This weekend brings us the most prestigious flat race in Europe, the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe. After a break of a couple of years when the race was staged at Chantilly, this year the race returns to Longchamp, although the ground at the revamped course has been criticised by many trainers.
I was lucky enough to be in the paddock at Kempton (being part of the Cribbs Causeway syndicate) when this years' race fav and 2017 winner ENABLE had her preparatory spin on the all-weather surface there. She looked very well, and did what was expected that day. What I thought interesting was how professional the connections undertook their business: very serious, no light-hearted behaviour (even though Enable's return to the track was reason enough for celebration). And gentleman that he is, John Gosden took the time to swap a few words with me as we walked from the pre-parade ring into the paddock before the race.
From what I saw, I'd expect Enable to come on a few pounds for that run, but she will not have to find much to repeat her win of 2017. Remember, she may have been off the track for 11 months prior to that run, but her main rival at Kempton Crystal Ocean was having his 5th run of a busy season which had seen him win the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot and then be beaten just a neck into 2nd by Poet's Word in the Group 1 "King George" back at Ascot on the final Saturday in July. I'm not sure that Crystal Ocean repeated that level of form when meeting Enable in September at Kempton, but he wasn't far off and was beaten convincingly enough to warrant no entry for this race and instead he likely goes next for the Champion Stakes back at Ascot on 20th October.
The worry for Enable is that she is conceding 7lb to the 3yo filly's, however the best of these looks to be SEA OF CLASS and she is (in my opinion) about 10lb inferior to Enable at this stage last season. I really cannot see her troubling Enable. The best of the 3yo colts is KEW GARDENS, but the St Leger winner didn't look anywhere near good enough when 3rd in the Great Voltigeur Stakes (Group 2). Of the older horses, WALDGEIST is the obvious challenger, but his best form still leaves him with a fair bit to find although this race has been his target for the past few months. It may pay to take a chance with last year's runner-up CLOTH OF STARS filling the same place again – he's certainly good enough when he wants to be as he showed last year.
Once this weekend is over, we can start to focus entirely on the jumps season.
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