing the cut for the big race and being rerouted to Saturday's Prix de Royallieu, but it’s La Parisienne’s involuntary defection to the Prix de l’Opera that looks particularly egregious.

The former has been disappointing in two starts since arriving at Francis-Henri Graffard's yard for her French foray, although you could take an optimistic view and argue that they were little more than Arc preps.

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La Parisienne, on the other hand, looked a genuine contender for major honours in the race. The Prix de Diane runner-up finished an eyecatching third in the Prix Vermeille last time out, and there’s little doubt she’d have won that Group One contest but for encountering trouble in running under a poor ride.

A three-year-old filly, who appeared to be blossoming at just the right time, she likely would have been sent off between 12-1 and 16-1, with more obvious claims than many of those who have secured berths in the race.

The French authorities should be looking to take a more nuanced approach to how places are made available in future editions of the race.

The ground is likely to ride soft this weekend, although not as deep as in the last two years, with the 2020 edition run on particularly gruelling terrain.

Official going descriptions in France are a bugbear for many as they’re notoriously unreliable, with the level of moisture regularly overstated. Race times on Saturday should prove a far better indicator to the actual state of the ground.

Much is made of the draw at Longchamp over a mile and a half and while there’s a definite bias favouring those drawn low when the ground is good or better, that’s negated when conditions are slower, making it a fairer race.

Titleholder is one of four Japanese-trained runners in the race.

The Arc has become something of a holy grail for raiders from the Land of the Rising Sun, and they’ve gone agonisingly close to scoring on a number of occasions.

Regardless of his ultimate finishing position, Titleholder looks like having a huge say in the outcome due to his gung-ho running style.

A winner of four of his last five starts, three of those victories have come at Group One level.

Having scored bloodless successes over a mile and seven furlong in the Kikuka Sho and the two-mile Tenno Sho, Titleholder has clearly marked himself out as an outstanding stayer.

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However, it's his win in the Takarazuka Kinen over just a mile and three furlongs last time out that is his career highlight to date, and his most informative run.

Stamina is still highly valued in Japan and it’s not unusual for stayers and middle-distance horses to do battle at the top tier on a regular basis.

But how exactly did Titleholder see off speedier rivals over a trip that looked short of his best?

The Takarazuka Kinen is run at Hanshin, which is the most testing of the major racecourses in Japan. He’s a perfect three from three at the track, while he’s won just two of eight starts elsewhere.

Titleholder was by far the best horse in the race as victory was achieved in an inefficient manner, and it had to be, as the one quality he’s deficient in is acceleration.

Injecting fast early and mid-race pace burned off horses that should have been closing at the death but couldn’t.

Anticipating pace angles pre-race is fraught with danger, with the apparent 'likely’ scenario often not materialising, but knowing that a turn of foot isn’t something Titleholder has in his repertoire surely means his connections will adopt those trusted tactics once more.

When frontrunners win, it's often because they’ve been allowed to set slow or steady fractions before kicking for home. That lack of acceleration means Titleholder will need to be far more bold if he can get to the head of affairs.

He’s yet to race on a really testing surface, and runners from Japan – where they often run on genuinely firm ground – do tend to prefer livelier going than Titleholder will encounter here. However, if he handles conditions there’s a strong chance he’ll be leading entering the false straight and into the home straight.

If such a scenario transpires, any rivals that have raced prominently are likely to suffer and the Arc could well be won by a horse that has raced in midfield or at the rear for much of the trip.

Aidan O’Brien landed a remarkable 1-2-3 in the 2016 version of the race, but he’s only won the Arc twice, and never with a three-year-old.

However, that glaring omission from the master trainer’s resume shouldn’t be the reason to oppose race favourite Luxembourg.

O’Brien’s modus operandi over the years has been to get his Classic generation on track quite early and they’re generally raced aggressively over the course of the season, meaning their form can dip as their campaigns draw to a close.

There is no chance of Luxembourg arriving here over the top. The muscle injury he suffered after his third-place finish in the 2000 Guineas kept him off the racecourse until August and he claimed the Irish Champion Stakes on just his third start of the season. He arrives here a fresh horse and his schedule isn’t too far removed from the classic French prep for the race, where a lengthy mid-season break is de rigueur.

This will be his first try at a mile and half, with many suggesting he will improve for the step up in distance, but it'll be interesting to see how he performs should the race become a real slog.

Last year’s shock winner Torquator Tasso and Alpinista are sure to stay the trip and both will handle the ground, with the former likely to thrive on it.

The previously underrated Alpinista is unbeaten in two races this term and is seeking a sixth consecutive Group One win.

Torquator Tasso, second in the King George earlier in the season, was beaten at Baden-Baden last time out as an odds-on favourite, That can be forgiven. The race served as a prep and after going slow early, they got racing for home a very long way out, with Mendocino pipping him at the line under an excellent ride.

If I had to oppose one runner towards the head of the market, it would be Vadeni. He has already won the Prix du Jockey Club and the Eclipse this year and finished well in the Irish Champion Stakes from an unpromising position last time out. However, his cadence doesn’t scream Arc winner.

Aside from his stride frequency, there are pedigree concerns for this trip, particularly in a fast-run race. If you do give Christophe Soumillon’s mount the elbow, just be watchful that his rider doesn’t give you one back.

Westover’s prospects depend on which incarnation turns up at Longchamp. Will it be the one that came third in the Derby when encountering no luck in running before taking the Irish Derby impressively? Or will it be the horse that pulled his chance away in the King George? If it’s the former, he’s a live contender. His lack of a recent run means he may arrive here a little too fresh, but a strong pace and a big field could help him settle better.

Grand Prix de Paris winner Onesto filled the runner-up berth behind Luxembourg in the Irish Champion Stakes. He’s likely to be at the very rear of the field and those tactics could well be rewarded here over a course and distance that he has won over before. His Leopardstown run came after a break, but he's such a small horse that it’s difficult to know how much improvement is to come. He’ll also have to slalom his way through a field of more physically imposing rivals.

Al Hakeem is another likely to be dropped out early. A winner at Deauville over 10 furlongs last time out, he has stamina doubts to answer. However, his latest victory was achieved despite taking a keen hold early on. His sire Siyouni has already recorded an Arc win with Sottsass, but that came in a slowly-run affair that developed into a sprint finish. His progeny are generally best over shorter distances.


Alpinista, Torquator Tasso, Luxembourg and Onesto are the leading protagonists I like best. The first two look rock solid and seem likely to give their running. I’m not certain we can say that about the latter pair, but they are unexposed and have more potential upside.

There’s also a rank outsider that the market many have overlooked in a major way in the form of BUBBLE GIFT.

The four-year-old has won just three of his 12 starts, consisting of a maiden and a couple of Group Two successes by the narrowest of margins against poor opposition.

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His only placed effort in three attempts in Group One company came in this year’s Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, where he finished third behind Alpinista, who was making her seasonal debut. Bubble Gift was already making his third start of the season and was clearly race-fit.

You have to dig quite deep to find anything to recommend him.

Bubble Gift finished eighth of 14 runners in last year’s Arc, where he stayed on from the rear of the field in a race that wasn’t run to suit.

This isn't a horse with an elite-level burst of acceleration. He hits flat spots in his races and becomes outpaced. What he likely does possess is stamina and that’s a quality that could come to the fore in what might be an atypical running of Longchamp’s showcase race.

Bubble Gift made his very first career outing over nine furlongs and 10 of his other 11 races have come over a mile and a half. Connections clearly regard this as his minimum trip and despite having entries in races over further, they’ve resisted the temptation to take up those engagements. Presumably they’re hoping to get a high-profile win into him over the distance to secure a more lucrative future at stud. Without that, he’s likely to end up as a stallion in a far-flung breeding backwater or the most modest of French studs.

Bubble Gift’s half-sister Bubble Smart has developed into a decent performer, but couldn’t record a win until stepped up to staying trips. That’s significant as Bubble Smart is by Intello, while Bubble Gift’s sire is a far greater influence for stamina in Nathaniel.

For the first time, Bubble Gift will have the assistance of Olivier Peslier in the saddle. Longchamp is not an easy course to ride – Frankie Dettori may be Peslier’s equal around here, but I can’t think of a jockey in the race who rides the course better.

Quotes of 80-1 earlier in the week about Bubble Gift are now gone, but even at 50-1 he still has 14 rivals ahead of him in the betting. He can outrun those odds. By how much is difficult to say, but with bookmakers paying five and six places on the race, depending on the firm, he’s worth an each-way bet. He's also worth supporting in any match bet against a similarly priced rival.