Neil Morrice previews the weekend’s feature races taking place throughout Europe.
Property Raceday Targets
Cumberland Lodge Stakes (Group 3)
With the Arc a mere 24 hours away, FAYLAQ can conjure up memories of his mother 2012 winner Danedream by taking a step up the class ladder. Although beaten over this course and distance in a July, Faylaq returned from a short summer break to romp home in a mile and three furlongs Kempton handicap last week without his jockey having to go for the whip. The way he’s being trained is typical of William Haggas when he senses he has a Group horse in chrysalis, which I strongly believe this colt is.
Sir Michael Stoute’s SEXTANT started off the season with victory in easy conditions here and has risen from his then mark of 89 to 108 courtesy of three subsequent triumphs. Although beaten on his first venture into Pattern company, he bounced back to smoothly land a Lusted race at Chester.
MORANDO has mixed it with the best of them this season and if recreating his eight lengths demolition of Kew Gardens in Chester’s Ormonde Stakes would be home and hosed. He again ran well when second to Technician in the Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury which adds up to make him the clear pick on form.
Northern raider WELLS FARHH GO has won three Group 3 contests and a Listed race, and while his last two efforts have proved disappointing, he remains a potent threat to all given extreme (soft/heavy) conditions.
This trip is probably on the short side for Mark Johnston’s VIVID DIAMOND while the progressive SURREY THUNDER jumps from Listed into Group company following his win at Clairefontaine.
4th Wells Farhh Go
5th Vivid Diamond
Kingdom of Bahrain
Sun Chariot Stakes (Group 1)
Connections of LAURENS thought long and hard about whether to run her in the FORET at Longchamp but have plumped for this enticing prospect of bidding to win this race back to back. In 2018 she touched it out to deny Happily in a photo but most judges would concede that Coolmore has a stronger contender this time in HERMOSA who has the accolade of two Classics to her name, the English and Irish 1,000 Guineas.
Laurens ran some good races in defeat before gamely opening her account for this year in the Group 1 Prix Rothschild at Deauville but was behind both HERMOSA and IRIDESSA in the Group 1 Matron Stakes at Leopards Town last month.
VERACIOUS has been afforded a mid summer break since her Falmouth Stakes (Group 1) triumph at the Newmarket July meeting and importantly the level of her homework has been of a high order.
LAVENDER’S BLUE broke her maiden over this course and distance and is highly rated by her trainer, Amanda Perrett. She was impressive winning a Sandown Group 3 on just her fourth career start but now takes a big class jump.
It’s a tangled web that these fillies weave but I fancy the raw jungle power of LAURENS to prove the key. I just prefer her to the fresh and strongly fancied Veracious.
5th Lavender’s Blue
QATAR PRIX DE LA FORET (Group 1)
Overseas challengers to Hollywoodbets 9-4 favourite CITY LIGHT are plentiful and Stephane Wattel’s charge will need to be at his best to live up to that market billing.
Seven furlong races with Group 1 status are as rare as hen’s teeth but City Light, winner of the Lingfield all weather sprint in 2017, has always looked like he would benefit from a move up to that distance. He chose Sunday’s course and distance to do it, running out a cosy winner of the Group 3 Couvert.
That followed an equally pleasing victory over just 100 metres shorter in a conditions race at him ‘home’ track of Deauville.
Considering he totally blew out when tenth in last year’s Prix de l’Abbaye the move up the trip ladder was always on the cards.
The 2018 Foret winner ONE MASTER could prove the main stumbling block to City Light and is reported to be reaching her seasonal peak by trainer William Haggas.
She acquitted herself well to finish fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Churchill Downs and though disappointing in Hong Kong, has proved in each of her four 2019 starts that she is up to winning another Group 1.
Third in the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot, second in the Falmouth Stakes at the Newmarket July meeting and fifth in the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville indicate that One Master is ready for a bountiful end of year campaign that could again traverse three continents. Furthermore she has trained energetically for this and her connections are quietly confident of another Paris delivery.
Further English flavour to the race arrives via the David Elsworth-trained SIR DANCEALOT whose rewarding campaign included two Group 2 triumphs in the Lennox Stakes at Goodwood and the Park Stakes at Doncaster. The five-year-old wasn’t disgraced when fifth to One Master in this 12 months ago but strictly on the book doesn’t appeal for Win purposes.
Multiple scorer SAFE VOYAGE enters the reckoning courtesy of his sheer consistency in a spectrum that’s seen him graduate from handicapper to proven Group performer. John Quinn’s stable star handles easy conditions and with a Group 3 triumph at Haydock as well as frame finishes in Group 2s at the Curragh and Newbury showed that he deserves his place in this line up.
Giving the race added flavour from Germany is WALDPFAD whose trainer has reaped a rich harvest with his overseas raids, sending our the five-year-old entire to plunder a Group 3 at Newbury in July and to post an honourable third placing in the Group 1 Haydock Sprint Cup.
1st ONE MASTER
2nd City Light
4th Safe Voyage
5th Sir Dancealot
Prix De L’Abbaye De Longchamp (Group 1)
The Abbaye is again dominated by overseas challengers with the sensational BATTAASH seeking to repeat his dazzling triumph in this race when it was run at Chantilly in 2017. Ever since a mesmerising success on his 3yo debut at Sandown, the Sheikh Hamadan-owned gelding has been untouchable when on his game. He’s dominated the King George Stakes at Goodwood with three straight wins in that Group 2, while his scintillating victory in the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes ruthlessly extinguished the theory that he isn’t in his comfort zone on the Knavesmire.
He’s developed the knack of being able to switch off in the slipstream of the leaders before blowing them away with a potent turn of foot at the business end. If he can adopt similar tactics, it should enable him to eradicate last year’s defeat at this course when he tried to outgun his foes from the front and had run out of petrol at the finish. Charlie Hills believes his speedball is now the complete article and unless something untoward occurs here, Battaash will be heading to the Santa Anita Breeders’ Cup.
MABS CROSS benefitted from Battaash’s exuberance to take this race in 2018 which gave the Michael Dods-trained mare ample reward for her frame finishes in the King’s Stand Stakes and the Nunthorpe. She was crowned Cartier Champion Sprinter of last year but hasn’t looked quite the same through 2019. She started positively with a win in the Group 3 Palace House Stakes but was then well beaten by Battaash in the Temple Stakes at Haydock, finished fourth in the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot, fourth to Battaash at York but only sixth in a Curragh Group 1 last time.
The 3yo challenge is led by SOLDIER’S CALL, whose Windsor Castle Stakes success at the 2018 Royal Ascot fixture played its part in putting former Alec Laird assistant Archie Watson onto the UK training map.
Watson has made his mark as a very effective handler of two-year-olds and Soldier’s Call subsequently landed a Group 3 at Chantilly and a Group 2 at Doncaster before coming back to trouble the judge in all five of his 2019 outings. He ran a cracker to chase home Battaash in the Nunthorpe but can only beat that rival if the odds-on favourite has an off day.
SO PERFECT represents Aidan O’Brien but with a single Group 3 success at Naas back in May to his name has something to prove, taking stock of the fact that his efforts through the summer included a third placing in the Nunthorpe.
Coolmore have a second string to their bow in FAIRYLAND, winner of two Group Ones as a juvenile and third on her latest start at the Curragh last month. That was easily her best effort in seven 2019 outings and she should not be underestimated.
2nd Mabs Cross
4th Soldier’s Call
5th So Perfect
QATAR PRIX DE L’ARC DE TRIOMPHE (Group 1)
WITH a roll of honour that is a who’s who of the great champions of the generations, the Arc deserves its place in the accolades as being the greatest race in the world. On Sunday, ENABLE bids to make history by becoming the first three-times winner, with racing enthusiasts from around the globe making the pilgrimage to the Bois De Boulogne course willing her to stamp her seal of greatness.
John Gosden’s handling of the 2017 and 2018 Arc winner through a sublimely unbeaten run is testament to that man’s status as the master trainer, and it will take a brave man to oppose the mare on Sunday, when she is carded to start around 8-11 with Hollywoodbets in a field of 11.
Her battle with Crystal Ocean in the King George is already intrenched in the pantheon of famous finishes to that mid summer Ascot spectacular and when following up in the Yorkshire Oaks the 5yo brushed aside her rivals with characteristic disdain, posting a fourth career defeat of Magical.
She has trained beautifully in the interim and delighted Frankie Dettori in her winding up gallop on good to soft ground on the trial ground in Newmarket on Monday. Enable led her regular workmate Crossed Baton and when Dettori asked her to stretch she displayed her characteristic turn of foot to go clear. The clarion call in Paris will be for ENABLE to post what is likely to be a career ending success and do it in a blaze of glory.
After overcoming a troubled campaign a year ago the Khaled Abdullah-owned mare became the eighth dual winner of the Arc, and this year attire he’d her unbeaten sequence to 10 with a hat-trick of Group 1 successes. Running in the same colours as the legendary Frankel, she’s suffered just one defeat in 14 career starts.
Gosden believes that at the age of five, ENABLE is at her peak. He explained: “She’s got a great stride on her and a great head and a wonderful outlook.
“She’s always got her ears pricked and she’s very enthusiastic about everything.
“When she was younger, she would run with unhindered exuberance and was often winning her races well. But now she’s got a little older and wiser. She’s filled her frame and there’s no doubt in my mind that a Flat thoroughbred horse is probably at its peak at five.
“We’ll see how we go. There’s some mighty opposition coming at us, there’s no doubt about that.”
Referring to that final blow out Gosden commented: “It was great to get ENABLE back onto the Limekilns where the ground was on the easy side of good and conditions were perfect as there was no wind.
“I put her in front as it’s best to mix it up with her. She can easily get bored doing the same thing. Frankie was happy with her in this important exercise.”
The international aspect of the Arc is as radiant as ever with horses from France, Ireland, Japan and the Czech Republic in the field. The Coolmore operation involves two participants in the shape of Juddmonte International Stakes winner JAPAN (Ryan Moore) and Irish Champion Stakes heroine MAGICAL (Donnacha O’Brien). Investec Derby winner ANTHONY VAN DYCK was scratched in the latest round of forfeits and will be held back for a shot at the Breeders’ Cup.
O’Brien said: “Japan has won three since being narrowly beaten in the Derby and is in good form. I imagine Ryan will ride him, with Donnacha on Magical and, if he runs, Seamie Heffernan on Anthony Van Dyck. We’re very happy with Magical who had a bit of a break in the summer and was only ready to start back at York. We were delighted with her performance at Leopardstown.”
Japan is the top 3-year-old colt in Britain and Ireland, having beaten older horses in the International, won at Longchamp, receives 3lb from Enable and is versatile regarding ground conditions. Nevertheless, he requires a career best to triumph.
MAGICAL has chased the shadow of Enable no fewer than four times but when meeting her at the Churchill Downs Breeders’ Cup went down by just threequarters of a length following a memorable battle in the home stretch.
The home challenge for the Arc is led by SOTTSASS and trainer Jean-Claude Rouget and jockey Cristian Demuro are waxing lyrical about the French Derby winner whose main asset appears to be the turn of foot he conjured up to dismiss Persian King in the Chantilly Classic and then enabled him to survive being stopped several times in the Prix Niel three weeks ago.
Rouget enthused: “His movement is perfect for such a big horse. He worked beautifully behind his lead horse Olmedo. He’s an exceptional horse and it’s up to him to prove it on Sunday.
“I shall also supplement SOFT LIGHT (at a cost of E120,000) into the Arc. He ran well when second in the Grand Prix de Deauville, and has pleased me. Yutaka Take will take the ride.”
Demuro observed: “Sottsass didn’t beat a top class field in the Niel but the feel that he gave me after being stopped four times was amazing. He has to be a good horse to have done that, while he also showed it against Persian King in the Jockey Club.”
But also very much in the picture for France is WALDGEIST who was just two lengths adrift of Enable when third in the King George aafter being given quite a lot to do, and bids to better his creditable effort to finish fourth in the 2018 Arc.
His legendary trainer Andre Fabre reasons: “Waldgeist had an easier race in the King George than when he ran at Royal Ascot and delighted me with the way he won his trial in the Prix Foy.
“It was just what he wanted before the Arc. He had a smooth race without it being too hard. Obviously he will come up against Enable again and what can you say about her ? If Enable runs to her usual level of form in the Arc then she will be very hard to beat.”
In the Foy he cantered to a two length success over Way To Paris, with Kiseki well held in third. It was just what Fabre and the owners wanted to see.
Further home interest is added by FRENCH KING on whom veteran rider Olivier Peslier bids for a remarkable fifth Arc triumph. French King is unbeaten this year and in some ways the joker in the pack, leading his 46-year-old pilot to observe: “He a very tough horse who fights in a finish and can win on any sort of ground. His form is good and he can be competitive, but as for winning the Arc, I’m not so sure.”
It’s rare to see a Group 1 won by a double figure margin but that’s what happened when GHAIYYATH tackled the Grosser Press Von Baden. The Godolphin-owned 4yo showed how well he operates fresh on his first start over a mile and a half. His jockey William Buick threw down the gauntlet to the others at halfway and from that point extended his lead with every stride to score by 14 lengths.
His trainer Charlie Appleby said: “I was lucky enough to be able to give him a summer break. Some people might question what he beat, but he did it very well.”
William Buick said: “I think he’s progressed and matured since he was beaten by Waldgeist and Study Of Man in the Ganay. Then on his first start at a mile and a half in Germany he was really impressive. It was a solid German Group 1. Remember Danedream won the Grosser Press Von Baden before she won the Arc, and on top of that Ghaiyyath won it by 14 lengths. He’s an absolute monster.”
At the start of the season few could have envisaged multiple champion jockey Christophe Soumillon siding with a horse trained in the Czech Republic, but though only narrowly denied on NAGANO GOLD in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot, the Belgian has switched to Japanese star KISEKI.
The 5yo, by Sixties Icon, slightly devalued his claims when third in the Group 2 Grand Prix de Deauville.
Japan’s long held quest to win a first Arc goes on but it is most unlikely any of their trio of challengers made up of KISEKI, BLAST ONEPIECE and FIEREMENT will be good enough. Kiseki has pleased in his homework since his run behind Waldgeist in the Foy, Blast Onepiece quicker nicely to land a Group 2 last time and connections are confident over his ability to handle the step up in trip while Fierement was back in third that day and is a two mile specialist who won’t have the speed to win an Arc.
Soumillon belives soft ground will assist Kiseki and said: “I think soft will be a help to him, although I don’t think he wants it heavy. He’s never experienced anything like that.”
5th JapanQATAR JEAN-LUC LAGARDERE (Group 1)
VICTOR LUDORUM stands out as a very solid favourite to add to Godolphin’s fine record in this. The ‘Boys In Blue’ have landed the 7f prize with Rio De La Plata, Ultra and Royal Marine since 2007, and field a colt with a monster reputation under the tutelage of master trainer Andre Fabre, who also has charge of their unbeaten Middle Park Stakes winner Earthlight. Victor Ludorum dotted up in his maiden over this course and distance before following up in a conditions race at Chantilly.
A name being barked around Chantilly this week is that of HELTER SKELTER.
The Jean-Claude Rouget – trained colt has looked more than useful with two wins and a second from his three starts including when backed into odds-on and delivering stylishly under Christophe Soumillon in soft ground at Deauville. He put in an impressive gallop last weekend and his pilot reckons he can give Victor Ludorum plenty to think about.
One rival that could get into the argument is the German-trained ALSON who looked impressive when taking out Well Of Wisdom in the Group 3 Preis Zunkunftsrennen on the final day of August. The Jean-Pierre Carvalho trained colt on his previous outing 8n a conditions race at Clairfontaine and has won three of his four career starts.
MOLATHAM is one to be taken seriously following his impressive display to dispatch Wichita at Doncaster, a run that gained credence when the second impressively landed the Tattersalls Stakes at Newmarket. He started an Even money favourite for Roger Varian that day, giving another fillip to emerging sire Night Of Thunder.
Aidan O’Brien is likely to saddle ARMORY whose reputation goes before him to the extent that he’s started odds on on each of his five racecourse visits, winning a Group 3 a Group 2 and finishing second to the much-vaunted Pinatubo in a Group 1 at the Curragh three weeks ago. He’s going to command widespread respect from the visiting hoards and is most people’s idea of the main threat to the favourite.
The famous Wertheimer Silks will be donned by Maxime Guyon aboard ECRIVAIN. Unbeaten in two outings at Deauville and Longchamp, the son of Lope De Vega arrives as an unknown quantity, but definitely one to be respected.
2nd Victor Ludorum
3rd Helter Skelter