Trust Treve to deliver in Paris
Channel 4 commentator Simon Holt previews Sunday's Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp.
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Fillies have won three of the last five runnings (Zarkava, Danedream and Solemia) of the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and TREVE is fancied to continue that trend in a superbly-contested renewal of Europe's premier all-aged middle distance horse race at Longchamp on Sunday.
Unbeaten in four starts, the daughter of Motivator looked a remarkably talented performer when slamming subsequent Irish Oaks winner Chicquita by four lengths in the Prix de Diane (French Oaks) at Chantilly in June, and she confirmed that impression when quickening readily for Frankie Dettori and comfortably beating the smart Wild Coco in last month's Prix Vermeille.
It is desperate luck that Dettori, who fractured his ankle in a fall at Nottingham earlier this week, will not be able to take the mount on a filly who could have sealed his riding comeback on one of the biggest stages in horse racing, but two-times Arc winning rider Thierry Jarnet (Subotica and Carnegie) is surely a more than adequate replacement.
Home reports since the Vermeille have been hugely positive and trainer Criquette Head-Maarek (who won the Arc with Three Troikas in 1979) believes her stable star has found even more improvement.
So far, Treve has always been ridden to produce stunning late-race acceleration and she's going to need some luck to slice through the big field. Normally, her high draw (15) would have been regarded as disadvantageous but it may help her stay clear of trouble and, in receipt of either or both the age and sex allowance from her rivals, she can prove too classy up the home straight.
Main British hope Al Kazeem is drawn very wide in 18 - not what connections would have hoped for - but the softish going should be ideal for Roger Charlton's triple Group One winner and he remains open to a bit more improvement over a mile and a half.
However, one or two of the other contenders may have a bit more speed, in particular last year's mercurial runner-up Orfevre (drawn favourably in stall eight) who, once again, bids to give Japan a long overdue Arc success after near-misses with El Condor Pasa, Deep Impact and Nakayama Festa in recent years.
Orfevre was certainly a near-misser himself 12 months ago, looking all over the winner a furlong out only to lose concentration and get caught by the outsider Solemia.
Most impressive in last month's Prix Foy, cantering three lengths clear of Very Nice Name, this is a horse - like the selection Treve - with a streak of brilliance.
Should Orfevre misbehave, then Japan could still lift the prize with Kizuna, a son of Deep Impact, who followed up his local Derby win in Tokyo with a narrow defeat of the unlucky-looking Ruler Of The World in the Prix Niel last month when the reopposing pair Ocovango and Flintshire finished third and fourth.
That was certainly a slowly-run trial and the cards could easily fall differently on Sunday; soft ground conditions may help Ruler Of The World (though his Epsom Derby winning performance hasn't really worked out) while Grand Prix de Paris winner Flintshire, trained by seven-times Arc-winning handler Andre Fabre, was not knocked about and could improve.
Fabre will also run the talented Intello (along with Ocovango and the outsiders Pirica and Penglai Pavilion) who met his only defeat in his last four starts when a creditable third behind Moonlight Cloud in the Prix Jacques le Marois over a mile at Deauville in August.
An unlucky third in the French Guineas in May, this son of Galileo looks good enough to go close but, so far, is unproven beyond 11 furlongs and there are few stamina influences on his dam's side.
Meanwhile, Aidan O'Brien also sends out the recent St Leger winner Leading Light (Gerald Mosse) to join Ruler Of The World (Ryan Moore). A strong gallop will suit both horses and, if there is no pace on early, perhaps Leading Light (who probably needs to take another big step forward here) will make the running.
One horse who all the opposing trainers must respect is surely Novellist, the German-trained horse who produced a pulsating performance in the hands of Johnny Murtagh when slamming Trading Leather by five lengths in a blisteringly fast-run King George at Ascot in July.
Only workmanlike when winning at Baden Baden subsequently, the son of Monsun is bound to have been aimed at this race by the shrewd Andreas Wohler since Ascot and, well proven off an end-to-end gallop, connections will also be hoping for plenty of early pace.
Should such a searching gallop transpire, then it's possible that Novellist could run the sting out of Treve and Orfevre, but there is no telling how good the French filly may be.
I think she could be very special.